A trip to Miami Beach in December to see art may sound serene and relaxed. And for many visitors, it’s a nice break from the cold of winter. But the first time I went to Art Basel in 2007, I found that the days and nights are anything but calm.
They fly by in a whirlwind of hectic activity. And it has only gotten busier as more people discover the fair. To give you an idea, I recall when 40,000 guests was a record breaking year. Well, last year 78,000 entered the 60,000 square foot convention hall.
Even in the early years, there were many “satellite” fairs, twenty-one one year. These were mostly Miami editions of established fairs, many from New York. They saw the value of being there when the international art world and their checkbooks arrived in Miami. Over time, locals put together other events and promoted their galleries. Then celebrities started coming, concerts and fashion events were scheduled, and luxury goods retailers hosted dinners and parties.
My first year, it was impossible to attend or visit everything I wanted to, two or three events held at the same time. Now the options have multiplied, turning a good idea into a must: planning your days at Art Basel and what has come to be called Miami Art Week.
Even if you are not attending this year, the tips below give a view of what goes on during Art Basel. Before you read this article, be sure to read Get Ready for Art Basel Miami Beach 2023! updated for 2023.
Here’s How to Do It
Start by listing the categories of activities and places you want to cover, something like this:
- Art Basel Miami Beach (the main fair itself)
- Conversations at Art Basel (art world thought leader panels)
- Satellite fairs
- Receptions, breakfasts, tours, studio visits
- Public art installations
Then get specific within the categories. Which Conversations, which fairs, which party invites have you received?
Next look up the times of events and the hours of locations; put them on a calendar. Some items span several days, like fairs and museums. So show Art Basel from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday to Sunday, for example. But note that Conversations https://www.artbasel.com/stories/online-conversations start on Thursday afternoon.
Look for overlaps and decide which is most important. The multiday items give flexibility, but at some point, after being passed over for several days, they may be the highest priority on another day. Move things around until you get the best outcome. Yes, like putting a puzzle together.
This approach is all about organization, but don’t let it push out spontaneity. I’ve learned to be ready to make on-the-spot adjustments. Maybe I spent more time at a fair than I had planned to; maybe there is no way I can get through gridlocked traffic in time for the next event. While I’m there I may receive an email from a publicist inviting me to a reception or party that sounds great, so I get busy fitting it in.
Remember, there is no way to do everything you’d like to, so leave FOMO at home.
You can find hours on websites. Art Basel’s also lists the Conversations and many of the attractions outside the fair. The list can be filtered and sorted. The Art Basel app is very helpful too. Note that some events request RSVPs.
Locations of venues make planning your calendar even more challenging. Art Basel is at the Miami Beach Convention Center and several “hotel fairs” are nearby. But most fairs and museums are in Miami, concentrated in the Wynwood area.
So plan on many drives over two of the bridges between Miami and Miami Beach. The good news is that the views are spectacular both day and night.
Find the locations of the places you want to visit. Group stops in the same area. And allow for travel time. You may have to sacrifice an event, say a Conversation, because it falls between two stops in Miami, and the drive to and from Miami Beach just won’t be worth it.
After I’ve settled on my calendar, I look for a late afternoon two-hour window so I can run, almost literally, to the beach.
In our next post, we’ll focus on Art Basel Miami Beach, learning how the fair started and how it works. After that we’ll tell you about the satellite fairs and public/private museums.
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