Basel Don'ts: Five Things You Should Avoid Doing at Art Fairs
"It's Art Basel (pronounced Basle), not Art Basel (pronounced Bay-zil)." If you've never been to the art extravaganza that will soon take over Miami causing the entire city to collectively lift its nose at the rest of the country and world, then prepare yourself to hear some gasbag correct some simpleton about how to properly pronounce the name of the Swiss city where this festival originated.
But the name annoyance is just the tip of the artberg. Over the next five days or so, there will be a lot of things that distinguish a person from being a seasoned Baselite (see pretentious art nerd) and a normal dude or gal looking to appreciate some art without being stoned. For the record, the Miami New Times and Cultist do not encourage hoity toit-ery of any kind. As a matter of fact, no matter how cool this Art Basel thing is, or how big it has become, or how much we cover it, we still realize that the only people who think art types are cool are art types. The rest of the world thinks you are dorks. In fact, even Alan Alda thinks you are basically science nerds.
Having said that, there are certain rules you should know if you are to attend Art Basel or any of its galaxy of satellite art fairs, exhibits, and parties without looking like a complete arthole. So, to quote those terrible Bud Light commercials (which, by the way, you can never be caught dead drinking while attending an Art Basel related event), "here we go:"
1. Don't wear flip flops, cargo shorts, or Ed Hardy shirts.
While artists are bohemian by nature, those who enjoy their art, especially at Art Basel, are not to dress as if they are bohemian, or worse yet, faux bohemian. Dress appropriately. And at arty things that usually means Euro Trash-y. Tight shirts, unkempt (but in a kempt way) facial hair, some silly accessory (whether male or female) and with some funky hair style (preferably greasy looking). Still don't get what we mean? Check out the guy on the left.
2. Don't ask whether something is art or not.
If you are not sure if what you are looking at is art (or a handicap handrail) keep your mouth shut. Think of how you approach a woman who might or might not be pregnant. If you ask, then there's a 50 percent chance you are going to make the other person violently upset. And just like a pregnant woman, artists can be emotionally fragile.
3. Don't touch the art.
Unless you are prepared to pay for something that you break or to run like the dickens out of the convention hall or gallery with an angry art mob behind you, try not lean on, kick at, punch, or otherwise grope pieces that artist have spent countless hours creating.
4. Don't drink too much.
While getting a buzz is sure to enrich any art outing, and may help you understand what the freak you're looking at, too much of the sauce leads to embarrassing episodes. It's one thing to get thrown out of club for being a lousy drunk, but it's bad form to get thrown out of a gallery or even an art soiree for being Charles Bukowski-esque.
5. Don't engage somebody who is in the midst of performance art.
Think of those Buckingham Palace guards. No matter how much you belittle them, they will ignore you (unless part of the performance calls for them punching you in the face). The point is you just come across like a jackass, looking to impress your friends, who are probably watching the Heat game anyway.
5b. Don't engage somebody who is in deep art appreciation.
It's like messing with somebody who is in the "zone." It's best to just let them be or suffer some kind of verbal chastisement. Woody Allen knows what we mean.
So there you are. Avoid those don'ts and you should be able to blend in with the thousands of other art nerds. Or, and we highly recommend this, show up wearing crocs, cut-off jean shorts, and an Ed Hardy T-shirt. Push a performance artist while telling them you respect mimes way more. Booze it up with some Natty Light. Ride those crazy pink snails like a cowboy or pop the FriendsWithYou Rainbow City balloons with a hunting knife. We're just about sure that will make for a great time.
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