Within the expansive confines of the Miami Beach Convention Center, 260 of the planet's top-drawer galleries set up shop this week to exhibit works by more than 2,000 names. Dealers from five continents showcase everything from bleeding-edge contemporary work to modern masterpieces.
The massive four-day fiesta features upward of $2.5 billion worth of art. As much as $500 million is expected to change hands. Local dealers such as Gary Nader believe a resurgent market could be strong enough to post record-shattering sales.
Art Basel Miami Beach 2012
Art Basel Miami Beach: December 6 through 9 at the Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach. Visit artbasel.com. Tickets cost $24 to $90.
"Although the economy tanked in 2008, the market for blue-chip artworks has continued rising," Nader says.
If all of that sounds more difficult to navigate than the Drake Passage, don't panic. Whether you have a couple mil to drop on a classic or you're a college student scoping out the scene, a little planning will help you sift the best from Basel's cacophony.
Begin at the fair's epicenter, the Art Galleries sector, where you'll discover works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Damien Hirst, and Tracey Emin. A traipse through these high-roller booths is as good as a trip through a world-class museum's collection.
Just around the corner in the Art Positions area, 16 upstart galleries each feature a major installation created by one artist. Look for Miami's own Spinello Projects, where Agustina Woodgate's Basel debut, New Landscapes, includes filed-down world maps reshaped into surreal displays.
Inside the Art Kabinett segment, the Alexander Gray Associates booth presents paintings by Jack Whitten, Joan Semmel, and Hugh Steers that depict three decades of American social activism. Also worth a stop is the Paul Kasmin Gallery display, which includes a light installation by Chilean artist Iván Navarro, who currently has a solo show of fluorescent sculptures at the Frost Art Museum.
"We will be exhibiting the series, titled Impenetrables, Iván created specifically for Art Kabinett," says Bethanie Brady, the gallery's director. "Each of the sculptures has a ladder rising from the floor, and inside the individual works, words such as whisper, shout, and call invite a response from the viewer."
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Feeling claustrophobic? Step outside to enjoy Basel's sculpture park and nightly plein air video shows.
At Collins Park, Christine Y. Kim, a curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, has organized the Art Public sector for the second year in a row, with a lineup corralling works that explore language and speech. Crane your head skyward at 11:45 each morning to see Dave McKenzie's Declaration — a plane flying a banner offering artistic marriage proposals.
After catching Pierre Ardouvin's melting-snowman sculptures, titled Bonhomme de Neige, amble over to Basel's oceanfront installation between 20th and 21st streets, where Cuban collective Los Carpinteros whips up frosty cocktails inside Guiro. Open from 5 p.m. to midnight every evening through December 8, the bar takes the form of a traditional Caribbean percussion instrument made from a gourd. Visitors enjoy a curated program of live music and performances by Mallorcan composer Joan Valent along with their beverages. (Visit absolutartbureau.com.)
You can also bring a lawn chair or a blanket to SoundScape Park to watch video works on the 7,000-square-foot outdoor projection wall of the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center. ABMB's Art Video Nights will spool 60 video and film works by top contemporary names, including Julieta Aranda, Daniel Arsham, Theaster Gates, and Robin Rhode, December 8 and 9 starting at 6 p.m.