Lend Me Some Sugar

For its fourth incarnation — as with the first three — Art Basel presents one of a few acceptable opportunities each year for locals to behave like tourists, plodding down sidewalks while following "points of interest" maps, craning necks to glimpse celebrities, not being — or at least not acting — too jaded to respond to challenging, even confounding stimuli. That this engulfing public art event is in fact a high-stakes trade show is irrelevant when the spectacle at hand provides at least a momentary sense of wonder and a bit of faith that not everything in this legendarily shallow part of the world is held together by saliva, silicon, and silver.

It's best to consume this art fair as you would a gustatorially dense meal: politely, slowly, and beginning with the outer utensils. The works and vendors officially associated with Art Basel Miami Beach — the wintery American cousin of the original Swiss expo — are concentrated at the Miami Beach Convention Center, and there they will be during specific show hours this weekend. The tangential gallery shows, parties, and installations radiate from the Beach along several vectors, most heavily populating the Design District and Wynwood Art District north of downtown Miami, with a few upstarts in the north part of the city and in Coral Gables. There's a rapid ebb and flow to the mainland parties. Though Wynwood and the Design District galleries are contained within about three square miles, it's not always possible to walk from one place to another, so grab a map — dozens from various sources will be available — make an itinerary, dress safely in black, bring plenty of quarters for parking and dollar bills for tipping bartenders, and make your statement in comfortable vintage Reeboks.

Don't be discouraged by the sour grapes of know-it-all Artists-with-a-capital-A and snotty social critics. Sure, to have developed that male or female gaze, you should have been studying Dürer's silverpoints as a child, emulating da Vinci's folded cloth sketches while in high school, and servicing Koons and Cicciolina on your European school holiday, but you didn't, so go from gallery to gallery, see as much stuff as possible (allowing extra time to admire and learn about favorites), and rest assured that since you won't be able to afford anything anyway, your opinion — along with as much free alcohol and imported cheese as you can withstand — is worth as much as the next person's.


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