Since 2001, Art Basel has slowly transformed Miami Beach from a vacation spot for well-to-do snowbirds into an art-world mecca. The fair has also driven the local art scene, inspiring the community to rally around artists, gallery owners, and museums.
Though Art Basel 2016 will make Miami the center of the international art market for the first week of December, this year's lineup of participating galleries shows tepid support for local institutions. Every season, thousands of galleries from across the world apply in Basel's five categories — Nova, Edition, Survey, and Galleries — with only several hundred accepted to exhibit at the fair. This year's list of accepted spaces includes 269 galleries from 29 countries, but only two Miami-based exhibitors made the cut: Fredric Snitzer Gallery and David Castillo Gallery.
"It is important that local galleries are represented, because like it or not, Art Basel Miami Beach is the state of the international art market," says local gallery owner Fred Snitzer.
Snitzer was once again selected for the competitive Galleries section, which features high-quality paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations, photography, and video works from 193 of the world's leading galleries. The gallery has regularly been accepted into the prestigious art fair; Snitzer himself has served on its selection committee.
David Castillo Gallery was selected for the Nova section, a tier specifically designated for younger galleries showing new work. The space has appeared at Art Basel Miami Beach twice previously, in 2008 and 2011.
Art Basel has close ties to several South Florida museums and promotes each of their Basel concurrent exhibitions. This year, organizers are coordinating with Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), among others, but as in previous years, it's the little guys that've been overlooked by the fair's six-person admissions committee.
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Credibility on the national stage is what Miami's art scene desperately craves. Awareness and support from local art aficionados has reached a peak, buoyed by art-led reinvigorations in neighborhoods such as Wynwood, downtown, and Little Haiti. Yet success in the eyes of the art establishment remains elusive.
Despite the apparent snub, Snitzer is optimistic. In his eyes, success is predicated on keeping a close eye on the ebbs and flows of the art market at large.
"As programming locally addresses the criteria of that market, more and more local dealers will be included," he says. "It is a long process with very steep competition, but for us to be an international center for contemporary art, this is what we need to aspire to... or not."
Art Basel Miami Beach 2016
December 1 through 4 at the Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach. Visit artbasel.com/miami-beach.