South Beach Writer Tom Austin Presents Beyond Basel at Miami Book Fair

Tom Austin was documenting South Beach long before the Art Basel crowd moved in and transformed the quirky island into a luxury enclave. As a staff writer at the Miami New Times in the early '90s, Austin's weekly nightlife column "Swelter" put the author in touch with the artists and eccentric personalities that culturally shaped Miami Beach as we know it today. "The depth that South Beach had was always overshadowed by nightclubs, and now people think Miami has culture just because of Art Basel," Austin says. "We've come to regard it as throw-away culture, but there are tons of cultural figures that made their home here throughout the 20th century."

Austin documents those experiences with iconic photographs and documentary text in South Beach Century: A Cultural History of American Babylon, a book that will summon the 100-year history of the arts on South Beach. But before its release, Book Fair-goers will enjoy a panel with Austin and other cultural historians discussing the various artistic disciplines within South Beach's cultural history.

On Saturday, Austin will present "Beyond Basel: The Zine History of South Beach," a panel comprised of figures from the literary, arts, music, food, film, and fashion worlds, who will discuss a vibrant era long before Miami Beach became an international destination for high-end art and real estate. Panelists include Nathaniel Sandler, Cristina Favretto, Doris Bravo, Domingo Castillo, Barbara Hulanicki, and the founders of Miami Music Club.

Despite the fact that some pretty important figures have made up the cultural fabric of Miami Beach for the last century – notables like Edith Beale, Anne Rice, and Cuban artist Carlos Alfonzo come to mind — Austin thinks Miami Beach's true heyday is behind us. "I think the scene was actually a lot more organic and local then," he says. "It was more of a day to day thing, as opposed to now with Art Basel, where it's an onslaught of people coming during one particular season."

"Beyond Basel: The Zine History of South Beach"
Saturday, November 21 at 11:30 a.m. at The Swamp (300 NE Second Ave., Miami). For more information, visit

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Nicole Martinez
Contact: Nicole Martinez