The first week in December is becoming know as Miami Art Week every year since Art Basel (the world's premier international contemporary art fair formed in Basel, Switzerland in 1970) started to work with roughly 250 leading art galleries around the world to showcase work in the Miami Beach convention center. The show spills out into the environment transforming Collins Park and surrounding public spaces with sculptures, film, and live performance art. With Art Basel comes over 20 other major art fairs which take over an area stretching from South Beach to downtown Miami to the Wynwood Arts District.
Northeast Florida artists always flock south to participate in this international spectacle, which draws over 70,000 people from around the globe.
I met Florida painter Kevin Grass at the Red Dot art fair in 2013 as he was selling an original work to a Jacksonville resident. This year, partially aided by a crowd funding campaign, Grass was set up in the Spectrum art show run by the same people who put on Artexpo in New York. "It worked out so much better for me than Red Dot did. A guy who wants to show my work in Shanghai has already followed up with me from the show. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!"
Allow at least four days if you ever make the trek south for Art Basel and the surrounding art fairs. Miami can seem rough, decadent and even Babylonian. The beautiful weather and transformation possible through such a grand event as multiple international contemporary art fairs make it an epic journey.
Below are the personal takes by four Northeast Florida artists who attended and participated in this year’s festival:
“What I am always so grateful for is the fact that I can take a drive down I-95 and find myself at the very center of the contemporary art world. And I feel grateful that I can experience all of this once every year while never even leaving my state. This year I visited four different fairs in three days. It was the most I had ever done. I literally looked at art till I could look no more!
I analyzed current over-arcing trends with my colleagues, looked at everything from the latest work from the most recent hottest artists, to getting glimpses at works from creative legends from the past.
I have lived overseas in places where nothing like this was possible. On small islands where I could get no closer to works like these unless through books, magazines or computer screens. At the end of my trip I felt incredibly lucky to have had the privilege to make it to Miami Basel once again." - Dustin Harewood
"Like always, it was a fun and stimulating time." - Mark Creegan
"Basel was way more relaxing for me this year, but the city was crazy. Two lanes on I-95 shut down all week. Basel was Basel and we spent a whole day there, saw Dolf James and some Jacksonville folks. SCOPE was on the Beach again and was awesome, as was Art Miami/Context and the SCAD exhibit at Mana. Mark George and I ate like southern kings at The Yardbird before the Juxtapoz and Swoon party at Lowes (and I of course hit gigi). There are lots of new walls in Wynwood and the Jose De Diego Middle School was mind-blowing, a functioning middle school that just gave every surface to the world's best street artists. Those kids will live in one of the most inspired environments on earth…we need that in Jax." - Chip Southworth
(Morrison Pierce introduced me to Art Basel in 2007 and I have made the trip south every year since. Morrison always takes his art to the streets to make sure most of the attendees spot his wheat-pasted images.)
"This year I painted a 100-foot wall in Wynwood and stayed for 12 days. I did graffiti work everyday and hung out with all the best street artists" - Morrison Pierce