The most successful Swiss import into America in recent years is not a type of chocolate or clock but an art fair, Art Basel Miami Beach.
A sister to Art Basel since 2002, the fair has fast become one of the most influential in the international art calendar and acts as a magnet for collectors, curators, artists and art professionals for a handful of days.
Laura Lima, 'Notas de Rodapé serie', 2012. © A Gentil Carioca.
This year’s event began today. The fair is truly global in scope and, much like its Swiss equivalent, stands are taken by the crème de la crème of contemporary art dealers, from blue-chip galleries such as Pace – which has outposts in New York, Beijing and now London, in the Royal Academy’s Burlington Gardens building – to South American spaces such as Rio’s A Gentil Carioca and Buenos Aires’ Ruth Benzacar Galería de Arte. The fair has trodden on the territory of Art Miami,
a longer-running fair housed in a pavilion in the Wynwood district; it specialises in the market for twentieth-century artists as well as contemporary art.
The Art Basel Miami Beach exhibitors set out their stall in the neutral environment of the Miami Beach Convention Center, but there are plenty of off-site projects and events to explore that take in the interesting Collins Park neighborhood in Miami Beach, the cultural quarter that includes institutions like the Bass Museum of Art.
Art Video: Ryan McGinley, 'Varúð', 2012. © Team Gallery.
The museum’s palm tree-lined lawn, for example, hosts a programme called Art Public that includes sculptures and site-specific installations, as well as performance pieces by artists like LA-based Alex Israel – who absorbs his home city’s entertainment culture in his multidisciplinary practice – and Brooklynite Dave McKenzie, who plans to fly a plane over the museum each day, each carrying a different banner with a fictional proposal of marriage. And a programme of artists’ films and videos are projected each evening on the exterior wall of the New World Center, home to the New World Symphony music academy, with viewers sitting in the lovely landscaped grounds of Miami SoundScape Lincoln Park.
Sam Phillips is a London-based arts journalist and contributor to RA Magazine