by Jeffrey Carlson
Led by Art Basel, drawing upwards of 70,000 visitors, and alongside a handful of critically acclaimed smaller fairs, Miami Art Week has a lot to see — too much, in fact. That is, unless you have the inside scoop.
Each year in early December the center of the art world shifts to sunny Miami: Ten major art fairs and countless gallery exhibitions opening this weekend and continuing through December 4, 2016 will make this the place to be for serious and casual collectors. With the help of Fine Art Connoisseur regional sales manager Violeta de la Serna, a Miami native and herself an art and design collector, we have compiled a list of helpful points for navigating the hullabaloo that is Miami Art Week.
1. Have a plan for getting around. With a lot of drivers on the road and significant construction underway, traffic in Miami can be hazardous even aside from the 500,000 excitable art lovers who arrive in early December. Each major fair has a complimentary shuttle bus schedule that connects related fairs as well as some major hotels. There are also VIP-service private cars (nice ones, like Audi, Fiat, and BMW) available. The now widely popular Uber ride service will also be another good option for attendees.
2. Pick and choose. Like any great encyclopedic museum, Miami Art Week has too much to take in all at once. Unlike great museums, though, most would agree that there are portions of this massive event that can be missed without regret. Every attendee should look at the profile for each fair and assess how well its general aesthetic aligns with their own. The Big 10 (Art Basel, Art Miami and its sister fair Context, SCOPE, DesignMiami, Red Dot, NADA, Ink, PULSE, SELECT) are a good place to start, but what else will you prioritize?
3. Abide by art fair etiquette. Miami Art Week is a destination for many a serious art lover and collector — as well as many who attend just for the spectacle. In the past, the viewing experience at the fair has left something to be desired, with earnest admirers stuck in line behind teeming masses. For the sake of all, those who attend should act respectfully, limiting time standing in front of artworks, allowing others a chance at the best viewing points, refraining from monopolizing a gallery representative’s time, and keeping voices at a reasonable level to allow others an impactful experience with the art on display. And of course: Never use flash photography or touch the art.
4. You’re important, but so are lots of other folks. A VIP showing can be just as crowded and difficult for art viewing as a normal show day. Even if you’ve merited an invitation to a VIP night, be prepared to wait your turn for a decent look at the art. On the bright side, it’s a chance to cultivate patience and courtesy.
5. Explore Wynwood. Across Biscayne Bay from South Beach and the Art Basel buzz, Wynwood is a vibrant neighborhood that features respected exhibitors and some alternative art-viewing spaces like Wynwood Walls, a “street museum” of edgy urban murals. Foodies, you will have plenty to feast on here, but you’d best make reservations (or be prepared to charm your host/hostess).
6. When something strikes you, act on it. The wide range of quality exhibitors who gather at the fair tends to draw collectors out of their normally conservative shells, inciting a “feeding frenzy” on the best pieces. “Last year I lost two works of art by mere minutes,” says de la Serna. Her advice? Peruse the offerings online beforehand, and have a mind for what you’re seriously interested in acquiring. Never fully commit before seeing and considering a work face-to-face, but if its presence on the wall or pedestal still captivates you, act quickly. Be willing and ready to put down a deposit on preview night, and don’t be afraid to negotiate the terms of the deposit or the full acquisition price. Finally: Take risks! Invest in emerging artists and works that speak profoundly to you.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.