Art Basel Miami: The Thrill Is Not Gone

This scene is still as much about seeing as it is about being seen.

Before heading out to Art Basel Miami, while I was looking up all the events, putting together the list I would soon share with friends to pool plus-ones and show badges, I came upon this gem of a byline: "2015 Will Be the Last Year That Miami Art Basel Is Officially Cool."

Then I saw the similarly detracting "Paris Hilton to DJ at Art Basel—Is The Party Over?"

Suddenly, the gravity of this trip weighed down. Could this be the last time my artist friends and I could enjoy this unique mix of art, music, and lifestyle-porn without feeling like regrettable scene-fiends? In the footsteps of the vapid, watered-down commercialization of SXSW and Coachella, was Basel in Miami falling into lockstep with the mainstream? I returned to find out.

*Quick shout-out to the week-long stormy weather for throwing a curveball at most of the hyped rooftop and pool parties. It’s hard to flex when you’re running from a flash flood.*

The Big Tents. 

SCOPE, Untitled, and Pulse. All have something to offer. Most times too much to process in one go. Tradeshow to some, runway show to others, these art fairs on Miami Beach are satellites to the official Art Basel. The side dishes are overwhelming in the way an all-you-can-eat buffet is after your first plate. Luckily (?), almost everything I saw was foreshadowed by Snapchat, which not surprisingly was hugely focused pop art at SCOPE this year.

Pictures of People Taking Pictures. 

More than once, I encountered a shameless social hound running from piece to piece, more time spent backed up to a Retna painting for a photo portrait than actually observing the art

Sponsored Content. 

Is it telling that some of the most memorable installations at Pulse Art Fair were commissioned by Target? The “Target Too” exhibition was the largest here, described as “an art gallery-meets-digital playground that encourages everyone to discover where products come to play.”

Gems Off the Beaten Path. 

Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian’s Unrealism was one of the best kept secrets of Miami Art Week. A meticulously curated collection in the Moore building across from Prada, you only knew to come here if given the tip by a legit publication or your favorite creative director.

Wynwood Is still Wynwood. 

Like your own city’s art walk, just larger, more legendary, and with significantly added gridlock and underage drinking. Not one inch of this multi-block warehouse district wasn’t covered.

PAMM (Pérez Art Museum of Miami). 

It’s where you go when you realize you’ve traveled 2,300 miles and really are here for the art. PAMM has been in Miami all along and will still stand after the tents are down. As crowds hit the countless pop-up galleries along the beach, PAMM stood as an unencumbered, blogger-free space to experience the works of Nari Ward and Firelei Báez.

A Note About the Parties. 

Either you’re in or you’re not. Instead of chasing Drake down at the Pigalle mansion, we focused our energies on great Cuban food and drink at Havana 1957 and less exclusive but equally cool shows like Jamie xx and Four Tet at Mana Wynwood. That being said, RSVP’ing to everything a few days before and stumbling into some venues right before the start time gave us a guaranteed in at some decent parties. Just don’t take yourself too seriously.

The atmosphere is most certainly changing, but at the end of the day Art Basel Miami and Miami Art Week are still as much about the art as you are.