It will be all over in just a few days, but this weekend, Basel reigns supreme. More than 75,000 visitors are expected to have poured into Miami when all is said and done. Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t ignore it. So let’s explore both sides.
To me, Art Basel is the sublime zenith of all of the best ingredients that Miami and life-in-general coming together in one beautiful, sparkly, delectable package, raising our collective vibration and creating magic.
Speaking of sparkly, allow me to start by stating that the essence of the Art Basel experience can be represented by the champagne, like manna from heaven, flowing as far and wide as the eye can see… What could be better in life, I ask you? Free champagne, paid champagne, champagne by the bottle, by the flute… but the best, the absolute best: refreshment carts coming to you to replenish your flute. The organizers of the Basel fair and the satellite fairs get me, and like the benevolent art gods that they are, realize that one doesn’t have time to wait in line – there’s way too much to take in.
The Art! Amazing art, everywhere. The range of art. The enchanting colors and textures, art that makes you laugh at its political irreverence and astounding humor. Aesthetic delights like a cornucopia brimming over with colors, textures, sounds… igniting sparks of sensory pleasure and fulfillment. From the main art fair to the established satellite fairs, to the grassroots satellite fairs, to trippy local fairs like Moksha, the availability of art bursting all over the city providing not only the superficial delights but that most amazing quality of art: universal truth and inspiration.
Creative inspiration it’s a natural byproduct of inhaling and exhaling the air during Basel. The enormity of the square footage that art takes up across the Magic City means that no matter what part of town you’re in, the vibrant and expansive energy is available to you. And that incredible life force has spilled over into permanent and profound change in Miami, such as the development of Wynwood and the increased cosmopolitanism of the city in recent years. Now, Miami is finally a place where the artsy, intellectual, and progressive-minded can find themselves alongside the typical partier who would have migrated here in the 90s and early 2000s.
There is a special category of art that I call “People Art.” First of all, I’m always on a secret mission to bump into Leonardo DiCaprio or Beyonce, so I have to make sure I’m taking in the crowd thoroughly. But short of spotting an A-lister, watching the Basel People Art is an experience unto itself. Last year, I stumbled upon a posse of these creative kids from LA who I now follow on Instagram. Alien Boi is a fascinating phenomenon, a techno pop sythetic drag type of character, with insane amounts of followers on Instagram who I befriended at the Shore Club last year during Basel. Is my life significantly impacted because of this acquaintance? Unclear, but I certainly learned about a whole world I knew nothing about because I now have the added perspective that this person exists and creates art that crosses boundaries in this fascinating day and age where technology, art and media intersect.
It’s empowering that Miami can shine in this way, for the world, for this one week a year. For a city typically associated with the politically fraught, or seedy basic instincts, I am very proud of my home town for showing the world how the Magic City can glitter.
Basel is the most incredibly expensive parking lot the world and its dopey inhabitants have ever conceived. And not just the obvious analogy — that the city of Miami (and worse, Miami Beach) comes to an obnoxious traffic standstill. The fairs themselves are built on parking lots; Design Miami — planted on the Convention Center parking lot — is the most glaring example of blacktop capitalism. The satellite fairs sprout up from asphalt or cheap gravel, like temporary weeds atop the hungry, rent-fueled limestone.
The people themselves become cars, and once inside, you herd yourself around to different parking spaces, staring at things you can’t afford, don’t want, and usually don’t understand in the damned slightest. The millionaires and gallery assistants are having a constantly unspoken who-looks-more-hungover-and-disheveled competition. The amount of self-importance is stultifying. Oh, and guess what? Wherever you are isn’t as cool as the other party. Yeah, that one. The one you’re not at. But Javier Bardem or someone of equivalent sexy appeal is probably there. So you suck.
A quick list of things that have happened already to me this week:
I am a Miami native and have been doing Basel in some form since its inception. The other insider information I have as a Miami native is that before Basel we all hung out in parking lots, doing punk shit cause there was nowhere else to go as a teenager. Before the developers got super rich(er), Miami was not unlike certain parts of Suburbia; kids had nowhere to go, so they sat in a parking lot. Now the adults do it standing next to hundred thousand dollar garbage while nonchalantly trying to wow strangers with funky patterned scarves.
What’s wildest is how little these people give a shit about what’s going on in the world. There’s no talk of white supremacy or abortion or which Republican candidate really speaks to middle America’s rot gut. But maybe that’s refreshing. For a couple of days, you can tune out all the awful shit people say and do to each other and just get drunk next to a weirdo. Screw it.
I actually don’t hate Basel. In fact, as a freelance professional, the many luxury #brands that come down each year end up being some of my best clients. If you’re not working a second or third job this week, you’re losing out on the best thing Basel has to offer: sweet, sweet liquid income. People are throwing money around. So shake that ass. Art is a party, and sometimes you’re better off just being the help.
That’s not to say there isn’t a meaningful experience to be had. There’re sweet spots here and there, like in life. An eloquent connection with an imaginative image. A quirky and beautiful interaction with a wildly dressed out-of-towner. A glimpse on the street of an errant creative gesture, meant not for you, but for the moment, for everyone, for no one, for art, for nothing.
But really. Basel is the worst. When people say, “You’re the worst,” to their friends, it’s basically looking at someone they know and love doing something terrible or stupid, but still standing there next to them hanging out. It’s a phrase that’s strangely meant to be caring and loving. In this situation, Miami becomes the worst — a parking lot filled with assholes. Just don’t barf up all that free Campari until you get back to your hotel room.
And please don’t say Basel Tov to me.