Why Did Art Basel Stop Giving a #@$% about Miami?

Art Basel used to be great for Miami.

Starting in 2002 and for the first few years it was held in Miami Beach, Art Basel seemed too good to be true. Premier art from all over the world was shipped into the 305 for display. Local artists were given the opportunity to hobnob with big timers of the art world. Free concerts by amazing acts like Iggy Pop, The Dandy Warhols, Coco Rosie, and Metric were open to the public. Alcohol flowed from open bars as if water fountains were spewing out vodka.

But at a certain point the locals were shut out. Local artists might be seen at the main art fairs, but only working as bartenders or art handlers. We’re getting some decent music if you’re into electronic and hip-hop like Action Bronson or Die Antwoord, but you’re going to have to pay your way in like you would any other week in Miami. And perhaps most sadly, galleries in South Florida stopped serving complimentary drinks in the hopes of encouraging sales long. long ago.

There is still amazing art to be seen but not for those on a budget. A ticket to Art Basel costs $60 if purchased on-site with discounted tickets to students and seniors (but no local discount) coming in at $45.

To put this in perspective a ticket to The Louvre costs the equivalent of $17. You can see the Mona Lisa three times and still have money left over for a croissant and glass of wine for the price it takes to get into Art Basel.

The biggest kick in Miami’s collective gut, might be the shenanigans Scope Art Fair pulls.¬† ¬†They use the public land on the sands of South Beach turning blocks of our beautiful beach into a construction site for the better part of a month. Do they thank locals for the inconvenience of despoiling what makes our city special in our beach?

Not really, unless you count the opportunity to purchase a ticket for $40 to see what’s inside the tent an act of gratitude.

We don’t mean to be grouches telling all the Art Basel dazzle to get off our lawn. The prominence of Art Basel brought Miami to the art world’s forefront and its effect undoubtedly led to the city’s appreciation for street art.

All we’re saying is don’t forget your hosts when you’re throwing a party. The fairs should be more inclusive toward local artists and more accessible to local art lovers especially students.

Art is undoubtedly big business, but it should aspire to be more than that.


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David Rolland

David Rolland edits the Jitney blog. He is the author of the novels Yo-Yo & The End of the Century.