An Outsider Artist’s Guide to Art Basel Miami Beach Aka Miami Art Week aka The Art Ultra Marathon

Here’s the guide I wish someone had written for me when I first started going to art fairs and especially to the week in early December that is Miami Art Week. 2021 is all about sharing, so here’s my wisdom directly from my former cross-country runner’s heart.

I think of Miami Art Week as an ultra marathon. As someone who in my 40s can barely run a block, but still loves a multi-day festival, I channel my inner 14 year old long distance runner that still lives in my imagination, coaching me through the endurance comedy.

1. Comfortable footwear matters. It’s even better if it works wet or with sand.

If I had only 1 tip, and 1 tip only, it would be this. Bring your favorite comfortable shoes that you can walk 10 miles a day in through a variety of surfaces, from hard concrete to loose sand and through itinerant downpours of rain that don’t entirely look ugly. (I usually default to hi-tops). By day 3, when your back is aching from schlepping too many catalogs around, you’re standing on the coast gazing at some site specific installation that only gets activated for 6 minutes before sunset and that memory of the overripe Cattelan banana on the wall makes your mouth water, at least your feet won’t throb.

Pro-tip: If you’re carrying a bag, bring a pair of flip flops that you can change in and out of for those beach moments. Also a hat and sunblock. That tropical sun is strong.

2. If you’re going to more than 1 art fair a day, bring snacks. (There’s a Trader Joe’s on West Avenue and Walgreens also has an impressive selection.)

There’s a reason why everyone in the art world is seemingly thin. There’s never time to eat, especially at a busy fair, where lines snake on for hours and you spend $25 on a splash of champagne. I subsist on almonds and peanut M&Ms during my trips. I’ve always become particularly fond of the TJ’s Scandinavian Swimmers, their version of Swedish fish….going to a big fair, like ABMB is a multi-hour affair and while there’s usually indoor parks and champagne lounges, having a few small servings of snacks can be a lifesaver when you have 3 more fairs to go to and no time for lunch. It’s also a good way to make friends.

3. Map your days. Plan extra time to get between point A and B even if they look close on the map.

Like a good race, I like to trace my route before I start my day. I also like to remember entrances and exits, because sometimes you have to walk almost a mile to exit one fair and enter another, even if they look like they’re across the street from one another. If you’re expected to be in downtown Miami at 5 and South Beach at 6, or vice versa, just say no. Unless you’re conjured some teleporting skill I don’t yet possess. Don’t be one of those people that spends all their trip stuck in traffic in the back of a rotting taxi, listening to blaring 80s pop hits vigorously sweating.

4. If you’re meeting people, give time buffers. See tip 3. Traffic, delays, street closures, distance is a factor. Again, unless you have gained some teleporting prowess, understand everything takes longer than expected. Remember there’s 1440 minutes in each day. Enjoy yours.

Lalanne magic

5. Start with your (aesthetic) heart.

There’s art for everyone and a fair for everyone. Do your research and prioritize the art and experiences that matter to you. Art is a feeling and some events and fairs tap into more feelings than others. Do I personally want to wander through rows of anime and toys? Not particularly. Do I want to find that secret garden with Lalanne sculptures and get lost staring at sheep? Yes. Or drive to the edge of a peninsula to see a site specific sculptural installation that only lasts for 6 minutes and talk to strangers who also do the same? Yes. Yes. Yes. You may even meet your global soulmates in these adventures or just some really funny strangers, if you’re open to it. Also, if you see a piece of work you like, don’t be afraid to ask about price. There’s plenty of art that’s more affordable than you think and shhh…often it’s negotiable. Yes, I buy art during Miami Art Week, especially if there’s a Martin Kippenberger reference and it’s funny. And yes, many times it cost less than my plane ticket.

Juan Uribe!

6. Appreciate the sunset. You’re in paradise in December after all.

One of my favorite rituals is watching a sunset or two. If I can time it right, I’ll share a toast outside on the patio at Untitled, watching the day end. There’s something about the rhythm of watching beachgoers pack up at the end of the day after cruising through aisles of installations, and endless conversations with strangers, that just takes my breath away. Afterwards, I like to take the magic hour walk up the coast for a bit, quietly reflecting on all the work I’ve seen and if I’m with others, recounting the comedy and people watching highlights I feel each trip. Since the pandemic I’ve been imagining these sunsets and hoping I would experience this cherished yearly ritual again. It’s these moments that I remember why it’s so great to get out of my studio and back out into the world.

Miami Packing List

2 pairs of comfortable shoes for nice but all terrain art viewing and maybe some dancing too

Cash. Don’t not have cash if you’re traveling all over the city, cash still can get you out of random places at strange times. Words of wisdom from my wise godfather that I like to repeat.

Foot cream – because your feet will be marathoned by day 3

Bandaids

Earplugs

Lip balm

Layered clothing – it’s often hot and humid outside and icebox cold inside

A portable battery charger and a phone charger. Bring both.

Hat

Sunblock

Breathmints

Masks and replacement masks

A sense of humor because we’re not saving lives here!

Coming Soon: More tips on what to see in 2021.

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