MIAMI BEACH (AP).- South Beach is ready to host a huge art party.
Art Basel Miami Beach organizers chose about 250 galleries from more than 700 applications to show their art during the fair, which kicked off for VIPs on Wednesday. It opens for the public on Thursday and ends on Sunday.
Gallery owners at the Miami Beach Convention Center are hoping to sell works ranging from Spain's Pablo Picasso and Colombia's Fernando Botero to Argentina's Mondongo group and New York-based Kehinde Wiley. Collectors from around the world walked through the booths, with some strictly browsing and others ready to buy.
Organizers have also planned for fairgoers to visit Miami art museums, talk to artists, see outdoor art projects, attend receptions and even visit artists' studios.
"Part of the reason why Art Basel came to Miami Beach in the first place is because it is a gateway to the Latin American countries, and for many years we have been hoping that would catch on creating more opportunities for galleries to come," said fair co-director Annette Schonholzer.
Sean Kelly, who owns a New York-based gallery, said he has already sold some of the 40 works he brought. The pieces range from $8,000 to $500,000.
"I think everybody feels it's going to be a very strong year," he said.
Kelly said he believes that collectors are now more willing to put money in art because they're less confident about having financial instutitions guide their investments.
"We are benefiting from the trust being placed in us," he said.
At the NeugerRiemschneider gallery's booth, Tim Neuger was also hopeful he would profit from the fair. Works at the booth included nine plastic and metal sculptures by Pawel Althamer, which resembled modern versions of bandaged mummies.
"We see the fair as platforms, advertising billboards," he said. "We focus on the greatest installation we could have."
Fair organizers said they are expecting a better turnout than in previous years because the Art Basel fair in Switzerland in June was very strong.
"Of course, the blue chip work, the work that if you don't buy it now you'll never have access to again, will move, in the same way of course that some young artists will be favored," said fair co-director Marc Spiegler. "But, I think, what we have seen in the last two years, with the economy being different, is that people are really focused as much on the midcareer artists as the young artists."
But, in the end quality always sells, he said.
South Florida collector Norman Braman, chairman of the fair's host committee, agreed.
"What the fair brings is excellence and collectors. We're always looking for something that will improve our collection, that will raise our level," he said. "I think what the recession has done is positive in one sense that it's brought those prices down to a realistic level."
Collector Jutta Kraus came from Munich, Germany. She collects modern German paintings, but she said she doesn't anticipate buying anything unless the price is good and painting is appealing.
"I don't think we will buy, but you never know," she said.
Pat Davidson flew down from New York City "to visit the things I would like to have bought."
Art Basel Miami Beach: http://www.artbaselmiamibeach.com/
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.