As someone who was born & raised on Miami Beach (went to high school across the street from the convention center) and who has attended Art Basel events since the early days, I often end up fielding questions & offering tips on how to get the most out of the experience. So, in no particular order, here is a collection of information and suggestions.
The main event.
Art Basel Miami Beach is one of the worlds most prestigious art events bringing modern and contemporary art to South Florida from over 31 different countries and 250 galleries. Held inside the Miami Beach Convention Center, the art fair attracts a diverse and international group of collectors, gallerists, artists, celebrities and spectators to the sub-tropical paradise.
Miami Art Week.
Art Basel is part of Miami Art Week which has helped transform the region into a year round home for modern art. There are more satellite art fairs popping up every year and it is impossible to attend them all. So, I suggest you start with Art Basel and then plan to visit some of the other fairs as time and transportation allow. Some of my personal favorite fairs include Art Basel Miami Beach, Art Miami, Scope Miami Beach, Untitled, Art, Design Miami, and Aqua Art Miami. [This does not take away from any fairs that I did not mention.] The Miami New Times is a great resource for keeping up with the different events. see http://bit.ly/2fPRIHP
Do your research in advance.
Do your research and planning before you arrive to come up with some general ideas of where to go, what to see, who to spend time with, and then be ready to improvise as you hear about other opportunities. Look at social media for Art Basel and their website as it may provide a good indication of some interesting galleries and artists. The Miami New Times, Miami Herald, websites for each of the major fairs, and social media of major galleries will offer you a lot of additional information. Keep on the lookout for the online program guides, dedicated phone apps, and other guides/articles that might answer your specific questions about events. Sign up for relevant email lists and follow social media of others at the events to help stay up to date.
People make the events great.
Looking at all the great art of Miami Art Week is even better when you have friendly people with whom to share the experience. Even if you show up alone at the start, making new friends is easy. There are an endless amount of meals and parties where small talk with strangers is accepted as part of the events. Do not be shy about sitting in empty seats (non-reserved) and sharing your experiences.
Spread the word.
If you know gallerists or artists attending, reach out to them in advance so they can plan to see you and inform you of special events. Make sure to post that you will be attending Art Basel on your social media accounts so you can see who else from your circles will be attending and coordinate to see them. Some friends may comment about certain art, places or people that you otherwise might not see. If you are not keen on social media, contact your key friends directly who may themselves be going this year or who may have friendly faces for you to meet.
Embrace the wait.
You may find yourself stuck in line for shuttles, food, conversations, bathrooms, entry to events, etc. Plan to talk with the people around, make friends, compare notes, discuss parties, etc. This will make it an excellent event if you go there with an open mind and a friendly attitude.
Plan for the weather.
Before you start packing, be sure to check the weather forecast so you can include the right clothing choices and supplies. Miami generally has warm temperatures and a quick switch from rainy to sunny and back to rainy. Be sure to include sunscreen, changes of clothing, weather protection, etc.
Confirm your lodging.
Before you leave home, re-confirm that your hotel or Airbnb is ready for you. Also, be aware that fines levied against landlords have made the city of Miami Beach an Airbnb battleground, so be cautious about using Airbnb in Miami Beach as you might be walking into a sticky situation.
Set a budget.
Miami itself can be an expensive city. Adding hundreds of millions of dollars in amazing art to the temptations you face, makes your practice in self-control even more daunting. If you are serious about collecting, set a budget in advance for the pieces you want to buy. Make sure to include framing, shipping, and extra insurance into the equation.
Think about art insurance.
Speak with your insurance professional about any art you intend to buy to make sure it is covered under your existing policies. Be clear on when the coverage starts. What happens if the art is damaged or lost in delivery? Be prepared to increase coverage and buy supplemental insurance if needed.
Inventory your spaces.
Think about the physical spaces you have in your daily surroundings, the art you currently own, and the places where you want to place art. Take pictures & measure the dimensions of these spaces and of the existing art so you can determine how new pieces may fit with regard to the size and style of the spaces. Save the pictures and measurements on your mobile phone, so they can help you conceptualize the fit of the artwork you might buy.
Driving in South Florida is an adventure and Art Week makes it tougher & more expensive to find parking. Walking and using the free shuttles running between the major art fairs are the best ways to travel. Services like Uber are good resources if you can avoid the bumper to bumper gridlock. If you insist on driving, plan to arrive as early as possible to help you find parking.
Take care of yourself.
Make sure that you drink enough water, eat enough food, get enough sleep, wear sunscreen, and try not to overindulge in the delights that make Miami so special. Plan on a lot of walking, so your fancy shoes can look great at parties and bring comfortable shoes for the Art Fairs.
Dress code is highly subjective.
There is a wide range of attire at the events, and attendees use this as a chance to express their own inner style. While you have a wide latitude on what to wear, my suggestion is that you dress for the part you want to embody whether that is artist, collector, gallerist, etc. Try to put your best foot forward in a way that is comfortable and travel friendly.
Brian A. Frankel is an attorney working with art, business, entertainment, and intellectual property law. He splits his time between Washington, DC and South Florida. Brian is also an accomplished filmmaker and artist. You can reach Brian directly via email [bfrankel-at-copyrightcounselors-dot-com] with any feedback or suggestions for future articles.