Art Basel to attract thousands of artists to South Beach

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South Florida Sun-Sentinel

December 1, 2004

By Ginelle G. Torres
Miami Bureau

dbasel29aXavier Cortada of Miami, who created the Nike mural at the Shops of Sunset Place, is unveiling his latest work, Miami Mangrove Forest, during the Art Basel fair. (Sun-Sentinel/Robyn Wishna)

Amidst the oil-slicked, sun-kissed muscular bodies on trendy South Beach, connoisseurs of modern art might seem out of place. But when the world’s most fashionable art exposition invades the beach, intellectuals become the fabulous crowd.

For the third year, Art Basel will lure thousands of talented artists to Miami Beach for an eye-catching extravaganza that runs from today through Sunday.The event showcases virtually every mode of visual art: paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, performances and video art. Artwork from established artists and vibrant newcomers is on display in the Miami Beach Convention Center where art lovers can admire the unique creations, just steps away from the Beach’s posh hotels.

“It’s a wonderful cultural event in South Florida,” said Nat Chediak, a Grammy-winning producer and Miami native.

Art Basel visitors can stop by booths for 190 galleries from the United States, Canada, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa that have brought extraordinary pieces for the public to see — and buy. Prices for the artwork range from a couple hundred dollars into the millions.

The show is an offshoot of Art Basel Switzerland, a 34-year-old institution which in 2002 expanded to South Florida so its beautiful people could gawk at beautiful art.

“Some of the people that are involved with Basel visited Miami Beach and it occurred to them that it would be great to have the baby sister here,” said Bob Goodman, the Florida representative of Art Basel.

But the Beach show is no baby. Almost 60 percent of the galleries that participate in Switzerland are also making an appearance at this show — each with its own twist.

“We don’t want the same show here; Miami is more cutting-edge and contemporary,” said Peter Vetsch, communications manager for Basel.

The Swiss show encompasses classic modern art, while the local show exhibits the city’s chic and eclectic roots.

Renowned Cuban-American painter Xavier Cortada of Miami, who created the Nike mural at the Shops of Sunset Place, is unveiling his latest work, Miami Mangrove Forest, to coincide with the fair. The mural beneath the I-395 underpass at Biscayne Boulevard to Northeast Second Avenue will debut at 9 p.m. Friday.

“The community isn’t singular and interdependent so I called it a forest, floating on water with mangrove seedlings because Miami is a very young city,” Cortada said.

Both fairs have successfully elevated the Latin American and U.S. presence.

“It’s a win-win situation; best work and best collectors and galleries can sell a lot of the pieces,” Vetsch said.

Along with the pricey art are five glorious nights of swanky parties for the scene-makers perfectly in tune with the vibe. The Delano and Shore Club Hotel will host events to entertain the art-lounging crowd.

There is one-of-a-kind interaction between artists and the public with Art Basel Conversations, where collectors, museum directors and curators give an insider’s look at art. Also part of the Swiss show is Art Statements, a launching pad for young artists that has successfully kick-started many careers over the years.

A new addition to the art-packed program is Art Sound Lounge, audio pieces by musicians and interviews with artists, curators and collectors from all over the globe that will flow live from the cabanas at the Delano every day.

With all the events filling up the days and nights on the beach, businesses are expected to cash in.

David Kelsey, president of the South Beach Hotel and Restaurant Association said upscale locales particularly should benefit.

“People can only look at so much art and we have a variety of shops for them to visit,” he said.

About 30,000 people, including many from Palm Beach and Broward counties, will visit the fair. Kelsey said business will likely trickle into other areas such as Bal Harbour, Aventura and Coral Gables.

Goodman said the fair has been successful because the galleries want to come back again.

“They sold a lot of art and made it a permanent and popular event,” he said.

Ginelle G. Torres can be reached at or 305-810-5001.

Copyright © 2004, South Florida Sun-Sentinel