To the locals, Art Basel Miami Beach is known as just ‘Basel’ during this culturally busy week. It seems the art and design tourists have adopted it as well. The brand name relates to the city where Swiss, French and German borders meet, and host of the annual Art Basel in June, founded in 1970 by three art gallerists Ernst Beyeler, Balz Hilt and Trudi Buckner. Let’s assume that most of the visitors don’t know about that.
There is more to the city. The Bacardi Building, the former headquarters of Bacardi USA, is one of Miami's most iconic landmarks: one an eight-storey tower graced by blue and white Spanish tiles, the other (not pictured) a perfect square covered in an abstract modern glass mural.
The New World Center by architect Frank Gehry, which re-envisions classical music for the digital age, is one of the efforts to develop a new vibrant city centre. The minimalist building is right across from the convention centre where Art Basel and Design Miami takes place.
A highlight of the week is the Rubell Family Collection. It is housed in a two-storey, 40,000-square-foot, former Drug Enforcement Administration confiscation warehouse in a sketchy area north of downtown Miami. It simply looks like a gigantic fortress. The collectors moved here over 10 years ago, into a depressed industrial area that is now a vibrant district. The Rubell Family Collection is now one of the world's largest, privately owned contemporary art collections. How remarkable that a former DEA warehouse is now a treasure trove of contemporary art. The current exhibition ’28 Chinese’, is the outcome of a research trip to China between 2001 and 2012 where the Rubells visited artists’ studios in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Xi'an and acquired artwork from 28 artists. The Rubell family own several hotels in Miami Beach, but the art world is where they are building an empire.
Once you are in Miami, the term art deco is no longer a mystery. Miami Vice already told us that it has to do with buildings in bright and pastel colours, but to pinpoint art deco you need to see it yourself. The name art deco comes from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs Industriels et Modernes held in Paris in 1925, promoting art deco architecture in Europe. Back then Miami was selected to become a holiday destination for Americans, as much as it was selected to become a symbol of decadence and extravagance, a look that appealed to the Americans. Why Miami? In 1910 John Collins and Carl Fisher undertook the task of transforming the island now known as Miami Beach, from a swamp to a tourist destination. And voila! Miami Beach was not only born, but it is now a place to be seen, just as it seems to be during Art Basel Miami Beach and beyond.
Photos Matylda Krzykowski.