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Navigating the Cultural Phenomenon of Art Basel Miami

When Miami finds itself in an artistic state of emergency, Art Basel Miami makes its presence known. The prime hub of creativity is situated in South Beach, where the most significant art exhibition in the world takes up residency for ten days. The Design District and Wynwood are also renowned for their art scene, showcasing select exhibits, abundant wall paintings and street art, unique design markets, and numerous festivities. If one decides to venture beyond these neighborhoods, Esquina de Abuela awaits, an absolute hidden gem worth discovering. Our senior editor Reto Bloesch examined the scene, relished the art, and discovered the vibrant and colorful facets of Miami.



South Beach

Upon initial observation, the “Art Basel Miami Beach” exhibit demonstrates a keen awareness of contemporary issues. A prominent example of this is “Earth Play,” a work by Korean artist Seung Taek, featuring a seven meter high, inflatable plastic balloon adorned with a satellite image of the earth. This breathtaking display highlights the planet’s vulnerability while showcasing its magnificent beauty. However, the mere presence of visitors in awe and taking photos contributes to the gradual deflation of the balloon, symbolizing the potential fate of Miami due to climate change – a coastal city expected to become submerged in water in a matter of decades. Although this display sets a high standard, it would be inaccurate to expect the show to exclusively feature critical pieces and thorough examinations of our current issues.



Art Basel Miami is a mammoth event, too immense to critically analyze the present moment. In this artistic-commercial world, you are enveloped by a bubble that loops around a pool of champagne. The sheer size of it all is overwhelming, yet the allure of both the bubble and the pool is irresistible. This is the place where you can discover the most exquisite and captivating artwork, with extraordinary installations that never cease to amaze. You will undoubtedly be captivated and enchanted by one of the many works of art, which probably sold somewhere north for a six or seven-figure sum on the first exclusive VIP days.

 

In view of this overwhelming amount of art, it is very pleasing and refreshing that an eye has been kept on artists from regions that would otherwise find it difficult to find their way into large art galleries, especially because the geographical focus has been placed on Central and South America. It is this balancing act between show, spectacle and the serious issues of the present that is admittedly difficult for the organisers to manage. This is the paradox of South Beach: you sometimes lose yourself in this gigantic art show and are in danger of losing interest. But then you suddenly discover a photograph, a painting or an artist that touches your heart and is worth the visit alone.



Design District

 

The Design District as a whole is like a large, carefully furnished open-air museum, where galleries, luxury fashion shops and stylish restaurants alternate and outdo each other in terms of design. It is a pleasantly quiet, very varied and interesting neighbourhood with narrow streets and alleyways as well as public squares decorated with art and art installations by renowned artists. The clientele is young, interested and very stylish, although fashion stores such as Louis Vutton or Balenciaga tend to appeal to a somewhat different clientele. On the other hand, the countless galleries, some of them world-famous, offer a day-filling programme. As is usual in Miami, there is room for everyone in the Design District – a skate photographer’s exhibition opens not far from one of the luxury shops or young design enthusiasts discuss the latest trends while luxury cars drive past them.

 

Some of Miami’s best museums have their roots in the Design District, including the De La Cruz Collection. Miami art lovers Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz house their acclaimed personal collection of contemporary art in their private museum, a multi-storey modern building, and curate a new exhibition every year. Anyone visiting Art Basel Miami cannot fail to stop by the De La Cruz Collection. With their impressive collection, they are in no way inferior to their big sister on South Beach.



Wynwood

 

Anyone interested in contemporary art, but above all street art, will love Wynwood. It is the epicentre for the best street artists from all over the world. If you stroll through the neighbourhood during Art Basel Miami, you can marvel at how countless walls and facades are being sprayed and painted. It is a neighbourhood full of surprises – with countless galleries, bars, restaurants and cool shops. It is also home to the Graffiti Museum and the Hip-Hop Museum. During Art Basel, there are also countless parties, which may not attract Leonardo Di Caprio, but present the hottest DJs, music styles and fashion trends.

 

If you can’t afford art at Art Basel Miami on South Beach, you’ll find it in Wynwood. The many galleries offer very varied and interesting exhibitions of modern art in all price ranges. The centrepiece is the Wynwood Walls, which show 35 murals by world-famous artists. It is definitely worth spending a day in Wynwood and letting yourself be carried away and seduced by the vibe of this neighbourhood. However, there is also a recognisable trend in Wynwood: many new buildings are being built to replace the popular old factory walls. Some of the old street artists believe that the standard of art is steadily declining and that the best of them will look for a new neighbourhood.



Allapattah

 

A few blocks away from Wynwood, in the Allapattah neighbourhood, there is a place that is already a meeting point for the hottest street artists and could play an important role in the development of Miami’s street art in the near future: Esquina de Abuela. Allapattah is a neighbourhood that hardly any tourists stray into. Unless they want to discover this extraordinary place, which was created by equally extraordinary people. The best thing to do is to take an Uber to the esquina and listen to the owner’s stories about how the place came to be. Absolutely impressive.

 

When it comes to art, the Esquina de Abuela is an insider tip away from South Beach, the tourist crowds and hyped neighbourhoods. Exceptional artists from all over the world meet here time and again to create new works and experience this unique community. We were particularly interested in the Swiss graffiti legend Sèyo, who has created some impressive works of art in the neighbourhood, including one of the largest painted walls in Miami.



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