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Art Basel: Swiss Hit

Art Basel Miami in Red Bulletin Magazine December 2011 issue Red Bulletin Magazine

The city of vice is now the city of culture, thanks to Art Basel Miami Beach. In 10 years, the slick art fair has transformed Miami and spawned a lasting creative legacy.

The once-neglected Wynwood area is now bursting with galleries and colorful warehouse walls painted by world-class street artists, from Brazil’s Os Gêmeos to Shepard Fairey. Only four miles south on North Miami Avenue lies Downtown, which just broke ground with a new, 120,000-square-foot home for the Miami Art Museum (designed by Herzog & de Meuron), set to open in early 2013.

“The Basel experience doesn’t speak to the true character of the city as a culturally productive center,” says Thom Collins, a sort of art-world Don Draper, who manages to combine zen intelligence with an undeniable swag.

“In fact, all the excess stuff that takes place during the fair -- the parties, the dinners -- all that simply dilutes what Miami truly has to offer as the leading international cultural destination of the Western Hemisphere.”

The past decade has seen the number of artists drawn to the city rise, thanks to Art Basel.

These are truly bold words from a man whose first impression of Miami was based on little more than the cocktail-fueled South Beach exclusivity that is Art Basel Miami Beach. Collins, who previously served as the director of the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, New York, remembers coming to Art Basel’s soft launch in December 2001 and “ping-ponging from one contemporary art event to another.”

Now, as director of the Miami Art Museum, he has a different understanding of the fair’s role in the grand scheme. “The cultural institutions in town -- the collectors, the artists -- really learned how to use Art Basel as a platform to advance their own interests,” Collins says. “In doing so, they have collectively been able to paint a more detailed picture of Miami as a cultural center.”

Branding is just one of the fair’s residual benefits. The past decade has seen the number of artists drawn to the city rise, thanks to Art Basel’s high profile. Their studios and galleries now dot neighborhoods like Wynwood, where drug dealers once plied their trade and their clients stumbled in the streets.



Check out the December issue of Red Bulletin magazine (on newsstands November 15) for more of the article. To read the magazine on your iPad, download the Red Bulletin iPad app.


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