Unfortunately, just as the coronavirus swept aside the 2020 versions of entertainment from Broadway plays to movies, and eagerly awaited national events from the NCAA basketball tournament to Comic-Con, Art Basel became the latest cultural casualty of Covid-19. Scheduled for December, the event is now set to return to Collins Avenue in June 2021.
There’s no way to replace the revenue lost to a canceled Art Basel. Still, the communities of Miami and neighboring Fort Lauderdale will look to recreate some sense of the event’s energy and activity.
According to John Copeland, director of cultural tourism at the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, the region’s arts and culture community is rallying to reimagine the celebration the virus tried to extinguish, even if throngs can’t attend.
“We’re seeing many exhibitions moving to virtual experiences,” Copeland says. “Our anchor museums are preparing for ‘new normal’ openings that will occur in-person. All of our museums and galleries implemented rigorous health and safety standards following all local, state, and national guidelines.”
Jenni Morejon, president and CEO of the Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority, makes it clear that her city will foster activity in its art and culture community as Art Basel sleeps.
“Fort Lauderdale is continuing to promote art and culture projects with multiple murals and creative art installations,” Morejon says. “They include art initiatives initiated throughout the city to keep the arts at the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale.”
Those efforts include public art displays in parking garages and on murals across the downtown area—brief pokes of art meant to energize an average day. Fort Lauderdale recently hosted the bi-annual Las Olas Art Fair, an outdoor event highlighting local culture to foster an energy and excitement at least similar to Art Basel.
Across the private sector, multiple business entities that would otherwise play a role in Art Basel are developing in-house efforts to keep the theme alive in 2020. Crew members at MAD, a Miami-based independent creative agency, made a vow to use the downtime to dream up new arts programming.
Sofia Bastidas Vivar, MAD Community Engagement and Art Curator, reports the agency is looking to put together several exhibitions with local artists.
“A good example is our work with the Broward Cultural Division and the Projection Mapping Project we are leading at the moment,” Bastidas-Vivar adds. “Four local artists were selected to create site-specific projection mapping artworks with the help of our creative team. MAD has the capacity and resources to give artists access and help incorporate these new technologies into their work.”
MAD also took on Art Basel’s efforts by starting the MAD 360 effort to connect spaces like museums and real estate properties through virtual or augmented reality tours.
Real estate plays such an essential role in the prime regions of Miami that Art Basel events and related works annually weave their way through the residential community. The 64-unit beachfront condominium development 2000 Ocean would use Art Basel to meet with potential global buyers. The festival’s absence forces a chilling effect on those international sales.
In a normal year, the 64-unit beachfront condominium development 2000 Ocean would use Art Basel to meet with potential global buyers. The festival’s absence forces a chilling effect on those international sales.
Shahab Karmely, developer for KAR Properties and 2000 Ocean, says his in-house team places a strong emphasis on design and art, incorporating it into every aspect of a residential development.
“The majority of our buyers are those who would visit Miami for Art Basel,” Karmely laments. “Not having the fair this year will ultimately limit the number of visitors and potential buyers. Still, we have always had a very strong, content-rich online platform and presence for 2000 Ocean. We expanded that platform this year by engaging with our gallery partners and in-house curators to promote, discuss and celebrate the art world and the city of Miami.”
Art Basel usually falls in the middle of South Florida’s real estate “high season,” but Karmely claims his industry and the city at large will endure.
Not too far away across the upscale residences of the oceanside city, the minds behind Miami’s ALINA Residences also struggle with the absence of Art Basel visitors. Like many businesses with far flung buyers, ALINA went online.
Noam Ziv, executive director of development, El-Ad National Properties, explains his firm transitioned to a primarily virtual model during this time, using online presentations, video calls and FaceTime or Zoom showings once restrictions were put into place.
According to Ziv, art is a prominent theme in the development of ALINA Residences, and Art Basel would play a role in that during any normal year. ALINA’s also forged an ongoing partnership with the Boca Raton Museum of Art to bring in rotating sculpture exhibits as part of a 2020 downtown Boca Raton Mizner Boulevard installation outside ALINA.
Back at City Hall, Copeland insists inspiring artists, galleries, and museums will use the Art Basel absence to think about public engagement in fresh ways.
“We’re promoting December and January as Miami Arts, Culture, and Heritage Months to entice visitors and residents to seek out exhibitions, activities, and offers from our partner institutions,” Copeland adds. “The GMCVB’s Art of Black Miami program will highlight the best of our community artists from the Black diaspora, and we are also working to bridge partnerships between beautiful hotels and local arts organizations.”
In Fort Lauderdale, the community is triggering the Zero Empty Spaces Initiatives to create affordable artist studios in vacant spaces where they can create and collaborate at a less expensive price.
Morejon announced the Fort Lauderdale Art and Design Week for Jan. 16-24, 2021. It will include a self-guided tour and celebration of art, architecture, and culture in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area.
Karmely believes the soul of Art Basel is a celebration of duty, creativity, and interconnectivity within Miami that will survive beyond the virus.
“That spirit is very much alive and present within us and throughout the city. A year from now, we will look back and marvel at the resilience our people and societies showed,” said Karmely.