Guest blogger Brad Ford Smith is a Dallas artist and arts conservationist
Art Basel Miami is considered the American art event of the year. This weeklong art fair (Dec. 2–7) draws galleries, museum curators, collectors, art critics and artists from all over the world. Add to that the Art Basel umbrella of 14 simultaneous satellite art fairs and you can see why this is an unparalleled cultural happening.
Art Basel Miami will be hosting 250 international galleries that will be exhibiting mostly established blue chip artists such as Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst. Of the 14 satellite fairs, Scope and Pulse will host 190 international galleries that represent established, mid-career and up-and-coming artists. Then there are the fairs like NADA and Aqua Wynwood that will host some of the more cutting-edge galleries. This all adds up to a total immersion in the world of art. It is so expansive that it is physically impossible to see every gallery participating in this six-day event.
Let me restate that: There is so much art gathered within a one-mile radius, that even within six days you could not see all of it. That is total emersion. That is six days of living, breathing, eating and drinking art. Check out some of the Art Basel Miami postings on YouTube and you will get a glimpse of the magnitude of this event.
But now, let me tell you what I am most excited about, and proud of: Nestled within this world of high-caliber art dealers and collectors are 14 Texas galleries, eight of which are from Dallas:
Conduit Gallery, Dallas @ Aqua Wynwood
Decorazon Gallery, Dallas @ Bridge Art Fair Miami Beach
Dunn & Brown Contemporary, Dallas @ Art Miami
Light & Sie, Dallas @ Scope
Pan American Art Projects, Dallas @ Scope
PDNB, Dallas @ Art Miami
Gerald Peters Gallery, Dallas @ Art Miami
Public Trust, Dallas @ Aqua Hotel
Art Palace, Austin @ Aqua Hotel
Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin @ Pulse
CTRL Gallery, Houston @ Aqua Hotel
Apama Mackey Gallery, Houston @ Bridge Art Fair Wynwood
New Gallery/Thom Andriola, Houston @ Aqua Hotel
And last but not least, Texas’ very own contemporary art review magazine,
Art Lies, Houston @ NADA
I spoke with some of the Dallas gallery representatives to see what was up. All of the local galleries agreed that Dallas has over the years become much more sophisticated, and that North Texas has become a point of destination for art and culture travelers. They also agreed that this trend is going to expand rapidly with the completion of the various construction projects in the Dallas Arts District.
Because of this growing trend, most of the galleries now have collectors/clients that live in other cities, and even though the time and the financial cost of participating in art fairs like Art Basel is high, it is still the most efficient way to stay in touch with those clients, and to make contacts with new collectors and curators.
The Dallas galleries, as a group, cover a wide range of experiences and philosophies, but they are all making a strong effort to establish themselves and their stable of artists on the national art map. Some galleries, like Dunn and Brown Contemporary and Pan American Art Projects have been doing multiple art fairs for years, while other galleries have just recently added art fairs to their promotional roster. All agree that the excitement, the validation and the prospects gained from being part of Art Basel make up for the expense.
So, if you are planning on attending Art Basel, here are some tips from the experts:
Use the free shuttle busses! The traffic is really bad, and parking is expensive, inconvenient and time consuming. It has been known to take more than an hour to get your car back from valet parking.
The most common problem seen at the Art Basel is burn out, people who have gone so far beyond their visual limit that they are just wondering aimlessly among the crowd. To avoid burn out, scan the booths for what you like and focus on those items. If you try to look at everything, you will become a glazed zombie with no recall of what you have just seen. The #1 recommended antidote for zombieism is a brief walk on the beach.
Drink lots of water, and keep a mental note of where the restrooms are. Lastly, use your digital camera as a note pad. Avoid using it as a window to see the show through.
There is a lot of concern about the impact that our economically challenged times are having on travel and the arts, but if you are looking for the most bang for your cultural dollar, you would be hard pressed to spend it any better way than to go to Art Basel. I’ve got my bags packed. I’ll post some things while I am out walking on the beach. And if you are there, and you see another Texan, say hello.