Miami Art Basel – A brief encounter

Share on Twitter

By Olivia Triggs

Earlier this month, I flew to Miami for Art Basel’s sojourn in America. They were showcasing work from leading galleries in North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa. A perfect opportunity to see what’s going on in the wider art community, catch up with old friends and make some new ones.

Flying from the cold crisp November air of London to the hot stickiness of Miami is a study in extremes.

But then that just sets you up for the shock of arriving at Ocean Drive late on Saturday night. One word – pulsating. There’s a brightly-coloured super-sized cocktail on every roadside table. Men passing by with huge yellow snakes wrapped around their necks and parrots on their shoulders. Pastel-coloured art deco architecture on one side and the Atlantic on the other.

Things got even better when I arrived at my hotel – the team at Mr & Mrs Smith had very kindly upgraded my room, so I was now staying in the top floor suite, complete with panoramic ocean views. Bliss. As my home for a week in Miami, it’ll do.

I started my first full day trying to get acclimatised by joining the joggers on the South Beach strip. 17k steps of acclimatisation, if you want precise info. Followed by a couple of refreshing plunges into the sea. That set me up for some work, in my temporary office at the other end of the strip, on Miami Beach.

But enough about work – here’s a quick run-through of what I got up to in Miami (which was also work – no, really):

Exploring the galleries and art of the Wynwood area.

Enjoyed a delicious lunch at Casa Tua with a familiar face from London – Sarah Williams of M&C Saatchi.

Attended the Art Miami and Context and Aqua previews, in the midtown Wynwood arts district. Personal favourite – Harland Miller as part of Other Criteria. In fact, I was overwhelmed with the amount of art to see. And this was just in one pavilion.

United Miami followed. Another huge tent filled with art of all kinds.

And my personal highlight of the week? A sunset picnic supper in celebration of Jordan Sullivan’s exhibition ‘The Divine Nothing’. Hosted by the lovely team at Elephant Magazine and Mama Gallery. Now there was an evening. Sampling some breathtaking food – with top prize going to the Alma restaurant in the gardens of The Standard Spa, Miami beach. Ceviche with tropical fruit and avocado, beet and passion fruit salad with mole, spicy gazpacho verde with smoked shrimp, smoked brisket with chimichurri, and smoke-roasted hen with wood mushrooms.

Away from work, I spent time in the Big Cypress National Reserve and Everglades, and took a trip across a total of 42 bridges to the West Key. (The Lonely Planet pitched it right – ‘The Keys have always been ‘defined by two ‘E’s’: edgy and eccentric. And Key West when it comes to the last outpost of America – is where only the most eccentric dare venture. On one side of the road, literary festivals, Caribbean villas, tropical noir and expensive galleries. On the other, an S&M fetishist parade and frat boys vomiting on their sorority girlfriends. The locals revel in their funky non conformity here, probably because weirdness is still integral to the Key West brand’)

In short, you’re never going to see it all, but it’s the perfect way to dip your toe into the madness of Miami.

After that, it was back to London, and the culture shock in reverse. For all its pleasures, London pulsates a little more gently than Miami. But it’s home.