News

Emerson Dorsch Director Ibett Yanez del Castillo in Miami Herald

November 29, 2020

Share

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Is the cancellation of Art Basel a ‘blessing in disguise’ for Miami’s local art scene?

NOVEMBER 29, 2020 06:00 AM,

UPDATED NOVEMBER 30, 2020 05:46 PM

Every year for a few days in December, Art Basel transforms Miami into the center of the art world. The fair’s cancellation this year has pulled the plug on a yearly promise of crowds, creativity and a major economic boost for the city.

“We not only lose what we call the Super Bowl of the art world, but you’re also losing 25 to 30 satellite art fairs that are scattered around Miami-Dade,” said George Neary, former associate vice president of cultural tourism for the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. “So you have all these fairs – some of them on the actual sand, some throughout Wynwood – and all these other events happening simultaneously which won’t be coming either. So that’s another blow to the community because it was an additional draw.”

Art Basel had been scheduled to take place this year Dec. 3-6 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The event brings in approximately $16 million dollars in direct spending each year, according to the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. Money pours in from a combination of resort and revenue taxes, hotels, dining and special events.

But there’s more than just December’s cashflow in the balance. Art Basel and the myriad satellite fairs clustered around it have drawn untold thousands of visitors and locals not just to Miami Beach, but to neighborhoods like Wynwood, the Design District and downtown Miami – accelerating their redevelopment, and also raising their profile as cultural destinations.

And while the Design District this year will host a scaled-back version of the Design Miami fair, a corporate cousin to the main Art Basel show, those thousands of curious globetrotters – and their money and energy — will be largely absent this December.

That means a loss of revenue for museums and galleries, already suffering from 10 months of depressed sales thanks to COVID-19, that have come to rely on Miami Art Week for attendance peaks, splashy and profitable event rentals, and a bump in sales.

And it means a loss of the leverage that Miami’s museums and private collections in particular have enjoyed during the week to jack up their global reps and cultivate relationships with curators and collectors that could lead to gifts of art, funding or support for future loans of art or exhibitions.

“Galleries and individual artists really prosper and get opportunities during art week,” said Laura Bruney, CEO of the Arts & Business Council of Miami. “They can meet and sell to collectors from all over the world. For the museums, they have deep-pocketed collectors come and a lot of big companies bring events.

“It’s an opportunity to showcase Miami as one of the top art markets in the world. There is tons of visibility during that week. It’s amazing and priceless for us. That’s going to be missing this year, obviously.”

Every Thursday during Art Basel Miami Beach’s long run, the Perez Art Museum and its predecessor on Flagler Street have hosted thousands of visitors and VIPs for an art-week extravaganza featuring high-profile exhibition openings, bands and DJs and, one memorable year, performers with water-jet boots doing acrobatics over the bay to a techno beat.

For several years, PAMM has enjoyed Art Week synergies with Art Miami, December’s second-marquee fair, which several years ago moved its tent from Midtown to the Miami Herald’s former site just a few steps away. For Miami Art Week, PAMM director Franklin Sirmans notes, half the museum’s heightened attendance has been from out of town.

PAMM is still expecting a bump, and will be open six days that week this year, compared to its pandemic reopening schedule of Thursday to Friday, Sirmans said – though capacity will still be limited to about 20% of normal capacity through timed ticket sales. The museum has gone ahead with what it hoped would be a big Art Week attraction, a show focused on art from Africa and the African diaspora.

FLAGLER STREET

PAMM also is partnering with the Downtown Development Authority and entrepreneur Moishe Mana’s Mana Contemporary to select artists for installations and performances in the numerous vacant storefronts along historic Flagler Street, which has also been hit hard by the pandemic.

DDA executive director Cristina Crespi said it’s an effort to draw more Miamians to the street, where Mana and others have in past years sponsored pop-up exhibits and events during Art Week. The goal is not just to replace a bit of the energy and revenue for restaurants and bars, but also to turn the spotlight to local artists and look to the future.

A long-delayed street rebuild is starting in January, and the agency and property owners like Mana say the arts will be central to its prospects of success.

“Everybody’s been struggling. It’s been difficult for everyone,” Crespi said of the pandemic. “When Art Basel canceled, I saw it as an opportunity to showcase the local art community. The time is now to activate in a safe way and provide an opportunity to do things a little differently. And who knows what may come from this?”

But Sirmans acknowledges it won’t be nearly the same without the big events in town.

“We are planning this year very differently,” he said. ”There are so many activities that happen at that time normally. That week gave us a very high profile around the world. This year will not have the same degree of impact.”

It’s also somewhat uncertain whether PAMM will be in a position to bounce fully back to the same level as before when Art Basel does return, presumably next December, Sirmans said. The museum has doubled its collection in recent years and hopes to mount a show drawn from it for Art Week next year.

But the financial picture remains clouded with the third pandemic surge underway and its long-term impact on PAMM still unclear.

“We have to see how the year begins to unfold. Museums are closing in D.C. after this weekend. I’m always hopeful we won’t have to feel the impact of another surge,” Sirmans said. “But I’m also clear-eyed that the ongoing challenge will be for quite some time.”

Read more here: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article247315859.html#storylink=cpy

“We are planning this year very differently,” he said. ”There are so many activities that happen at that time normally. That week gave us a very high profile around the world. This year will not have the same degree of impact.”

It’s also somewhat uncertain whether PAMM will be in a position to bounce fully back to the same level as before when Art Basel does return, presumably next December, Sirmans said. The museum has doubled its collection in recent years and hopes to mount a show drawn from it for Art Week next year.

But the financial picture remains clouded with the third pandemic surge underway and its long-term impact on PAMM still unclear.

“We have to see how the year begins to unfold. Museums are closing in D.C. after this weekend. I’m always hopeful we won’t have to feel the impact of another surge,” Sirmans said. “But I’m also clear-eyed that the ongoing challenge will be for quite some time.”

Miami-Dade county’s cultural czar, Michael Spring, is optimistic that by December of 2021, people here and abroad will be more than ready and eager to jump back into the hoopla of Miami Art Week.
And its absence this year, if anything, is proof of how vital arts and culture have become to Miami’s economic and urban vitality.

“There is a pause button that we’re hitting on things this year,” Spring said. “I think it was a good decision. At a cosmic level, it’s incredibly regrettable this is happening. The impact is enormous. But this is the right thing to do.

“And it demonstrates how the arts can really push the economy in a positive way. I do think we’ll come roaring back in 2021. People will be even more wildly enthusiastic about coming back to life, and having Art Basel come back.

“I don’t think it will have a lasting impact on our arts institutions, which have had years of Art Basel to establish their reputation for excellent work.”

SILVER LINING?

At the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami in the Design District, the usual “bevy” of Art Week artist talks, performances and concerts is off this year for safety reasons, artistic director Alex Gartenfeld said.

But he said there may be a bit of a silver lining for the ICA and Miami’s art scene from the pandemic. The temporary move of Design Miami back to the district, and plans for several temporary galleries to open for an extended duration in December are likely to attract a healthy number of visitors, Gartenfeld said.

“The Design District is looking to capture some of the momentum in a safe way and carry the torch for art and culture for 2020,” Gartenfeld said.

And those visiting are likely to be not only locals, but also New Yorkers. As the virus surges again there, many will be spending more time in Miami, where it’s possible to be outdoors and thus less at risk, he said.

“I have found that there continues to be great and energized buzz around Miami. Many of my friends and colleagues are choosing to come here, and the cultural organizations here will benefit,” Gartenfeld said.

The continued buzz is a product of the city having collectively thought ahead, said Neil Hall, founder of Art Africa Miami in Overtown.

“Basel was important to put us on the map as an art center, but Miami recognized the idea that if Basel should go somewhere else we needed to have a brand of our own and that brand is Miami Art Week. Miami Art Week is still going on,” Hall said. “I look forward to Art Basel next year and I think we should reimagine what it should be as it pertains to community.”

At the year-old Rubell Museum in Allapattah, Mera Rubell is still expecting a crowd of locals and out-of-towners alike for December. But even if it won’t be the mob that greeted last year’s inauguration of the family collections new home, she’s ready with five new exhibitions — including a jaw-dropping Yayoi Kusama work, “Narcissus Garden” from 1966, consisting of an arrangement of 700 mirrored stainless steel spheres that fill the museum’s central gallery.

“We love to surprise and delight. Even if Art Basel is not here in the flesh, its presence is felt. We are engaged as though Basel is here,” Rubell said.

The cancellation of Art Basel, meanwhile, has not crippled the business side too badly, she said. The museum’s acclaimed Basque restaurant, Leku, is booked solid for weeks, Rubell said. And she expects that the Rubell-owned Albion Hotel on South Beach will be nearly sold out during Art Week.

“The rates are not what they were, but the people are coming,” Rubell said. “I think people want to come and walk on the beach safely and peacefully.”

BUSINESSES, WORKERS

For Bianca and Andrea Romero, co-owners of the Miami-based event planning company Romelli, Art Basel is their most high end event of the year. The husband and wife duo have been directors of hospitality for Art Basel for the past three years.

With business at a standstill since February, the Romeros saw this cancellation coming, too.

Their company hires up to 300 employees for the main fair inside the convention center. The positions include ticket takers, greeters and brand ambassadors. They also provide bartenders and caterers. Jobs start at $15 per hour depending on qualifications and the position. Hiring typically begins in the summer, when they recruit at language and hospitality schools.

“With the first fairs canceled and the convention center being used as a temporary hospital, we knew there was no way they were going to have a show,” said Andrea.

While they couldn’t say how much money their company will lose, they estimated it was in the tens of thousands.

“We’re event planners, so we plan ahead,” he added. “But most of our employees are unemployed because many of them are freelancers.”

He estimates that about half of the people who work Art Basel return year after year. Many are students and retirees.

Tour companies will also take a hit due to the cancellations, said Neary. He conducted about 10 tours during Art Week last year with his own company, Tours-R-Us. But he hasn’t done a tour since March.

The silver lining, said Neary, is that the cancellation has propelled various spaces to make use of new spaces in creative ways.

In Miami Beach, a temporary installation in Collins Park will turn the space into a healing garden using native plants that visitors will be able to take home once the exhibition is over. On Lincoln Road, the theater company Miami New Drama will transform seven empty storefronts into the seven deadly sins. Visitors will be able to watch the short themed plays in socially distanced groups of 10.

“The overall message is we’re still celebrating art and culture but in a very safe and socially distanced way,” said Brandi Reddick, cultural affairs manager for the City of Miami Beach. “We live in Miami Beach. we’re having this at the most beautiful time in our calendar year – it’s still a celebration of art and we can do it in a safe way. It’s been a difficult year for all of us and we’re envisioning how to implement art and culture in a new way.”

REAL ESTATE IMPACT

Since Art Basel’s first years, developers have used the art fairs as an opportunity to showcase new projects, especially to out-of-town buyers. But over the years, familiarity with Miami and its heightened reputation as an cultural center pushed Miami front-and-center among wealthy globetrotters seeking warm-weather outposts — a trend that is playing out amid the pandemic, and increasing numbers of urban dwellers from New York, Chicago and California move this way, sometimes bringing their companies with them.

A handful of developers are still hosting events this season, including Raimundo Onetto, principal and CEO of Alta Developers, who wants to capitalize on already-strong sales at Quadro Miami Design District. “Art Basel is the single event in the year that brings the most people to Miami,” Onetto said. “And it brings a lot of wealthy people.”

Said Minette Schwartz, a Realtor with the Miami Beach-focused Schwartz team at Compass. “A big part of what is being lost is that networking that happens during that time.”

Developers and individuals selling existing condos see the greatest benefit, said Peggy Olin, president and CEO of OneWorld Properties, since visitors can tour the units. This year, that would have included condos at Miami Worldcenter, including Paramount Miami Worldcenter. Legacy, a second condo and hotel at Worldcenter, is currently under construction.

Any boost would be welcome. In December 2019, OneWorld closed on 30 units across the properties it represents; this year, Olin will consider it a win if she closes on 20. “Things are slow. It’s not only Art Basel not coming. It’s the total impact of people not coming into the city and doing tours.”

Other Realtors are capitalizing on a fall rush that has brought a wave of out-of-town buyers initially looking for single-family homes, and now looking at condos. At Aston Martin Residences at the mouth of the Miami River, sales are expected to exceed last December, said sales director Paulie Hankin. Shuffield, of EWM Berkshire Hathaway, and Fortune International Group President Edgardo Defortuna are seeing the same.

Even when Art Basel is held in-person, real estate often mirrors the fairs. As with the highest-priced artworks themselves, sales aren’t necessarily consummated on the spot.

“Art Basel is a great week because all of the eyes of the world are on Miami,” said Defortuna.

UBER, JETS TAKE A HIT

Learn more about this news.

Related

For a complete list of related materials please contact us.

Newsletter

Emerson Dorsch is a contemporary art gallery with two complementary roles: to represent a core group of select South Florida-based artists, to host and represent excellent emerging and mid-career visiting artists.

© Emerson Dorsch / All rights reserved

Visit by Appointment

Due to COVID-19, we are open by appointment. The gallery will follow social distancing protocol and allow only a certain number of visitors per appointment.