I made it home to Miami on December 9th, the last weekend of Art Basel, as if purposefully celebrating my semester without final exams! With only two days left of the festivities, and VIP tickets graciously afforded to us by our aunt and uncle, my sister and I spent Saturday at the Convention Center and Sunday at Untitled.
Having been to Art Basel several times before, I realize that each trip is a little bit different for me. It started out in High School (when I hardly knew anything about art aside the fact that I liked it and neon installations were my favorite), scampering off to Miami Beach with friends because everyone was doing it. Now that I study History of Art & Architecture at school, and everyone I know expects me to rattle off interesting facts about every visible artwork, I feel an obligation to perform but also a relieving freedom at Art Basel.
For people who hardly know what they’re doing when they go to Art Basel (still me), it can be overwhelming to want to see everything. And I mean everything. The Convention Center is riddled with booths and packed with people. And if you aren’t going to purchase anything, which most people my age can’t even dream of, you find yourself in this limbo of consumption vs. appreciation.
Art Basel, to me, is a curation of the now. It’s not as thematic as a museum exhibition, nor as haphazard as a street fair, but a sophisticated in between - where you can survey all of the offerings and notice some patterns in what’s up for grabs. That’s how I like to view it. I like noticing what people gravitate towards, I like seeing everyone get dressed up and put on their largest statement earrings, and I like admitting that I don’t know everything about what we’re seeing.
But I do know some things. This year, my sister and I walked past some colored canvases. You know, the ones that are planes of color that prompt people to say, “I could’ve done that!” Well, in the words of the MoMA poster I have hanging in my dorm room, “Modern Art = I Could’ve Done That + Yeah But You Didn’t.” She asked what those canvases were all about. After a mini spiel about Rothko’s and color fields (is that even the correct explanation, I hope so!), I admitted to her, “But yeah, sometimes I think I could’ve just painted that too.” And she loved that answer. She loved how human I had responded, and how I tried to explain it to her in a digestible but not pedantic way.
To me, that’s the beauty of Art Basel. You are exposed to great art, but you don’t have to be expected to “get it.” You can walk up and down the aisles and glance here or there, and not be scowled at for taking less than a minute to assess if you like the work or not before you move on. Because, let’s face it, if everyone took to Art Basel the way we tend to spend our time in art museums (staring at one work for an extended period of time), Art Basel would have to be way longer than a weeklong show. Here, in the fast paced flow of the shows, you’re free to Look, Like, Smile, and Repeat.
Aside from the Convention Center, I had the time to check out Untitled on the beach. This one felt more “Miami” in the sense that the tent was located right on the water, everything was stark white and well lit, and colors popped out at you in every corner. The total offerings were also smaller in scale, so it was manageable to see them all. And there were even moments in which silent commentators laughed at the spectacle themselves:
Art Basel, you’ve done it again. You’ve replenished my soul with beautiful things to look at, an opportunity to learn the different tastes of the people I went with, and an excuse to simply enjoy an art-filled weekend with my family.