Art Basel Miami Beach: Photo Diary

by: Kate Messinger

December 13, 2012

plane text art basel NADA AQUA Design Miami

Last week’s four day long art festival/party/ see-and-be-seen international gathering at Art Basel Miami Beach brought together every type the art world (and celebrity, music, and fashion world) had to offer. Art was litterarlly everywhere, even up in the sky in an aerial show called Plane Text (above) in which low flying planes pulled quotes from artists like Gary Simmons, Ed Ruscha and Lawrence Weiner. But it wasn’t only artists who made their way down to warm Miami beach this December.  At any given moment you could find yourself in a room with infinite combinations of different types of people, people that would usually stay uptown or downtown or midtown and rarely cross paths unless  maybe the internet went out at every Starbucks except the one on 37th and Broadway. Here you are looking at a Calder mobile at the main fair and with you is a millionaire art collector, a group of John Water’s type club kids from Baltimore, all of Will Smith’s posse,  a family from Germany who accidentally booked a trip to the beach and didn’t realize what weekend it was, a fashion photographer, a writer who’s trying to look like she belongs but is sweating in her tights, and one of the Real Housewives (from any season, really).

Art Basel Miami Beach and the tons of satellite fairs along the beach create a tiny artists ecosystem squirming with every type of species, all there for one real, unifying reason: to see cool stuff. For one weekend a subculture that has such hierarchy and class difference back at home, from the artists to the handlers to the buyers, are somehow all in the same place, or at least closer to each other than they ever thought they would be. 

Here are some highlights from the weekend’s parties, beach excursions, art shows and of course, celebrity sighting, set back in their cliche categories.


The Big Players:

The main fair, Art Basel held at the Miami Convention Center, was by far the most crowded of the fairs, but also the most star studded. If you saw an abnormally large crowd taking pictures of an art piece you could usually assume they were actually just taking pictures of a celebrity taking a picture of an art piece. The work at Basel was what you would expect at such a large international fair with big player galleries and artist shoved side by side: kinda boring.

Here are some of the favorites:

Ai Wei Wei

Alexander Calder 

Barbra Kruger


Of course there are always a few adventurous underdogs hanging around the big shots:



But it was obvious who most people really came to see:

Beyonce Art Basel Miami Beach

Beyonce and Kelly Rowland snapping shots of artwork before the paparazzi showed up. 


Yes. Will Smith was there. I guess humming “welcome to Miami, bienvenido a Miami” all week long FINALLY paid off.



The Hipsters:

Overall, the smaller satellite fairs set up in various hotels  and spaces around the beach were the places to see the inspiring, interesting and new work that the fair is meant to showcase but can’t risk. Check out the WILD’s best of NADA, AQUA and Design Miami for a full overview, here are some extras that caught our eye. 

ACRE booth at NADA



The Tourists:

Even if you didn’t manage to make it  to the fairs because you were in a beach coma or too hungover or just didn’t care, there was plenty of art to see on the streets of Miami, intentionally or not. 


I think we all said this at least once, right?

No matter where you looked, something would make you look again.


The Party People:

Once the sun went down and the artists left their booths, the tourists left their beach blankets and the collectors left their charity lunchons, a whole new side of Miami came out. The night scene is as diverse as the day time, with book signings, hotel parties, late night underground clubs, pop up events from out of town and a whole lot of weirdness that don’t stop till well after the bars close at 5. These parties are where the classes collided, so long as you could persuade the bouncer you were cool enough or snuck in though the back. 


There were crazy packed, hard to get into parties thrown by hard to get into New York clubs.

Le Baron Nikki Beach

Le Baron Pop-Up Party at Nikki Beach


There were invite-only artist events like Richard Prince’s release of his Lemon Fizz flavor of Arizona Ice Tea.

Photos by Erin Goldberger


There were day time parties of a whole different crowd, like the NADA pool party at the Deauville hotel in North Beach.

The decorations were a little unconventional.

But so were the people…


There were the street parties on the street when the parties inside closed.

Here’s a newly married bride and groom on the street at 5am. We didn’t know where exactly they were going…


And of course there were the parties you didn’t even know you were a part of until you saw  that Pharell was there. Wonder what his WILD wish was?



Overall the whole experience was invigorating and exhausting, inspiring and repetitive. Erin Goldberger, the director at Half Gallery in NYC who came to Miami to show at NADA compared the whole weekend like going back to camp. It’s a place where a bunch of people with the same interests, but of many different backgrounds, come to have an experience, revisit with their summer friends and enemies, and play hard. 

So now that we have all packed our bags full of whatever free goodies we didn’t loose along the way, brushed the sand out of our hair, and said a half-hearted “see ya next year” to our fellow Miami Beach campers, the only thing left to do is SLEEP.


Photo by Courtney Cho


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