The “Art Basel Week” Overload – What To Do?

Alright, I rarely post personal editorials here (I started my own blog), but someone needs to say something. Everyone’s thinking it, but I am going to come out and say it publicly. The “Art Basel Week” has gotten way out of hand.

I think it is safe to say that few people get out to more events than we do. There are some that do, but I think everyone would agree we make it to quite a few. We talk to a lot of people. A lot. And this year, the absolute consensus is the number of available events is just overwhelming. “It’s too much,” we hear over and over. Every year there is too much to do, but this year, we hear this refrain more than ever, from everyone. Everyone says they are suffering from overload.

And, it is true. Every year there are more fairs, more exhibitions, more parties and more people. So, how much is too much? You know, we love you all, all of you who bring art to our city, and we are really happy you have come here, but do you not think it is getting a little out of hand? Really, it is getting a lot out of hand. Maybe it is time for a change. I guess I will be the one to stand up and say it.

On Tuesday, December 4, 2012, there were over TWELVE Vernissages / Openings for various art fairs. Don’t believe me? Check out this screen shot from our Tuesday summary. I’ve highlighted all the Vernissages. As you can see, there are a numerous other parties, as well. And that is just Tuesday. (Click the thumbnail for a larger version.) We have over 120 events listed in our full roundup, and I know we have missed dozens of others. How can anyone possibly make even a small percentage of that?

We all know that there are many art people in town this week, and everyone wants to try to take advantage of that. But think about it, if you start a new show/fair/party, there are a couple of options. First, you might just pull people from the regular crowd. If a lot of new events open up (like has been happening), that means quite a few less people for each event. Not optimal.

On the other hand, maybe all these new events do draw more people to town. Where do those people park? Where do they stay? How do they get around. The traffic is already epic fail. It is not going to get better. There are only a finite number of hotel rooms and parking spots. Also, not optimal.

The same is true for the expansion of the current fairs/shows, it is either going to spread the same number of people thinner or it is going to add to the already terrible problem of overcrowding. How long is this really sustainable? How long until people just give up because they cannot handle the load? We have actually already seen this happen. Some people are going out to fewer events because they are so overwhelmed by all the options.

The thing is, you all are doing yourself a disservice with this much activity. Nobody can possibly do it all. Nobody can even do a small percentage. Sure, there are a lot of art people in town, but spreading them so thin hurts everyone. You are missing out on potential sales because people are at the dozen or more other events that night. By jumping on the bandwagon to try to take advantage of someone else’s hard work, you are actually adding to the problem.

Meanwhile, we have 51 other weeks of the year with only a few fairs sprinkled throughout. Like I said, we do love that all you guys and gals come to our city and bring all this art, but how about making it so we can see some of it? How about some of you get together and we all do another art week? Maybe a few.

April would be a good time. It is towards the end of season. Weather is still usually good (at least as good as it gets in Miami). Most of the snowbirds are still here. We are past all the mayhem of WMC, Boat Show, and the other big winter events. Why not create another art week then? Who is going to have the courage to take the first step?

This is what I would really like to see. I think it would be great if a couple of the bigger ancilliary fairs stepped up and took leadership to do this, maybe Scope or Art Miami. Pick a new week. Start a different art week.

Think about how awesome that would be. Anyone who does it will be hailed as courageous and visionary. Plus, you get your name up in lights. Right now, this is “Art Basel Week” (no matter what anyone else tries to brand it) and all of the other fairs and events are mentioned secondarily. But, if one of the other fairs took the initiative to step up and make the change, then that would their week. Rather than just being a follower during “Art Basel Week”, they would be the leader for “Scope Art Week” or “Art Miami Week” or maybe “Pulse Miami Week”. There is a real opportunity here to break out of the pack and be a leader.

The thing is, Miami is not what it was 10 years ago, when the brave souls at Art Basel decided to open up a new fair here. Back then, it was not really seen as an “art” destination, known more for the nightlife and beaches, and it was a challenge to convince people to come for an art fair. But, now it is becoming one of the major players in the art world. Now, it would not be as hard to convince people to come for art. Opening up a second week would give people a much-needed relief from the overload that is “Art Basel Week” right now.

Will anyone do it? Seems unlikely, but we can hope. It would take a lot of guts and smarts, just like the guys who started Art Basel Miami Beach. They took a chance and tried something new, and it certainly worked out. Will anyone else step up and take a leadership stance? We hope so.

I figure I will get a million flames telling me why this is not feasible, but that is okay, leaders always have people telling them that what they are doing is impossible, as they go ahead and do it. Happens to me all the time. All I know is what I hear from the people, and the people are overwhelmed. Something needs to be done.

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