Art Basel’s Peripheral Pulse Shines Strongest Light on Local Miami Culture
Evan Dale + Mitch Dumler // Dec 10, 2021
Heavy with the scent of spray paint in the South Florida humidity, the air hanging above Wynwood invokes a sense of creativity, embodies the celebration of art that Miami internalizes not only annually for Art Basel’s calendarial mark at the onset of December, but really at all times albeit on a sliding scale depending on the point in the schedule of cultural events it hosts. A live mural installation in a maze of shipping container canvas, responsible – but not entirely – for the humid air’s metallic infusion with the scent of yucca in fryer oil, tequila, and fresh pressed juice, is found buried within a larger local Basel ‘21 fair reveling in street food, cheap drinks, and loud music. And it’s only one such culturally microcosmic explosion inhabiting the peripheral nature of Art Basel’s 2021 Miami Beach Edition, where the palpable creative energy of the city, and of artists and creative minds from around the world, come together to exhibit and celebrate far beyond the walls of Basel’s own extensive gallery held within the awe-inspiring modernity of Miami Beach Convention Center. Around the rest of the expansive city, from the charming antiquity of Little Havana to other rising neighborhoods eager to share their own art – their own stories – Art Basel’s largest contributions to Miami occur in a creative fringe, not linearly connected with, but unavoidably in response to, the gala itself.
Across the Biscayne Causeway just North of downtown Miami, Wynwood has long represented the arts at street level. A vibrant street art district turned creative haven for chefs, musicians, shop owners, and graffiti and fine artists alike, the neighborhood’s very existence is a living ode to why Art Basel itself landed its secondary annual festival in Miami in the first place, picking up again years later with a third annual installation – for reasons of the same artistically explosive community web – in Hong Kong. During the three-Day run, Wynwood becomes home to a list of extravagant displays in intimate creative immersion. Renowned DJ’s headline Asian food hall, 1-800-LUCKY; industry-beloved digital artists host pop-ups in vacant store space; more than Miami, but the art world at large, descends on the streets – and heavily on the bars – clad in any of the absurdist garb that would seem too much of a risk to sport in any more quotidian setting. It is an absolute party, and one driven entirely by art, music, food, drinks, and fashion.
And why shouldn’t it be? People of all walks of life that may struggle for common ground with one another, have no issue finding it in art and music and night life, here. Art Basel itself, and the explosive nature of all the peripheral celebration that comes with it, is a celebration of us humans and the beautiful and thought-provoking things we’re capable of creating, even if at the end of it all we’re not really worthy of the applause.
Back across Biscayne stands the grandeur and skewing highbrow of the Faena Hotel. Pulsing its uniquely art-deco id outwards, the Mid-Beach area around it has come to be known at a larger scale as the Faena Arts District. And during Art Basel, as is the case with Wynwood, the ever-artsy nature of the neighborhood becomes beautifully exaggerated. In 2021, Faena Art – a nonprofit organization celebrating its 10-year anniversary at 2021’s Art Basel, that commissions, produces, and houses cross-disciplinary art at a local and global scale – hosted their own lineup of show stopping and immersive installations. Within the Faena Art Project Room, a neo-orb concept exhibit from Pilar Zeta – reminiscent in mind to an Alice in Wonderland meets 80’s neon sculpture park – lives up to its ‘Hall of Visions’ title, while its larger interactive beachside temple played host to an electro-Latin fueled dance mixer at night to kick off the weekend’s celebrations, and a slew of sunrise photo opps for those willing to brave an early morning in a vibrantly nighttime city. Slightly up the beach, in collaboration with climate-forward NFT marketplace, Aorist, a towering high-resolution screen loops a new series from transcend-digital artist, Refik Anadol. Machine Hallucinations: Coral is based on nearly two million photographs of underwater coral, ran through a machine-learning artificial intelligence algorithm to approximate the natural world and bend our perceptions, providing new ways for onlookers to see and comprehend form, color, shape, and movement. And back inside the Faena Project Room, Aorist and Faena Art host Barcelona-based Andrés Reisinger’s multisensory immersion, The Smell of Pink. Just up Collins Avenue, the Skate-able object park from Yinka Ilori and Unique Miami– a parking lot transformed into a skatepark of artsy three-dimensional shape – integrates sport and movement into design and the very idea of gallery as we know it.
And back down Collins Ave towards South Beach, even more to explore. Streetwear shops like the renowned Kith Miami host their normal hours, but feel transformed by the design-oriented celebration of the city. A massive tent on south Beach itself celebrates the Scope Festival, where a conversation on NFT’s and their role in the future of art, music, design, and fashion, takes center stage. And back across MacArthur Causeway, heading West back towards downtown, yet another tent citied art festival – which I couldn’t even gather the name of because of all the creative mayhem already enveloping the city – broke ground.
And yet, even with so much going on, there seemed to be one periphery explosion of creative, albeit beautiful understated statement, that nobody could forget or stop talking about. Commissioned by Saint-Laurent creative director, Anthony Vaccarello, New York-based artist and founder of the Placeholder creative studio, Sho Shibuya delivered 55 Sunrises. Born out of a daily mediation on the contrast between the stable morning sky and the increasingly chaotic news, the multi-dimensional creative painted over the front page of the New York times for 53 days. Paired with two new pieces to compliment the others, and hung hyper-minimally in the ghostly white walls of a beachfront exhibition room – painted gradiently red-to-pink and adorned with a Saint-Laurent coffee shop on its exterior – the experience brought to the masses the kind of conversation and therapeutic immersion that Art Basel, itself, was simultaneously bringing to its 60,000 attendees just a half-mile inland.
In and of itself, Art Basel is as much about what happens in its periphery every year, as what is exhibited in its own galleries. And in 2021 – a year in which Basel returned to Miami Beach after the pandemic-ordered cancellation of of its 2020 iteration – that sentiment felt exalted and acted on more than it ever had before.
Check out our photo gallery of 2021's Art Basel Miami Beach edition here:
Check out our recapping editorial Art Basel Miami Beach 2021, here:
Check out our editorial on the art world's new medium-transcendent generation, here: