There was a lot of nervous anticipation leading up to this year's edition of Art Basel::Miami Beach. It seemed safe to assume it would not be a repeat of the frenzy of the past few years, but how much of a correction would there be? Committed dealers braced for the worst and shipped their crates to South Florida with a prayer that they would not return just as full.
Wednesday afternoon was the moment of truth - the show opened to VIP collectors at noon and continued with staggered entry times until 8 PM. It was a cool December day in Miami, but the mood inside the Convention Center was anything but. Collectors, curators and dealers were there en masse and having a marvelous time! It was Art Basel after all and tout le monde had descended on Miami for the art, for the parties and definitely for the beach! It was the same glamorous crowd, the same cacophony of languages and the same cornucopia of modern and contemporary art.
However it cannot be said that it was the same rush to buy whatever was offered at whatever the price. Everyone, both exhibitors and visitors was aware of the current economic problems, the recent auction results and the importance of this fair in the global art market. Dealers had adjusted their projections and had brought more mid-priced material. Buyers had toned down their hysteria and were taking the time to look and think and do some research. The result was a much calmer, more reasoned and less frantic atmosphere and that's not a bad thing at all.
The next day brought warmer weather and a heating up of sales! I visited several of the satellite venues (there are 17 this year - down from 22 in 2007) including Art Miami, Photo Miami and SCOPE, and each one was very well attended and the exhibitors seemed quite pleased. One dealer, whom I trust to tell me true, said it was better than last year, and no one I spoke to was deeply disappointed. A return visit to the main fair today reflected the same cautious optimism and relief that the event was not a bust. The art market may not be booming, but it is alive and well and working in Miami!