Not even Omicron Can Beat the Super Bowl of Arts at Miami Beach

Art Basel kicked off with high prices, the participation of thousands of artists, and hundreds of galleries proving that the art world wants to get back to normal soon.

Colisión de nuevos modelos de arte en Art Basel Miami Beach
November 30, 2021 | 09:22 PM

Seven million dollars for a Haring, 24 million for a Picasso, 3.8 million for a Banksy, 4.8 for a Warhol, or 3.2 for an Ed Ruscha... it seems that Miami Beach’s current post-Covid mantra is: Business as usual. This week, Art Basel is giving a glimpse of how massive non-sporting events are returning to some kind of normalcy.

According to Art Basel Miami Beach organizers, the new edition of the continent’s largest art fair will attract some 80,000 visitors. With that, the event would recover a pace similar to the one observed in 2019, the year before the Covid pandemic. In 2020, MCH Group, the Swiss company that owns Art Basel, cancelled the editions of its fairs.

With some basic safety protocols, due to current Covid rates and the new omicron variant alert around the world, the expected turnout at the Miami Beach Convention Center is not expected to drop. Thus, Art Basel Miami Beach, considered by some as the Super Bowl of the arts in the U.S. market, gives a sense of restored normalcy to a business that in the first half of 2021 has brought in some $1.3 billion (according to UBS).

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Centro de Convenciones de Miami Beachdfd

For the 2021 edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, organizers confirmed the participation of 253 galleries from around the world participating in a collision of concepts: from artists considered historical and even modern classics to new emerging authors.

“There’s enormous excitement within the art world on both sides of the Atlantic about Art Basel Miami Beach 2021,” says Marc Spiegler, Global Director of Art Basel in a press release.

In all, the fair will showcase the works of some 4,000 artists.

According to Bloomberg News, certain hygiene protocols apply to visitors to the Miami Beach Convention Center, the fair’s main venue. Among others, a negative Covid-19 test or proof of a complete vaccination scheme, as well as the use of masks inside the venue. Access to the center will be with fixed schedules.

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The fair, which opened Thursday and runs through Dec. 4, has generated great expectation “not only because it is our first fair in two years in the Americas, but also because the show has never presented a great diversity of voices,” said Spiegler.

Among the attractions of this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach is the new edition of Meridians, the large-scale project platform curated by Magalí Arriola, the director of the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City.

According to UBS, in its mid-year report on the art market, art dealers will have to face the fact that fairs have declined as distribution channels for the sale of masterpieces. Factors such as the pandemic, but also the irruption of new digital models, have caused sales in galleries and fairs to decrease in 2020: However, new behaviors are already being established.

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Direct sales in galleries, says UBS, went from representing 42% of the total in 2020 to 55% in the first half of 2021. Online sales went from 12% in 2019 to 30% in 2020. The challenge for fairs like Art Basel is to recover the weight they have not only in the exhibition of artworks, but also in the participation of sales. So far this year, fairs report 7% of sales of the total business, reaching 11% if the so-called OVR (online viewing rooms) are considered in the mix.