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Miami’s Art Basel (and Art Walk) on a Budget

By admin | December 5, 2011

By: Sergio Soto and Cyndi Amaya

If it’s not already evident, here on MarcusSamuelsson.com, we love everything art and food and just this past weekend was one of the greatest times of the year in Miami, Florida for both of those things- Art Basel! For those of you unfamiliar with this great event, Art Basel is the most prestigious International Art Shows in the Americas. Each year over than 200 leading galleries from North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa flock to the shores of Miami to showcase works by more than 2,000 artists of the 20th and 21st Centuries. Hundred of art galleries open their doors for the weekend to show off new innovative and evocative exhibits and collections; graffiti artists set up on the streets and put up murals within hours for all to see; and food trucks galore invade the design district to feed the hungry masses. It’s an art and food-lover’s dream weekend!

While the main show goes on under the roof of the Miami Beach Convention Center, a one-day ticket can cost you $40 with additional fees for special exhibits and shows, and being that it’s a four-day event, you may not want to shell out that kind of cash, especially this close to the holidays. But with so many galleries and event happenings throughout the weekend, you can totally experience the full force of Art Basel with little to no cash at all- if you know where to go.

So after this year’s festivities, we took down notes and we’ve come up with quick guide to doing Art Basel on a budget. Granted, we know this year’s it’s too late to partake of this year’s Art Basel mayhem, but these tips still work for next year’s as well as for the Art Walk that goes on in the same art district every second Saturday of the month. So if you’re planning to hit the streets of Miami any time, plan to go on the second Saturday of any month for the same Art Basel feel but with certainly a lot less people.

Here are few tips on how to do up Art Basel and Art Walk big on a budget:

Park in the residential area of the district: Just like all other big cities, Miami is not known for cheap parking, especially during festivals. Drive a little further down from 2nd Ave and you’ll find the residential area near the Design District. Side street and residential parking is available there for free so you don’t have to shell out cash for a parking lot. Plus the extra walking back to your car will help even out all the calories you’re about to gain from all the free booze and street food.

Do research beforehand to see what the buzz is about and where to find it: We found that doing a little research before the event can go a long way. Even though a lot of events happen at the same time all over the galleries on 2nd Avenue, learning in advance what special exhibits are going on can save a lot of time in aimless walking and running into random exhibits that may not interest you as much. In our case, we found out about Korean-American artist Miru Kim’s nude/pig exhibition being held at Primary Projects, and the Graffiti Gone Global exhibit which was a must-see since Miami NBA stars Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade were featured in the exhibit and were rumored to attend.  So a quick Google research session followed by a little Google mapping and bookmarking allowed us to map out the top spots we wanted to hit and all within walking distance of each other.

Now Art Basel also has a few Apps for iPhone, iPad, and Blackberry that can help you map out your night, find out what time certain exhibits or parties are taking place and where. If there’s no time to plan ahead and you wanted to “willy-nilly” it, start on 2nd Ave from I-195, and head south, that’s where all the fun begins!

Save your money on booze for food instead: Almost every gallery gives out free drinks, so save your money on pre-gaming or places that charge you for drinks- totally not necessary here! A lot of the parties have alcohol sponsors that are very willing to let you try their concoctions for free just for attending. This year’s Miguel Paredes gallery party was one of the best! They served free vodka, cognac, wine, Sapporo beer, and even Perrier- enough said!

But do bring your money for food trucks. The streets are filled that night with every food truck imaginable; with cuisines consisting of everything from Latin-fare to dumplings and sandwiches and cupcakes. Some of the food prices may be jacked up, hence carrying a little extra cash on you but there are cheap food carts like that sell Hot Dogs, Arepas, and Jamaican beef patties.

RSVP beforehand for exclusive parties:  While some believe certain parties or exhibits are VIP status only, many aren’t aware that those same parties are free to attend just as long as you RSVP beforehand. Those exclusive parties may not be so exclusive after all and are invite only in order to keep the numbers low, or certain gallery parties may charge to enter after certain hours; whatever the case may be, look for gallery parties online before you go and RSVP. Not only will you get access to once-thought VIP only parties, but you’ll get to go for free and skip the lines. Did we mention that there’s free booze at all these parties? That’s reason enough to RSVP!

Don’t be afraid to step into the smaller galleries and don’t miss the Wynwood Walls: Some of the side streets off of 2nd Ave have smaller galleries and while they may not look attention-worthy, you might be surprised at the art you may find. There are a few offbeat galleries off of 2nd Ave that always do shows as during Art Basel and Art Walk so check those out for new budding artists you may not have heard about. Don’t miss the Wynwood Walls, that’s always the best for street art and a great outdoor ambience. This year’s Liqen mural at the walls was a highlight of the space. If you’re more into contemporary art, head towards the beach or farther north in the Design District.

Try not to do everything all in one day: If you can plan to go for more than one day, do! There’s so much to see during Art Basel and Art Walk that you can’t possibly see it all. So don’t spend too much time in just one exhibit or spot, even is an exhibit is mesmerizing, because remember that there’s literally hundreds of galleries all around Miami on display. With that said, bring a good camera and walking shoes.

There’s always plenty to see at Art Basel and Art Walk, and hopefully these few tips will help you see a whole other side of it that you might have not thought of! Check out some photos below from our great photographer friend and father, Jorge Soto, from this year’s Art Basel events on 2nd Ave.

Photo credit: Jorge Soto

For more great event coverage, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks) 

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