Is this fair’s new location the best seat in the house for Art Basel week?

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So much art. So little time. Hang on, ‘cause here we go again.

The delirium of Miami Art Week launched on Tuesday with accustomed ebullience and a mild crush of Black Friday-like crowds eager to check out the dramatic new location for the ever-expanding Art Miami fair and its Context companion — the water’s edge site of the old Miami Herald building on Biscayne Bay.

Fairgoers and gallerists waxed ecstatic about the bayside views, the terraced patios overlooking the water out back and, especially, the extra room afforded by the expanded footprint.

“I think we got the best seat in the house,” said veteran Coconut Grove gallerist Bernice Steinbaum of Art Miami’s snagging of the vacant site, which gives it perhaps the most visible and accessible location of all 20-something satellite fairs this year. “The mood is great. The staff is high as kites because they know they did good.”

Said Ramon Cernuda, whose Coral Gables gallery specializes in Latin American art: “Love the location. Love the views.”

And he was loving the buying mood.

Within 30 minutes of the 4:30 p.m. VIP opening, Cernuda had sold a striking painting by Miguel Florido in a Romantic realism style of a rustic blue door with an espresso cafetera hung on it, listed at $26,000. Cernuda had several walls in his expansive space dedicated to Florido, who lives in Cuba but refuses to exhibit in state-run galleries, he noted.


Art dealer Willoughby Garrish, center, takes a moment to answer questions regarding the pair sculptures, “Melancholia” on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. Art Miami opens its doors at its new bayside location at the former Miami Herald building to kick off Miami Art Week and Art Basel Miami Beach.


People did indeed also come for the fair’s cornucopia of contemporary art for sale, brought by 125 galleries from places around the globe ranging from Seoul and Amsterdam to Coconut Grove and Havana. And the complimentary champagne, too.

Art Miami director Nick Korniloff said he added 20 galleries thanks to the bigger site, and most took more space. He expected at least 12,000 people during the opening VIP night, and it felt like it as the evening progressed, though with the bigger floor and wider aisles afforded by the move from Midtown there was, in contrast to some previous opening nights, still plenty of room to view the art.

For gallerist Douglas Clarke of Casterline/Goodman Gallery, the new tent provided better space to showcase works by heavyweights Alex Katz, Jim Dine and Richard Serra, and thus a better chance at sales.

Another advantage: better access and lots of available parking around the site.

“It was hard to get in and out of Midtown,” Clarke said. “A lot of people wouldn’t come back to the fair because it was too much trouble.”

A quick stroll through the tent provided glimpses of work by other greats, including Dubuffet, Picasso and Matta, as well as the mysterious Banksy, whose street art, sprayed on walls or doors, has often been removed and sold.

There was, as always, also the odd admixture of guest celebrities on hand. Korniloff brought along his Jupiter neighbor, New York Jets Super Bowl hero Joe Namath, once the subject of a print by Leroy Neiman. Korniloff said he hopes to tap into the affluent art world to raise money for Namath’s foundation, which seeks to help football players and others with neurological disorders.

Namath found himself mingling with and posing for pictures with Miami developer and museum namesake Jorge Pérez, Pérez Art Museum Miami director Franklin Sirmans and Miami commissioner Ken Russell. Former Miami Heat and New York Knicks star Amar’e Stoudemire wandered the aisles. So reportedly did pop star FrankOcean.

Art Miami is considered the friendly hometown art fair, and visitors’ mood was buoyant and relaxed. Some came in shorts. Some brought service dogs. And some were dressed flamboyantly. Other fairs opening on Tuesday included Design Miami, Scope and Untitled.

Still to come, on Wednesday morning: the opening of the week’s main event, the Art Basel Miami Beach fair at the city’s convention center, also with an expanded floor plan thanks to ongoing renovation of that facility.

Both Art Miami and Basel are expecting strong sales after last year’s Zika epidemic, which slowed attendance. Recent marquee New York art auctions did well. And the $450 million sale at auction of a restored work by Leonardo da Vinci suggests there is no limit to art lovers’ appetite for acquiring art.

So even if it sometimes seem there is too much art being produced and consumed, gallerists say it’s all to the good.

“The market is extraordinary, and at all levels,” Cernuda said. “There is this explosion of art collecting. Everybody wants art in their homes, whether an inexpensive lithograph or emerging art or multi-million-dollar work. That’s great. That’s the beauty of art. You have lots to pick and choose from.”

And that’s nowhere truer than in Miami during Art Week.

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