I went into Art Basel giddy, buoyant, and charged as if I were present for an event destined to go down in history. At the end I felt as though said event was the apocalypse. It wasn't the apocalypse, of course, it's just that cramming four months of art-viewing into four days is enough to blow all of the circuit breakers in your soul. By the time evening #3 rolled around, I asked one gallerist if he was going to any openings. "I'm all opened out," he replied, and went off to a quiet dinner with his girlfriend somewhere in North Miami, away from it all.
In a triumph of maximalism, nearly every venue in town had an opening or Basel-oriented exhibition already on display. The Miami Beach Convention Center was shoulder-to-shoulder full with true believers. Out-of-towners dropped in and gawked duly. (A curator from P.S. 1 in Long Island told me that nothing was going on in New York that weekend; everyone was down here.)
I informally polled gallerists at Art Basel whether they were having a good convention. One groaned, but most said that they were doing okay financially and otherwise having a great time. One gallerist's glee couldn't be contained by his boss's orders not to talk numbers with anyone, and he confided to me that a work had just left the space for a half-million dollars. A similar poll among artists yielded unanimous results: "Yeah, this is great!" And then, "I don't think I'm going to go to another art event for a month."
Here to sort out what happened is Steven Kaplan, an arts writer who divides his time between Miami and New York. As for me, I hid in my studio for the rest of December, but it was clear that the Miami art world had changed. In subtle but important ways, it became more of a part of the rest of the art world. In spite of my memories of aching feet and a sensation of being mentally fried to crisp, I still feel a little giddy to think that I was there when it happened.