Hurricane Art Basel Has Hit Miami. What Does it Mean for Local Designers?

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DnA talks to a Miami native about Art Basel and finds that even though the “monster” festival keeps getting bigger, local designers don’t all feel its impact.

Courtesy of NBC Miami

It’s all a go-go for artists, dealers and buyers in Miami this weekend for Art Basel 2013, taking place in South Beach and surrounding districts through Sunday. But while the fair draws legions of art and design enthusiasts from outside, what does it mean to locals? Is it a gigantic pop-up event that leaves little behind? 

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Adrian von der Osten is a young architect-designer who grew up in Miami and moved to Brooklyn in 2009. He is the co-owner of Feather & Mint, a company that offers “locally-sourced,” customized guides for hosts of Airbnb (with information for guests such as dealing with the garbage, and where to find the best restaurants.) He chose not to attend the art fair this year, prompting DnA’s Caroline Chamberlain to ask him what the event means for young designers and artists in Miami.

AO: Miami is very much an events town. Events happen and that’s what people are drawn to.  Ultra (UMF Miami, the electronic dance music festival) for example keeps getting bigger and bigger. How do we make this year bigger than the last? And that’s similar to Art Basel. It’s about growing this monster.

People in Miami aren’t exactly interested in the art or the content, just that it’s happening. That’s my opinion.

CC: Where is the design community in Miami, and does it play a role in Art Basel?

adrian von der ostenAs for an actual design community, it’s been starting to grow in the last ten years, specifically through the neighborhood Wynwood (which lies West of South Beach, where Art Basel is held.)

Wynwood was a low-income part of town with lofts but now it’s become really commercialized by developers. It’s been through the success of Art Basel that Wynwood has come up (read about Wynwood’s development by the late Tony Goldman). But as a young designer, I don’t know how many opportunities are out there right now. When I was down there as a furniture designer in Wynwood, the landscape was very scarce, there weren’t many people working on design, what you had was people coming in for these specific events.

There used to be an Art Walk in Wynwood that was very much a DIY art event each month, and now you go and it’s surrounded by police, there are people from all over coming in. I would describe it as a fancy Miami event with hipster glitter.

I think they are trying to change that. I think they’ve tried to create a cultural shift toward arts, with all the museums going up.

So in Wynwood every building now has a beautiful mural by graffiti artists, but at the same time everything is very facade or skin deep. I don’t know of many designers working there, most of them have moved out or left.

CC: Why did you leave Miami?

AO: I left to go study, I got my masters in architecture in New York. There wasn’t any reason to go back. Back in 2008 the economy was really bad and I got this advice to go to school and wait it out. Things were not shaping up the way they were supposed to down there.

Miami suffers from what is called the brain drain, many talented people leave because there aren’t opportunities for them there.

We didn’t see anything for us there. And that goes to the art scene as well. Certainly Art Basel is huge, and it’s only getting bigger and bigger. But I stopped going because it became this very pretentious environment.

I grew up in Miami and they are really just selling this image. The image is of a flashy art and design, but the production isn’t there. It’s a very strange landscape and atmosphere.

sand art at Art Basel

If you are a designer based out of Miami, let us know if you agree with Adrian in the comments section.