Miami Beach Plans to Strengthen Connection with Art Basel Through Public Art Purchase Program

By Susan Askew

MIAMI BEACH, FL (September 7, 2019) - The annual Art Basel Miami Beach fair has become one of the most – if not the most – important cultural and economic event here. Its impact is so important the reconstruction of the City’s Convention Center was done around the event with a reopening of all of the exhibit halls each December and elaborate staging to hide the unfinished surfaces around it. The City even added a new escalator and elevator to the plans, directly connecting the Grand Ballroom and exhibit halls below, at Art Basel’s request. That led Art Basel to announce the addition of large-scale works of art in the large ballroom space beginning with this year’s fair.

Now the City has come up with a plan to further strengthen the connection through a legacy purchase program that will, literally, keep a piece of Art Basel in Miami Beach year-round. The proposal, to be discussed at this week’s City Commission meeting, is to use money from the Art in Public Places (AiPP) program for the purchase of a work of art displayed at the fair for the City’s collection. The artwork would, ultimately, be chosen by residents from a list of three finalists selected by the AiPP Committee. 
The AiPP program is currently funded through the allocation of 1.5% of all hard costs of City construction projects, though Commissioners will consider another proposal this week that would increase that number to 2%. The fund is used to commission or acquire works of art as well as for their conservation and maintenance. [Photo above: “About Sand” by Franz Ackermann, one of six international artists selected to create site-specific work for the Miami Beach Convention Center through the AiPP fund.]
Matt Kenny, Miami Beach Director of Tourism and Culture, said his office wanted to find a way for Art Basel to become “more than just one week” and extend its reach further to residents who may not otherwise be engaged with Art Basel or as aware of its cultural and economic impact on the City.
The team from Art Basel is “super excited,” Kenny said. “They said they’ve never heard of anything like this where a city has shown an interest not just in the fair itself, but the galleries and artists as well.”  
In a memo to Commissioners, Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales wrote, “The artworks will be selected based on artistic excellence, relevance of the artwork in terms of current artistic practice, national and international representation, suitability of the artwork in a public environment and investment value to the Art in Public Places Collection.”
Kenny said the details are still being worked out, but initial thoughts are that the Art in Public Places Committee would determine which galleries were eligible based on certain requirements; the price would be up to $100,000 including commissions though the cost could be much less; and the artist would need to be “of note, of recognition.”  
Galleries would submit works they’ll be bringing to the show and the AiPP Committee would create a list of, perhaps, the “top ten” works which they would then view before the public opening of Art Basel to narrow the list down to the top three. A social media and community campaign would put the choices out for residents “to decide which one of these three we’re going to purchase on their behalf.”
“I love the idea of people who will never, ever, ever get to buy a piece at Art Basel getting to ‘buy’ a piece,” Kenny said.
Ideally, he said, the purchase will hang or be shown in the Convention Center in an area that could be dedicated for the purchases. “We see that as the people’s house, the Convention Center itself. Art Basel being so important to the Convention Center and the Convention Center being so important to our community.” The art purchase program will create an even stronger connection between residents, the Convention Center, and Art Basel, Kenny said.  
This year during Art Basel the City will launch Art in Public Places tours which Kenny said will continue every Saturday going forward for about six months. They will be 90 minute tours of the Convention Center campus, walking through the public art installed around the Convention Center and in the new park across the street. The free tours will also include a look at the first piece purchased at this year’s fair. 
In additional to the legacy purchase program, Commissioners will consider a proposal by Mayor Dan Gelber to increase the AiPP program contributions from 1.5% to 2% of all hard costs associated with certain City construction projects and to expand the projects that are included. In his memo on the ordinance, Morales noted, “Other comparable cities across the US with 2% minimum requirements include Austin, Texas; San Francisco, California; San Jose, California; and Sacramento, California, among others.”
With the legacy art purchase program and the AiPP fund increase, if it passes, Kenny said, “The  City of Miami Beach will be one of the most, if not the most progressive art cities in the entire country… [It shows] we believe in culture and art so much as a means to elevate the community.”

“Municipalities are starting to understand the importance and significance of arts and culture as an economic driver and Miami Beach is going to be one of the first to put that into action,” Kenny said.
Source: RE Miami Beach