MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Superstorm Sandy almost kept roughly 50 New York City art galleries from participating in Art Basel Miami Beach, one of the world's most prestigious contemporary art fairs, officials said.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend the 11th annual Art Basel Miami Beach, the U.S. extension of the contemporary art fair held each June in Basel, Switzerland. A rum-running skeleton, red Lego pieces stacked into a starry flare and man-sized vampire fangs are among Picassos and thousands of other paintings, photographs and sculptures on display through Sunday.
New York's Chelsea gallery district is home to many of the 257 galleries participating in the main exhibitions that opened Thursday at the Miami Beach Convention Center, said Marc Spiegler, one of Art Basel's directors. The district was one of those areas hard hit when Superstorm Sandy blew into the Northeast in October with flood waters and high winds.
Some of the Chelsea galleries reported just minor water damage, while others lost everything they had in storage, Spiegler said. Still, none skipped the four-day fair.
"Our fear was, not so much that we would have an empty booth, because that's something we can deal with, but just that the implication would be that if you didn't do Art Basel, it would be because you were going out of business," Spiegler said. "Obviously, that's what we were really afraid of: that (Sandy) would put people out of business, which so far it hasn't."
In conjunction with Art Basel, about two dozen other fairs also opened across Miami on Thursday with gimmicks that organizers hope will attract collectors, critics, charitable donors and partygoers. A Bugatti has become a drivable painting, a menacing dog looms over a South Beach hotel and a scattering of Steinway pianos have been transformed by teams of artists for pop-up concerts.
The Miami art season has developed into a see-and-be-seen event as luxury brands and celebrities have sponsored or been featured in an increasing number of independent fairs and exhibitions.