Hundreds of galleries showcased at 16th annual Art Basel

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Thousand of art lovers flocked to Miami Beach after Art Basel opened to the general public, Thursday, and some are saying the annual event is bigger than ever.

“It’s the thing about Miami, and it’s the city becoming alive. It’s the best week of the year,” said regular Art Basel attendee Edith Shiro.

The world-renowned festival is in its 16th year. This year, it is taking place at the Miami Beach Convention Center’s newly renovated Exhibition Hall.

Some attendees said it is the place to see and be seen. “I’ve been to Milan, Paris and everywhere else, but for the U.S. — yeah, you have to be here,” said Earl Staley, who is visiting from New York City.

The hall hosts more than 260 galleries representing artists from 32 countries. “It’s become more and more international, and even more and more local,” said Shiro. “People from Miami are becoming more and more interested.”

Devoted Basel attendees said they appreciate the event’s evolution and growth.

“We need a guidebook to tell us everything about Art Basel,” said Kasi, who is visiting all the way from Austin, Texas. “We’re both native Floridians, so it’s something that has been on our bucket list to do forever, and we’re finally doing it.”

First-timers found the event to be both exciting and overwhelming. Attendees with their cellphones out snapped pictures of everything from installations to sculptures to print.

World-renowned artists weren’t the only ones showing their work. Emerging artists in 20 galleries unveiled their art for the very first time in a competitive exhibition.

“I find this really, honestly, very refreshing, as I do a lot of art fairs. I find this very modern and very young,” said Cathleen Naundoorf, a photographer from Paris. “Then, of course, you have this wonderful climate. Outside you’ve got the sunshine and the palm trees.”

Miami Beach isn’t the only place for art enthusiasts. Over the causeway, Art Week has taken over the City of Miami.

One exhibit includes interactive art through virtual reality.

“They’ll be immersed in a super cool experience by five different artists,” said Arnie DiGeorge of R&R Partners Las Vegas. “They’ll sit down. They’ll put on a VR headset. They’ll look around and it’s be an interpretation of Vegas from an artist.”

Spectrum and Red Dot Miami opened their doors Thursday night, and art lovers were able to leave with their favorite pieces — if the price was right.

“You get to take a piece home as a souvenir of the experience,” said Rick Barnett, director of exhibition sales.

Art Basel will run until Sunday, Dec. 10. The City of Miami is also hosting Art Week, which will run through Sunday as well.

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