Art Basel Miami

The biggest travelling roadshow of the art world is Art Basel, which is held in Switzerland every summer. They figured out that they could make twice as much money if they held two shows, so Art Basel Miami was born, held the first week of December. Then they added Art Basel Hong Kong in the spring.  Next year they may have Art Basel Fresno–the promoters are gonna milk this thing till it squeals.

Nonetheless, Gail and I are here in Miami to see the sights. We don’t often feel like hicks from the sticks, but this show will take you down a notch pretty quickly. I was looking in the mirror to see if I had straw in my hair and mud on my boots within the first hour.

Here’s an example–sometimes you go somewhere and there are union protesters, usually from one of the service unions. The group demonstrating here were private jet pilots:

A pretty high class of union pickets.

A pretty high class of union pickets.


This show may have a higher percentage of attendees who arrive on private aircraft than any other, so it’s a logical place for this protest.

We arrived on a private jet, but wanted to be modest so we painted “American Air” on the sides to fool people.

Our hotel is a Hilton about 44 blocks north of the convention center. Decent, not great, but half the price of anything close to the show. Traffic is horrendous at the best of times on the narrow strip of land that comprises Miami Beach, and this isn’t the best of times. Everything is jammed solid, the waits at the traffic signals are eternal and taxis are as scarce as bipartisan Senators.

We got there, though.  Our plane landed at 3:15 and we were in the Convention Center by 5:30–too much going on in town to lollygag in the hotel.  Besides the big show, there are a couple of dozen other art shows in town to take advantage of all the hoopla, and we only have until noon on Sunday to see them all.

I can either show you lots of art or none, so I’m going to stick to the other fascinating part of the spectacle–the incredible people watching.  There is a fashion going on here, with seriously artsy people from all over the world dressed to impress, and it’s a good chance for me to get over my reticence and take their photos.  Here’s the first batch, from the 2 hours we spent there this afternoon:


Leaving the show, we crossed the street to try the taxi line, but I noticed lots of people and no taxis.  It was time for Uber, even though they were using “surge pricing” and had doubled their fares.  We didn’t care.  I used the app, phoned the driver, and in 6 or 7 minutes we were in a car and moving towards dinner.  The taxi line hadn’t budged.  We also noticed a brand new Rolls Royce picking up people in front of the hall–and were gobsmacked by the suicide doors, something I thought had gone out of fashion forever.

I don’t know any of the local restaurants, of course, so I used Opentable to find a place to eat.  To our pleasant surprise, there is a branch of Morimoto here, and a reservation was available.  Lots of reservations were available, the restaurant was mostly empty.  That’s because the show doesn’t close until 8, and many Miami tourists are from Latin America anyway and wouldn’t dream of eating before 9.  Or 10.

As usual, they tried to give us the worst seat in the house.  Also as usual, we declined, ending up with a lovely table facing the swimming pool, with an open wall and the warm breeze to make dinner wonderful.

Morimoto in Napa is one of my all time favorite places, and this is just as good.  We ignored the entrees (including the $95  New York steak) and just had small plates.  Gail’s favorite was the wagyu beef carpaccio, mine was the tempura rock shrimp.

One of the trendy things chefs are doing is “foam”.  I have no clue what it is, but it makes a nice presentation.  The gyoza came wreathed in “bacon infused foam”, which is air that tastes like bacon.

Looks like soap suds, tastes like bacon

Looks like soap suds, tastes like bacon

“For your convenience” Morimoto adds an 18% service charge, even for a party of 2.  I’ve seen this before in Miami and I think it’s because they have so many foreign clients who are not accustomed to tipping.  It won’t surprise me to see this idea catching on and the gradual end of the current silly system.

Morimoto is a treat. The service is everything you would want it to be, the food is inventive, different and delightful, the pounding rain was romantic and we were happy. Perfect end to a day that started at 4;15 this morning in Lafayette and ended up in the Hilton in Miami.  More tomorrow.




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