By Madeleine Marr
Art Basel Miami Beach is the largest museum in the world.
For four days, that is.
Basel combines an international selection of top galleries with special exhibitions, parties and crossover events featuring music, film, architecture and design. Exhibition sites are located in Miami's Art Deco District, within walking distance of the beach and many hotels.
Trying to see more than 1,000 different works on display is pretty daunting for even the most serious art lover. Bob Goodman, the fair's Florida representative, helps makes some sense of it all:
Time warriors: Figure out your schedule and how much patience you have. The fair runs noon-8 p.m. through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Passes are $15 from 5-8 p.m. - a draw for many.
"I've seen people run through in the late afternoon and try to see everything, " says Goodman. "These are the same people who leave at halftime during a football game."
Opening your wallet: How much do you want to see or spend? A one-day ticket is $35, a two-day pass is $55. Students, seniors, groups of 10 pay $20. Those aforementioned folks who enter after 5 p.m. pay $15. Want to go every day? A permanent pass goes for $75. Tickets are at artbaselmiamibeach.com or 305-358-5885. Group sales: 305-673-7300.
Grab a cab: Parking is sure to be tricky. "This is an all-day event - meaning once someone gets a space there won't be much turnover, " Goodman says. Have someone drop you off, valet for $10, or call a taxi.
Get the 411: Once you arrive at the center - entrances are at Convention Center Drive (Hall D) and Washington Avenue (Hall A) - make a beeline to the information desk. "You can't miss it, " Goodman cracks. "It looks like a bar." Seriously, the folks manning the station are very knowledgeable and trained to answer any and all questions.
Knowledge is power: Do yourself a favor and take the time to look over the free show guide, which gives a rough outline of the exhibitors and their locations. "I call it a road map, " Goodman says. "It'll at least help you get your bearings and give you some idea of what you want to see first."
Arm yourself: If you want to take the education process a bit further, shell out $60 for the lavish color catalog by Hatje Cantz Publishers, which is more in-depth. Though it does come in a bag, be warned, it's heavy and thick. Think about perusing it at your leisure at the center's cafe and then leaving it at the coat check. You can also buy it online at artbaselmiamibeach.com or by calling 1-800-338-2665.
Let them help you: Confused by the whole process? One-hour guided tours - led by art critics in Spanish and English - are offered at the information desk. "They take you in small groups, " says Goodman. "When you're not really not knowledgeable about art, you'll be thankful someone is there showing you the way." Contact Carl Hildebrand at 863-602-7322 or 305-891-7270.
Get rolling: If you don't think you can hack all the walking, inquire about free wheelchairs. There are about a dozen available on a first come, first serve basis.
Question and answer: The center's size is intimidating. Luckily, there is a lot of signage, and lot of staffers milling about. Look for the people in white wearing Art Basel T-shirts.
Mating call: Make sure your companion is well fed, Goodman says, only half-joking. "You don't want a starving person complaining while you try to see art." The cafe in D's lobby sells grab-'n'-go eats - everything from New York-style hot dogs and finger food to gourmet sandwiches and salads.
Agony of the feet: While you're at it, make sure you - and everyone in your party - wears comfortable, preferably flat shoes or sneakers. And bring a shawl or light sweater as the hall has a tendency to get chilly.
Be an art critic: Like something? Go on and ask how much it costs - but not if it has a yellow dot on it, which means it's sold. "Be prepared to be shocked, " Goodman says. "But don't be afraid - that's the only way it can end up on your wall."
Visitors stroll through the Artek building at the Farm Project in the Design District during Art Basel Miami Beach '07. The barn-like structure used all recycled materials. Photo: Sara Frederick