Art Basel is upon us / by rakontur

As Miami gears up for the tenth edition of Art Basel, the annual invasion of globe-trotting art and party lovers, major publications are frothing over the Magic City:

How Culture Created Miami Nice (Financial Times):

Ten years after its first Art Basel fair, the fortunes of the Florida city have been transformed. These days, to imagine Miami without art is to miss one of the city’s major reasons for being. The arrival of Art Basel Miami Beach in 2002 galvanised Miami’s citizens, and the wider art world, as never before.

Well, perhaps galvanised those in Miami who read the Financial Times. It probably didn't galvanise those in chronically poverty-striken Miami, where one in four children live below the poverty line.

Of course leave it to Miami Beach's perpetually befuddled mayor Matti Herrera Bower to be apallingly clueless about the impact of Miami Vice on the city's reniassance:

“It was an interesting enough series,” Miami Beach mayor Matti Herrera Bower recalls today, “but it wasn’t a good image at all. It was all shooting and blood.”

The Wall Street Journal proclaims "there's a style renaissance afoot in the city of sun, fun and vice," while the New York TImes astutely observes "the bacchanal known as Art Basel Miami Beach enters its second decade — bigger, richer, longer and, if it’s possible, snobbier than ever before."

Brett Sokol, one of Miami's keenest observers, penned a full-throated defense of the city in the New York Times, challenging Tom Wolfe's clownish portrait of Miami in his latest novel Back to Blood:

For Mr. Wolfe, the city remains defined by bitter ethnic divisions and steered by la lucha: the Cuban-American community’s — make that el exilio’s — frothing-at-the-mouth fixation on the Castro regime across the Florida Straits...Yet the latest data hardly depicts a monolithic Cuban-exile community marching in ideological lock step.

Thankfully Sokol dispels the notion still propagated by clueless travel writers that today's South Beach nightlife scene bears any resemblance to its no-holds-barred 1990s heyday:

The changes in Miami’s celebrated night life are no less dramatic. The debauched South Beach whirl that once drew so much attention now exists only on “reality” TV. Both the leggy models and the even leggier drag queens have packed up their high heels and moved on; sidewalk bottlenecks these days are more apt to be caused by oversize strollers than by fashion shoots.

Sokol concludes with a sharp analysis of what the results of the 2012 election in Florida mean:

In the end, [voters] rejected every one of the most eyebrow-raising proposals — from property tax breaks for snowbirds, to restrictions on abortion, to, yes, further tightening of the embargo on Cuba. That kind of patient thoughtfulness may not make for as exciting a headline as anti-Castro demonstrators, or celebrities behaving badly. But for those of us who actually live in Miami — who don’t merely parachute in to deliver glib verdicts — it’s reason to be hopeful about the future. 

@AlfredSpellman