A few months back, when the city of Miami signed a deal with Art Basel Miami Beach to ensure that the fair would be held in Miami, in the Miami Beach Convention Center, for five years beginning in 2019, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine summed it up as “comparable to locking in the Super Bowl for five years.” For an entity that has brought a sizeable lift to the city’s economy, catapulting it to another league altogether, that’s not an overstatement. At the helm of this very important fair that rounds off the calendar year with great pizzazz is Noah Horowitz, whose appointment as its director two years ago was itself breaking news. As he heads into his third edition of the fair as director, he paused to speak to BLOUIN ARTINFO about the special ecosystem of art in the city of Miami, some highlights of this year’s fair, and his plans to nurture art in the region beyond December.

Could you elaborate on the need to formalize the recent deal that Art Basel in Miami Beach signed with the city of Miami to continue to host the fair in Miami for the next five years? Were there ever any plans (or is there a possibility of such plans) to move the fair out of Miami?

No, there have never been any plans to host our show anywhere else but Miami Beach. We are very happy in South Florida — we have received considerable support from the city and have built tremendous relationships over the years with the local art scene. In the end, Miami Beach works very well as a location for us: collectors from across the US, Europe and Asia come to the fair each year and it’s a gateway to Latin America. The long-term agreement we’ve just established with the city reaffirms this commitment and is also an acknowledgement of the considerable investment that the city has made with respect to the multi-year renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center, which is set for completion in 2018 and provides a state-of-the-art home for our show.

Given the enormous entity that Art Basel in Miami Beach has become in terms of enveloping various walks of society, how do you stay focused on art, the mainstay of the fair? Conversely, how has the everincreasing glam quotient of the fair benefitted it?

Our focus lies first and foremost on quality and on working tirelessly with our team and selection committees to ensure that the best galleries, collectors and museum professionals from across the world come to the fair each year. Within our halls, we create diverse sectors that allow galleries and their artists to bring the most relevant and challenging work. In addition, we collaborate closely with local arts institutions to put together a vibrant and engaging program of events for our visitors. There is, of course, a lot else going on in parallel with our show, but we don’t have any involvement with the vast majority of these ancillary activities; our time and resources are spent instead on constantly refining our core fair platform.

You’ve been at the helm of some very important art fairs, giving you a rather unique perspective on the world of fairs. Now that you’ve been here at Art Basel in Miami Beach for two years, could you share what makes the New York art scene different from that of Miami?

Of course, but I’m not honestly certain how fruitful a compare/ contrast is between the New York and Miami art scenes beyond underlining the fact that we benefit immensely in Miami by being the focus of attention during the show week: Everybody is in town for Art Basel. What I can say unequivocally, above and beyond this, is that we are honored to have been a member of Miami’s arts community for over 15 years and take great pride in witnessing the city’s private collections, public institutions and overall cultural ambitions grow. The year 2017 has been particularly notable in this regard, with the Bass re-opening after a large-scale renovation and the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami inaugurating its new building in the heart of the Miami Design District. The museums are also putting on extraordinary shows this year, including exhibitions of new work by Chris Ofili and Mark Handforth at the ICA, a retrospective of Dara Friedman at the Pérez Art Museum Miami and a show by Michele Oka Doner at the Lowe Art Museum.

Could you talk about the evolution of the relationship that Art Basel in Miami Beach has with the big galaxy of art, artists, dealers and collectors south of Miami, in South America? Does the fair have a special focus on South America given Miami’s advantageous location? 

Given Miami’s proximity and strong connection to South America, this region has always been a key focus of the Miami Beach fair. We therefore very much see this show as a fair of the Americas in its broadest sense, and not just a platform for the US art market. I am thrilled to see our relationship with South America’s various art scenes continue to grow and deepen, from Brazil, to Chile, Mexico, Colombia and elsewhere. Following the launch of our Art Basel Cities program in Buenos Aires, we are particularly excited to welcome a new gallery from here to Art Basel in Miami Beach this year: Isla Flotante, a terrific young Argentine gallery that’s been on our radar for a while and who we’ve recently gotten to know even better through our engagement with Buenos Aires. There are also some exceptionally strong historical projects on view this year from South American galleries. For example in the Survey sector, which spotlights art works created before the year 2000, Richard Saltoun Gallery will dedicate its booth to Argentinian artist Edgardo Antonio Vigo; Brazilian painter Wesley Duke Lee will be a focus for Ricardo Camargo Galeria; and two seminal artists from Chile — Carlos Leppe and Roberto Matta — will be shown by espaivisor and Robilant + Voena, respectively.

How do you ensure that Art Basel in Miami Beach remains different from all its previous editions, considering that it is always under so much spotlight?

It really comes down to the exhibitors that participate in our fairs and the extraordinary quality of artworks they bring, from Modern masterpieces to Contemporary works created specifically for the show. We also work hard to keep things fresh and are thrilled this year to welcome 20 newcomers who will join us for the first time, from Patron in Chicago, to Applicat-Prazan in Paris and Ricardo Camargo Galeria in São Paulo. We also work with new curators. This year, for example, Philipp Kaiser will be curating the Public sector in Collins Park for the first time, bringing with him his own unique curatorial approach, expertise and emphasis. His contributions will range from a progressive rock opera by Jim Shaw to sculptures by Yto Barrada and Frida Baranek.

What are the biggest trends in collecting in the world today?

One clear trend is the ongoing push-pull between new and old: young artists continuing to stake out vital positions and older generations of artists getting a second look. Our show in Miami Beach covers the full spectrum of this dynamic, with emerging voices like Xu Qu (at Antenna Space) or Jibade-Khalil Huffman (at Anat Ebgi) on view in the Positions sector, or lesser known voices from the 1960s like Rosalyn Drexler, Allan D’Arcangelo and Nicholas Krushenick showing with Garth Greenan Gallery in the Galleries sector. We also witness this in Public where Daniel Buren’s “Les Guirlandes,” originally commissioned for documenta 7 in 1982, will play a central role. In the end, this breadth of material ensures that there’s always something to be discovered.

Art Basel Miami Beach will be held December 7 - 10, at Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901, Convention Center Drive, Miami Beach.

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