Where art and Miami Beach mix

The Party Begins: Art Basel Miami Beach Kicked Off for VIPs

About 46,000 visitors are expected at Art Basel Miami Beach this weekend.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Lisa Orkin Emmanuel/NBC Miami
    Art Basel Miami Beach open its doors to VIPs Wednesday.

    South Beach's biggest art party of the year is about to begin.

    Collectors and art lovers got a preview of the 10th edition of Art Basel Miami Beach on Wednesday morning, as organizers threw open the doors for VIPs. The fair is open to the public from Thursday to Sunday, with many satellite fairs all over Miami.

    Everyone seemed optimistic that this year collectors would be out in full force. This year 262 galleries were participating, 46,000 visitors were expected, especially Brazilian and Asian art collectors.

    "They've been buying like crazy," said Bonnie Clearwater, the head of the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami of collectors. "It's also about if there's great work. All the galleries have been vetted and they are expected to bring great work."

    Fair organizers said they had a record number of art galleries from Latin America, and even in a section of the fair that highlights young artists.

    "It's the first time it's ever been so strong," said fair co-director Marc Spiegler.

    His co-director Annette Schonholzer echoed his words.

    "The past two days we've seen more art crates coming into these halls than ever, which is always a strong sign that obviously the galleries are very optimistic about the art market, otherwise they wouldn't be investing in bring in this artwork here,"  said Schonholzer.

    David Juda, of the London-based gallery Annely Juda Fine Art, said he brought 50 pieces, including work from David Hockney, David Nash and Sarah Oppenheimer, who created an installation which fits into the wall.

    "We normally do very well here in Miami. We have good clientele that comes every year," he said. "In an art fair, you never know."

    Juda said people were putting their spare money in art, but he said that in Britain the lower priced art was getting more difficult to sell because the middle class was becoming increasingly unable to buy it.

    Meanwhile, Valeria Pecorano of the Ruth Benzacar gallery, from Argentina, said she was very confident that the fair would be profitable.

    "After so many crises ... People have recognized that art might be a very good way to make investments,' she said.

    She added that the gallery brought pieces from young artists who don't demand such high prices so that everyone has access to buying art.

    "We take it very seriously to make art available to more people," she said.

    Meanwhile, Artist Tom Patti was one of the VIPs waiting in line to get a look at the art.

    "It's exciting," he said. 'I am anxious."

    Miami art collector and businessman Norman Braman, who is the chairman of the fair's host committee, said his friends from all over the world were coming to town for the event.

    "This is unique opportunity for collectors to see the finest art that's available for purchase," Braman said. "The art market has made a comeback. The auctions that were just held last month were very strong and people anticipate a good business here."

    Braman also added he was against bringing a mega-casino destination resort to South Beach, amid talk of building one along with a new convention center.

    'I am totally opposed to it. i think bringing gambling here jeopardizes this fair. It's not compatible. The gambling casinos are not compatible with art fairs. It doesn't exist anywhere," he said.

    Click here for a list of Art Basel events and for more Art Basel stories.