Art Basel

Expect more police, guards and bag checks post-Paris at Art Basel and Art Week Miami events

Fairgoers flooded the Miami Beach Convention Center during last year’s Art Basel opening in Miami Beach.
Fairgoers flooded the Miami Beach Convention Center during last year’s Art Basel opening in Miami Beach. EL Nuevo Herald

Security is always tight when the Big Top — i.e., Art Basel/Miami Beach and its bazillion dollars worth of art and its wealth of prominent, gazillionaire art collectors from around the world — comes to town.

But it will be even tighter this year after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Beach police and fair officials say.

Not that they're expecting anything, but police and fair officials say there will be more officers in and around the Miami Beach Convention Center, home to the official Art Basel fair as well as its sister fair, Design Miami, which occupies a massive tent in the parking lot.

Beyond that, additional security measures will be instituted, but those will be invisible to the public — and neither Beach Police Chief Daniel Oates nor an Art Basel representative could detail those publicly because, well, security. Speaking broadly, they both said local authorites and fair organizers are coordinating closely and sharing information with federal and state authorities.

“Yes, we’re concerned about Paris,” Oates said. “Every sensible police department would be. We’re awful comfortable handling international events. But we are taking some significant extraordinary security measures. We are in close touch with our federal partners and with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Miami-Dade County. We will also have many of our (law enforcement) partners here with us.

“We are doing everything we can to make it a safe event, and I fully expect it will be.”

Across the bay in mainland Miami, host to dozens of satellite fairs, exhibitions and special events, a Miami police spokesman said he was unaware of any unusual or stepped-up security measures. At the big mainland event, Art Miami, fair head Nick Korniloff said attendees will notice more guards and a closer search of bags. Guards will also be stricter in disallowing large backpacks. Fairgoers wearing jackets or layers may be asked to remove them for a check as well, he said.

Behind the scenes, Art Miami organizers have also slowed down the move-in and set-up process to allow for more checks and inspections, and will be communicating closely with Miami police, he said.

“We’re running standard security with some added precautions and heightened awareness,” Korniloff said. “We all feel that it’s pragmatic.”

Though the theft of a silver plate by Picasso from the fair during off-hours last year has not been solved, Korniloff said, organizers believe the fair’s security measures for safeguarding artworks, including locked safes for such small objects, are solid.

On the Beach, Oates said beefed-up security may extend beyond the convention center to some other venues hosting ancillary Art Basel events, including the outdoor Collins Park art installation and several satellite tent fairs, such as Scope, Untitled and Pulse. Police also help with security, on an official or off-duty basis, at a couple dozen private events around the city during Art Week, he said.

Oates also noted that Art Basel organizers have always provided substantial security and coordinated with Beach police.

“It’s all very closely choreographed with us. They hire a lot of security guards,” Oates said.

That security regime kicks in the moment the build-out of booths for exhibitors and delivery of artworks to the convention center starts, well before the official mid-week opening of the fair, said a local Art Basel representative. He asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

That includes extensive video surveillance and security guards posted around the clock at entrances and loading docks and inside the hall, the representative said.

“There’s many eyes on the building inside and out,” the fair representative said. “It’s something that goes unnoticed to the average person. We will enhance that. No one’s taking this lightly.

“We have met with city officials and police to discuss security measures that will give everybody a comfort level necessary to the fair going on safely, as it has been for the last 13 years.”