Coming soon to Miami Beach: ‘Art Basel,’ but for cars

Screenshot for website for the Concours d’ Elegance at Villa d’Este in Italy. The new Basel-owned car show will bear some similar elements to it, but will expand the concept further.
Screenshot for website for the Concours d’ Elegance at Villa d’Este in Italy. The new Basel-owned car show will bear some similar elements to it, but will expand the concept further.

Car collectors, rev your engines. The Swiss company that presents Art Basel is bringing a new event to Miami Beach, and it’s focused on that Miami obsession, the automobile.

Grand Basel, as the event is called, will bring together classic collectible cars from the past and present with future concept models. It will launch in September 2018 in Basel, Switzerland, and come to Miami in February 2019, said Rene Kamm, CEO of MCH Group, which presents Art Basel and several other expositions devoted to the creme de la creme of luxury goods.

But it’s not just another car show, says Lana Nyfeler, Grand Basel’s Global Head of Communications. MCH is billing the event “the first global salon for the world’s most important automobiles.”

Think of it as a cross between an exhibition — like the Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach, Calif. and Villa d’Este, Italy — and a sales platform. About 80 percent of the vehicles on display will likely be for sale.

Like the Art Basel show now in Miami Beach, Grand Basel’s exhibitors will be chosen through a juried selection process focused on design, history and provenance that focuses on the individual vehicles, not brand presentations. And that jury won’t be the usual car guys but will be made up of curators in fashion, architecture and design. Directing the jury will be Professor Paolo Tumminelli, a design and culture expert at Germany’s Cologne University.

Said Nyfeler, “Each car has to have a history, a story to tell. It needs to be a cultural asset.” The number of exhibitors will be limited. The show will include educational panels and forums.

Grand Basel will likely be held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, which has signed a contract with sister Art Basel fair for the next five years. Like Art Basel, it will have preview days for VIPs and will also have public opening days.

“Grand Basel is to car aficionados what Art Basel is to art lovers,” said Dan Gelber, Miami Beach mayor. “We want people to come here and enjoy art of any kind, whether it’s a painting or a Ferrari.”

The show is a new concept for MCH Group, which plans to take it to the cities where it already has successful art fairs — Miami Beach and Hong Kong. Luxury car brands including Bentley often cite Miami among the top three U.S. markets, along with Los Angeles and New York.

In explaining the new fair, printed materials note the explosive growth of the classic car sector — more than 457 percent over the past decade, according to a 2016 Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index report.

Forecasts for the Miami show have not yet been determined, but MCH expects 10,000 visitors for the first Swiss edition of Grand Basel – similar to what they had forecast for the initial year of Art Basel in Miami Beach.

Since Art Basel debuted here in 2002, the fair has had a profound effect, turning the once-dead early December period into one of the busiest cultural and hospitality weeks of the year and creating an estimated economic impact of $500 million, according to published reports. It also has boosted the region’s transformation into a global cultural destination.

But unlike Art Basel, which is staged during an otherwise slow tourism period, Grand Basel will be set in February, already jam-packed with art festivals, conferences and the Miami Boat Show. From an economic standpoint, the car fair will be unlikely to have the same impact. But it will have an impact, said Gelber.

“What’s happening is our identity is blossoming. I believe we’re going to continue on that trajectory.”