Miami-Dade County

Miami Art Week opens to good reviews, bad traffic jams

On Tuesday, Art Miami kicked off Miami Art Week with pieces like Mark Jenkins’ mixed-media sculptures, ‘The Dark Side,’ and ‘Kicked Painting.’
On Tuesday, Art Miami kicked off Miami Art Week with pieces like Mark Jenkins’ mixed-media sculptures, ‘The Dark Side,’ and ‘Kicked Painting.’

While fairgoers swooned over the art and the beautiful, breezy new bayfront location of Art Miami, opening night on Tuesday was not without traffic and parking headaches that organizers say will lessen as Miami Art Week progresses.

A crowd of 14,500, combined with a concert at AmericanAirlines Arena and an auto accident on Bayshore Drive, caused congestion around the fair’s downtown venue at the old Miami Herald site during its peak debut hours.

“We had a huge influx of people coming and going at the same time, plus some street closures that were not part of our traffic plan and were unrelated to our event,” said Art Miami director Nick Korniloff. “But overall, our guests and dealers love the location. It offers a lot of convenience.”

The mammoth white tents of Art Miami and its companion fair Context moved from their longtime location in Midtown to a new home this year at Northeast 14th Street and Biscayne Bay — vacant land once occupied by the Miami Herald building before the newspaper moved to Doral. The site affords the 28th edition of the fair more space and better accessibility to roadways such as the Venetian and MacArthur causeways and the Metrorail system. Fairgoers can enter via Herald Plaza and drop off passengers or use $20 valet parking. There are parking garages and limited street parking nearby.

“There’s convenience to and from Miami Beach, and people staying on Miami Beach are enjoying the cityside,” Korniloff said. “There’s a real renewal process happening with the fair and it’s dovetailing with other events.”

But on Tuesday, opening night mobs converged with fans attending the Great Xscape Tour concert at the arena to create jams at the I-395 exits and along Biscayne Boulevard. Drivers were forced to go around sections of the boulevard pinched off by police. Uber and Lyft cars and taxis stopping in the middle of blocks to drop off or pick up people interrupted the flow of traffic. Parking wasn’t easy as lots filled, and arguments broke out over available spaces, including a loud, honking one on North Bayshore Drive next to Margaret Pace Park. Local residents out jogging or walking their dogs were annoyed by the disturbances.

“It’s better today but it was a terrible cluster last night,” Chris Hodgkins said Wednesday. He lives in the Grand building and is a member of the Omni-Bayshore Citizens Action group. “It’s wonderful to have the fair in our neighborhood, but it would be nice to work with those who own the property and stage the event so there is adequate planning and communication.”

At Mike’s restaurant in Plaza Venetia, patrons and employees saw the scene as “quite chaotic,” said owner Norma Shelow.

“We saw a lot of people taking U-turns at the entrance to the Venetian Causeway and along 15th Street in front of our building,” she said. “The traffic, the pedestrians, the backups — it was kind of crazy. I live three miles from here and it took me 35 minutes to get home.”

David Linn, general manager of The Daily restaurant at 2001 Biscayne Boulevard, said he regretted driving south through the congestion at 8 p.m.

“I go home that way and I said, ‘Oh, my, how did I get stuck in this mess?’” he said. “You had a large number of people in a small area.”

But he can’t complain about the fairs’ new hotspot and Miami Art Week in general.

“As a restaurateur I’m happy with the extra business,” he said. “We do 50-60 percent more sales, more walk-ins and more orders during Art Basel week.”

Korniloff said he expects logistical issues to ease through Sunday, when Art Miami and Context close at 6 p.m. He expects total attendance of 75,000 with 15,000 guests on both Saturday and Sunday, but less of a crush as visits are spread through the day.

All Art Week patrons are encouraged to use public transport, shuttles and shared ride services to avoid hassles.