Art Basel: Creating Experiences for Tomorrow’s Customers

12/19/2017 10:07 am ET Updated Dec 19, 2017

By Rigel Cable, Associate Director of Strategy & Analytics at Fluid Inc.

Art Basel, and especially Art Basel Miami, has become a global sensation. This year, global scenesters descended upon Miami Beach to enjoy the high culture moment. The week-long Miami Art Week event has become much more than just a collection of gallery shows. It has become a phenomenon not unlike Coachella, SXSW, or New York Fashion Week – a moment to see and be seen: whether you are an art dealer, music artist, clothing retailer, or a Wilhemina model.

As a blogger and Instagram influencer, I was invited by Art Basel as Press to attend the expo at the convention center in Miami Beach. I used this as an excuse to invite six friends to join in the fun. For most of us, it was our first time. I was fascinated to see what all the fuss is about.

Throughout the week, brands like Soundcloud, Adidas, and Moschino by Jeremy Scott put on activations and events, where coveted invites and stacked VIP wristbands became as much of a fashion statement as the red bottoms stomping around Collins Ave. So, what’s in it for the brands?

According to a luxury travel survey by Resonance, many of the wealthiest Americans prefer to go to art festivals compared to traditional cultural outings like the opera or ballet.

The rise of Art Basel and Miami Art Week falls in-line with a larger trend throughout the business world: the importance of art in consumer products, travel experiences, and social happenings. Driven by the increase in brand-artist “collaborations” – where lifestyle brands like Adidas seek creative input from popular visual artists – and the explosion of streetwear, art festivals have become a flourishing cultural movement.

According to a luxury travel survey by Resonance, many of the wealthiest Americans prefer to go to art festivals compared to traditional cultural outings like the opera or ballet. With the rise of festivals like Burning Man, we have seen that there is a general societal hunger for art. As an art lover myself, I find that perusing a gallery with a drink in hand is just as socially and culturally satisfying as a music concert. On the same note, inviting friends out to gallery openings has become a growing social trend among millennials, who value “experiences over things”.

With capsule collections like Coco Capitán for Gucci and Prada’s Cristophe Chemin art print shirts in 2016, brands have embraced the potential for greater creativity and visual breadth. Shoppers love this trend because it’s connected to the rise of product customization. Art collaboration designs are limited-edition and add extra flourish and story to products. Indeed, during Art Basel, every mainstream designer from Dior to Prada (which even opened their new store in Miami at the same time) created one-of-a-kind Art Basel merchandise, tapping into this consumer desire.

The events of Miami Art Week are a rare opportunity to associate with fine art and current pop culture.

Outside of high fashion, lifestyle brands took advantage of the collaborative advertising opportunities. The events of Miami Art Week are a rare opportunity to associate with fine art and current pop culture. For example, Veuve Cliquot had a broad presence during Art Basel with a Fall Picnic and at The Hive mini music festival. BMW sponsored the cars for Art Basel to cart VIPs from one destination to another. And COS launched an installation with Studio Swine.

Here are some predictions for how brands will leverage art in years to come:

  • More and more brands will build brand “experiences” (offline and online) as opposed to traditional advertising and eCommerce.
  • Brands will build artist residency programs to foster creativity right at the brand headquarters. Some brands like Google have already started this trend.
  • Customization will evolve from monogramming and color choices to include one-of-a-kind art prints and patterns.
  • Visual art collaboration will expand not only into product design, but also web design & digital experience to make unique, virtual art installation experiences.
  • Art Basel will continue to grow into SXSW proportions as brands, music, and entertainment build on the existing momentum of the event.
  • Artist capsule collections will expand from seasonal launches to full-range, year-round collections and sub-brands.

So has Art Basel become a sellout? No. The visual arts has always relied on benefactors, and putting brand budgets toward pop up art events is a dream come true for many artists. For example, during Art Basel multiple brand events included live painting, so in many cases artists directly benefited from happenings. Providing product design opportunities to emerging painters or art film gigs to rising videographers is an exciting way that brands can connect more authentically with the real world and support creativity.

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