By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Art Basel, the show of shows for international art galleries, high roller collectors, artists, and those that just love seeing great art is back and set to go.

This year’s show, emerging from COVID cancellation, is the annual apex of the South Florida art scene.

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Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s global director said, “We have 254 galleries coming. Almost as many as 2019 and they are coming from all over the world.”

COVID killed off the 2020 version of Art Basel Miami Beach.

This year, there were rumors and concerns the show would be on hold again because of travel restrictions. Organizers worried European galleries and artists would have difficulty showing.

But just in time, the U.S. Government announcement came: Vaccinated Europeans can enter the U.S. beginning November 8th. “As soon as we heard the news it was going to happen, we got really excited. Art Basel Miami Beach is a show we all missed,” said Spiegler.

Not only did the artists and collectors miss Art Basel, so did the South Florida tourism economy that was all but shut down by the global pandemic. What was lost? 

The show is said to bring in 81,000 people, art worth over $2 billion. Claims are the event brings over $500 million into the local economy.

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Organizers hope that will be the case this year and now with the Europeans green-lighted, the show is on and what was once a big maybe is now happening.

“More than 30 galleries that initially told us, ‘I am sorry I can’t make it, don’t know how we can set up the booths, came to us and said we want in.’”

Art Basel launched their Switzerland show in September, which was primarily a European show, as Americans could not travel easily. Attendance was down but much was learned. 

Marc Spiegler told CBSMiami, “We proved to ourselves and the art world people can buy and sell art perfectly well wearing a mask, which is necessary to keep them safe.”

For the Miami show which opens December 2nd, all involved including the general public will have to be tested or be vaccinated. Masks will also be required. 

“Looking forward to Miami with the Swiss show in the books,” Spiegler said, “It is an amazing thing to see people who have not seen each other for a year and a half or two years to see art again at scale,” he adds.

“Great artists from all over the world. To see their work. I think people should be excited, people should be giddy. We have a lot to look forward to.”

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Just how close did Art Basel come to being canceled this year? Spiegler said they always held out hope, but it was not until they saw the vaccination numbers go up that they were pretty sure the show would go on.