By Lisa Petrillo

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Art Basel is back after being canceled last year due to the pandemic.

Tuesday morning was the official invitation-only VIP opening for the 2021 art extravaganza.

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Known as the premier art fair in the Americas, Art Basel returns with more than 250 galleries from 36 countries.

Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s global director, spoke at the morning press event about how last year’s online and digital fairs will never replace this.

“People want to see art, and why is that? Because there’s no substitute for discovering art in person and for buying and selling art in person,” Spiegler said.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said, “80,000 people are coming into this community so this is a huge economic driver. But more importantly, we are welcoming back the world because that’s what we do in South Florida. We create moments for people.”

COVID-19 safety measures are strongly in place. Guests must show their vaccine cards or negative COVID tests to get a bracelet, which they can use to get in throughout the week. Masks are also mandatory.

“We want to do this in the safest way possible for everyone possible,” Spiegler said.

The “well healed” crowd eyeing everything from painting to sculpture, photography, digital art and more.

Galleries were soon filling up with eager buyers.

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Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery from New York features works by the world’s most renowned contemporary artists such as Keith Herring, Basquiet, Warhol and more. Sales are underway with high price tags.

“We have works anywhere from $200,000 all the way up to maybe 9 million, and we’re really busy so it’s a great sign,” said a sales person from the gallery.

Art is simply everywhere in every form.

“Are you a walking art gallery?” CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo asked a couple wearing art on their clothes.

“We are living, breathing, walking active art, yes,” said artist Khyal.

Celebrity art buyers didn’t sneak by. CBS4 spotted singer Adam Levine and NFL legend Joe Montana shopping the aisles.

“I think this is great to be back outside as long as we’re cautious. I don’t think we’re out of it by any stretch of the means, but we came to try to do it and try to be safe at the same time,” said Montana.

Everyone seems to be happy this annual fair that puts South Florida in the international spotlight is back home again.

“To have this come here, it’s like just a real awakening for the entire community. Especially for those of us with such an interest in art. Art is a blessing,” said Braman.

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Art Basel is officially open to the public Thursday through Saturday. For more info, click here.

Lisa Petrillo