An outdoor film event at last year’s Art Basel Miami Beach. This year’s offerings are even more robust. Courtesy of Art Basel.

MIAMI - Anyone who has been to Art Basel Miami Beach – which consumes the art world starting this week, and from which I’ll be blogging regularly – knows that the number of artworks on view can be overwhelming. There are 257 galleries slated to display their wares, nearly 100 from the U.S., dozens from Germany, and even single outposts from Iceland and Uruguay.

For instance: Just at one top New York gallery, Sperone Westwater, you’ll be able to see works by the British-born Malcolm Morley (also the subject of a Parrish Art Museum show in Water Mill, New York until Jan 13), sly iconoclast William Wegman (of Weimaraner photo fame) and provocative sculptor Barry X Ball (who has a big show right around the corner from ABMB at the Bass Museum of Art). And that’s only a partial list at just one booth.

William Wegman’s Location Vacation will be exhibited in the Sperone Westwater booth.Courtesy Sperone Westwater, New York.

Now multiply that by all those dealers and you’ll see what I mean. And it’s hard to know the flavor and quality of the fair until you walk around. But what is possible to predict is the level of the public talks and events, which are planned well in advance. And I think this year has an extremely strong lineup.  

Of particular interest to serious collectors is lawyer-laden panel How to Buy Art – And How to Handle It, Friday at 2pm. Who doesn’t want free legal advice? Thursday at 10am, fans of Minimal and post-Minimal art can see Richard Tuttle in conversation with Chris Dercon, director of the Tate Modern – a very good “get” as far as artist talks go.

Crowds gathered for last year’s Collector Focus talk. Courtesy of Art Basel.

The one event I might change my return flight to see is the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s director, Thomas Campbell, in conversation with Michael Govan, his opposite number at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The talk, slated for 10am Friday, has the juicy title “Rethinking the Encyclopedic Museum.” Having interviewed both men this year, I can say that both are well spoken indeed on big-picture issues. Although Govan has the reputation as the brash, bold one, it was Campbell who pushed for and got his museum to change its longstanding policy of being closed Mondays. Look for some quotable remarks coming out of this dialogue.