City commissioners will not be renewing SMG’s Miami convention center management contract breaking a 15 year working relationship. In a 6-1 approval vote Wednesday, the contract was awarded to Global Spectrum, a Comcast subsidiary, and Basel parent firm Messe Schweiz.
According to the Miami Herald and South Florida Business Journal, many city officials think this is a great idea because it will keep Art Basel in town, a fair, which up until now had refused to commit the show for more than one year at a time. Frankly, given the length of time Basel’s already been in Miami and the enticing warm climate, it seems unlikely they would move, but then I’m not privy to the business strategies of these organizations, and I expect there’s a lot more to these kinds of decisions than what I’ve laid out. Commissioner Jonah Wolfson has invested a lot of time considering the deal and doesn’t think it’s a good idea, ‘From the beginning, this has been about people’s fears of losing Basel,” he told the Miami Herald. Wolfson cast the lone vote against the Global Spectrum contract, unhappy with what he felt would be a conflict of interest “inviting corruption”. It would make Messe Schweiz both tenant and landlord, and could turn off current and prospective vendors. He also voiced the concerns of vendors who felt the contract would give Messe Schweiz the upper hand for Art Basel and other shows. Countering this, Messe Schweiz (”Swiss Exhibitions” in English), which owns 30 shows in Europe and has pledged to bring at least one to Miami Beach.
What does this mean for Art Basel Miami? It’s unclear, though one would hope the management will be able to take care a few of the union issues that reportedly made so many exhibitors unhappy last year. I heard many complaints about slow convention laborers who failed to prepare booths and lighting in a timely fashion.