All eyes are on Magic City for the art world’s biggest block party — Art Basel Miami Beach (December 4 to 7). In its 13th year, the annual city-wide festival — and its myriad satellite fairs, exhibits, museum and gallery openings and parties — is expected to break attendance records with new showings, additional activities and tons of swank soirees. Here, Forbes Travel Guide paints a vivid picture of the must-see shows, must-do activities and must-stay accommodations for a true Art Basel experience.
What To Know
Art Basel Miami Beach attracts thousands of art lovers, artists, collectors and museum groups from around the world. The 2013 show drew about 75,000 people. This year, the main event at the Miami Beach Convention Center will bring together more than 250 leading international galleries drawn from 31 countries across North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations, prints, photography, film, video and digital art by more than 4,000 artists are all hand-selected by a global committee composed of renowned gallerists. You can purchase tickets for individual days or for the entire weekend ahead of time on Art Basel’s website or at the respective venues. Combo tickets with entry to Art Basel and nearby international design show Design Miami are also available. (We suggest booking ahead of time to avoid long lines, allowing you to squeeze in as much viewing time as possible.) If you’re new to the art fair scene, know that Art Basel is an endurance exercise — pack your comfortable shoes for a lot of walking or take the complimentary shuttles that transfer folks between Miami’s major cultural institutions.
What To Do
More than 500,000 square feet of exhibition space is broken down into various areas or “sectors.” You’ll find everything from inexpensive edition pieces by young artists to multi-million-dollar, museum-caliber masterworks by established artists. A new section this year is Survey, which features art-historical projects from 13 galleries, plus performance art, video, public works and upstart galleries’ pieces. Be sure to check out Public, an outdoor sculpture showcase, whose inaugural effort last year was one of the fair’s top attractions. Another returning favorite is the Film sector, which presents more than 70 movies and videos by a group of artists around this year’s theme of “playfulness.” Films are screened on a 7,000-square-foot outdoor wall at New World Center’s SoundScape Park.
In addition to Art Basel’s main events, satellite fairs like Scope, Bridge, NADA, Photo Miami and Aqua compete with unofficial side projects and pop-up attractions. A much-anticipated debut this year is Concept Fair at Bayfront Park, where 80 exhibitors will feature modern works from 1860 through 1980, including painting, sculpture, photography and art objects housed in a spaceship-like circular tent. Area museums will also put on their best shows of the year. Pérez Art Museum Miami will unveil commissioned works by Mexico City-based artist Mario Garcia Torres (“R.R. and the Expansion of the Tropics”) and the first major U.S. retrospective of Brazilian abstract painter Beatriz Milhazes (“Beatriz Milhazes: Jardin Botânico”). Little ones can get in on the fun as well with Art Basel Miami Beach’s Art Kids, a free, supervised program for ages 4 through 12 that includes activities such as arts and crafts, art history and storytelling. An exhibit that will enthrall guests of all ages comes via Audemars Piguet and the Peabody Essex Museum—Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests. Through December 7, Jansen will not only take his one-of-a-kind, wind-powered creations on two daily marches (10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.) along Miami Beach (at 21st and 22nd Streets) but he’ll also lead discussions about his unique contraptions.
Where To Stay
Art Basel is a short walk from dozens of posh resorts, but they book up fast. Stay at the ultra-luxurious Five-Star Mandarin Oriental, Miami and you’ll also get to see “The Modern Utopia,” the hotel’s own contemporary Asian art exhibition (December 4 to 7). Organized by Miami’s Art Lexing gallery, it honors the Mandarin Oriental’s Asian heritage and the growing influence of Eastern art. The hotel’s MO Bar + Lounge will serve art-inspired classic cocktails, and rooms with have a complimentary Mandarin Oriental art book. Another popular option is Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, a landmark destination designed by legendary Miami architect Morris Lapidus with all the modern amenities you can imagine on top of an impressive $2 million original art collection.
Fine-dining restaurants around the area such as Four-Stars Hakkasan Miami and Scarpetta Miami Beach are frequently booked well in advance for private art collector’s dinners, so make sure to call ahead about seatings. Even though many upscale restaurants and hotels sell out during the weekend, savvy art fans can still get in on the action at properties that tend to host small exhibits and throw industry parties in their lounges. Delano South Beach, for one, has a weekend full of indoor showings (Alex Mustonen’s Snarkitecture, Raphael Mazzucco’s photo exhibit) and outdoor installations (Bally’s Triangle Walks) on its calendar.