The art world will descend upon the Magic City in December for the 17th edition of Art Basel Miami Beach. Arguably the heartbeat of Miami Art Week, the annual event attracts more than 260 galleries from 35 countries, drawing nearly 80,000 visitors to the South Florida enclave in the process. It’s also spawned a swirl of satellite fairs, parties and events.
While it can’t claim to be the city’s first contemporary art fair (that title belongs to Art Miami), Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB) did put this tropical paradise on the global radar as a must-visit cultural destination.
Whether you’re a first-time fair-goer or veteran art aficionado, allow us to highlight what to see and do, where to stay and play, and how to make the most of your experience.
Running from December 6 through 9, ABMB will debut a new show design and facilities inside the recently renovated Miami Beach Convention Center.
The exhibition space is divided into sectors: Galleries, Nova, Positions, Edition, Kabinett, Survey and Magazines. There’s also a series of Conversations — including artist talks and panel discussions — throughout the week.
Missing this year, however, will be the ever-popular Art Public program. In its stead will be a live performance piece by Mexican conceptual artist Abraham Cruzvillegas, running twice daily and open to the public for free.
In advance of your visit, check out a floorplan to see who’s showcasing where and map out your itinerary, and be sure to buy tickets ahead of time.
And for you planners, the dates are already set for 2019 — December 5 through 8.
What Else To See
In addition to ABMB, there are a number of satellite fairs, an impressive array of local art galleries and premier museums to explore. A complimentary shuttle service makes it easy to get around to the numerous events happening throughout the city.
Occurring alongside Art Basel, Design Miami celebrates the best in décor with exhibitions from top global galleries, collaborations with designers and renowned institutions. Meanwhile, Aqua Art Miami (set within South Beach’s Aqua Hotel) highlights young, emerging and mid-career artists.
Moving inland, the aforementioned Art Miami, the original and longest-running contemporary art fair in the city, debuts a new downtown waterfront location, where it will showcase work from more than 125 international galleries (including the buzzy Maddox Gallery).
Nearby, Red Dot Miami, a gallery-style fair, will show off its own fresh digs at Mana Wynwood.
Miami is also home to permanent cultural institutions. If you only have time for one extra stop, Perez Art Museum Miami is your best bet. On displaly is the acclaimed documentary exhibit, “Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-83.”
Renowned private collections also open their doors to the public for special exhibitions during Miami Art Week, including The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, De la Cruz Collection and Rubell Family Collection.
Other offshoot showings to put on your radar this year include “Art of Banksy,” an 80-piece tribute to the British graffiti artist on display at Magic City Innovation Studios beginning December 1.
Also launching this year is the inaugural Faena Festival. Titled “This is Not America,” the event runs from December 3 through 9 with a robust lineup of site-specific installations, all free and open to the community in and around Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Faena Hotel Miami Beach.
And no trip to Miami is complete without a good party. Faena, Soho Beach House and Basement at Four-Star The Miami Beach Edition always have lively, late-night Art Basel action going on.
If you seek an after-party, the acclaimed Rockwell and Liv at Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Fontainebleau Miami Beach are hot spots for club-goers.
Where To Stay
Art lovers flock to The Betsy — South Beach, a Four-Star Ocean Drive retreat and official host hotel of ABMB. Book a room in the property’s stylish Art Deco Wing to check out the jazz-era décor, and vibrant arts and culture program.
To be in the heart of the action, consider a stay at over-the-top Faena Hotel Miami Beach, where you can expect to rub elbows with some of the weekend’s biggest names.
Those wanting a more celebrity-driven party atmosphere will like W South Beach, where you’ll find star-studded dance parties and top artists spinning the hottest tracks.
For a respite from the South Beach melee, the recently reimagined Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club is a glamorous getaway.
And just a 30-minute drive north of the Miami Beach Convention Center, The Diplomat Beach Resort (also newly refreshed) is the place to go for families.
Further inland, downtown’s Four-Star Four Seasons Hotel Miami and Four-Star The Biltmore in Coral Gables are always trusted places to stay for luxury and high-end service.
Where To Dine And Drink
To enjoy surroundings as exquisite as the works on display, head towards Lincoln Road to nosh on Chotto Matte’s Japanese-Peruvian fusion fare. Or, make your way back to Faena Hotel Miami Beach where stand-out venues like Four-Stars Los Fuegos By Francis Mallmann and Pao by Paul Qui offer artful dishes and over-the-top dining experiences.
AQ Bar, the newest drinking destination at Five-Star Acqualina Resort & Spa, offers innovative, hand-crafted cocktails and elevated bar bites alongside original contemporary art by the likes of Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst and Roy Lichtenstein.
Meanwhile, in downtown Miami, waterfront brasserie Seaspice will unveil AIR, a private upstairs deck overlooking the Miami River during Art Basel.
Celebrity chef Daniel Boulud’s Miami edition of Boulud Sud will host an Art Basel-inspired, ticketed dinner featuring Krug champagne and Brazilian artist Vik Muniz on December 5.
If you happen to be hungry on Collins Ave, make your way to Byblos for frame-quality Eastern Mediterranean dishes in Byzantine-influenced surroundings that are worthy of a gallery. Making the space even more enticing is its celebrity-spotting potential. After all, this is the same restaurant where Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade recently held a birthday party for his wife, Gabrielle Union.
For a taste of something new, snag a reservation at Fiola. This outpost of the acclaimed Washington, D.C. restaurant opened this fall in Coral Gables to much fanfare and is worth a stop-in for gorgeously presented Italian plates.
But no matter what plans you draw up for dinner, you can’t go wrong with Sweet Liberty as your night-cap destination. Not only is the restaurant-bar centrally located next to Miami Beach’s The Bass art museum, but its robust roster of world-class libations in laid-back surroundings makes it a colorful way to conclude the day’s Art Basel excitement.