In December, the annual Art Basel Miami Beach lights up the Magic City with one of the biggest cultural happenings of the year. At the heart of a weeklong celebration of creativity known as Art Week, this year’s show boasts 268 of the world’s leading art galleries and 4,000 artists from 32 countries inside the Miami Beach Convention Center from December 7 through 10.
More than 70,000 art enthusiasts, collectors and A-listers are expected to descend upon the popular festival, but don’t let the numbers intimidate you. From what to see and do to where to stay and play, here’s how to make the most of your Art Basel Miami Beach trip.
WHAT TO SEE
For first-time visitors to Art Basel, the sheer scale can be overwhelming, so it’s best to do a little research ahead of time and make a game plan. Try to familiarize yourself with the layout of the 500,000-square-foot Miami Beach Convention Center so you know what you want to see.
Within the venue, there are nine sectors: Galleries, Nova, Positions, Edition, Kabinett, Survey, Public, Film and Magazines. There’s a new floor plan and show design, which promises more exhibition space, larger booths and wider aisles.
The main event can be found in the Galleries sector, where some of the world’s top international modern and contemporary galleries will display paintings, sculptures, installations, photography, film, video and digital art.
From there, just pop over to the areas that appeal to you most. For those who like history, stop by the Survey section, which highlights cultural solo presentations and other thematic exhibits.
The Film sector showcases work at New World Center’s SoundScape Park, where a 7,000-square-foot projection wall features video art.
To brush up on global contemporary art issues, sit in on Conversations with artists and industry professionals. All 19 panels will be live-streamed during the show.
One of the newest sectors, and already a fan favorite, is the Public space. Located in Collins Park, this year’s sector will host 11 massive, site-specific works that are free and open to everyone throughout the festival. Head here on December 6 with a picnic blanket to enjoy a progressive rock opera performance by Jim Shaw and band D’red D’warf.
WHAT TO KNOW
Save yourself time and stress by buying your tickets online and as far in advance as possible. Just print them out or save them on your smartphone to skip the lines. To avoid the crowds in the aisles, head over on December 7 between 3 and 8 p.m., as weekdays are less busy.
And since you never know whom you might rub elbows with at Art Basel, you’ll want to dress the part — a sharp blazer and smart, but comfortable shoes will do. For first-timers, guided tours by established art critics and concierge serves are available.
If you’re heading to the fair with kids, Miami Children’s Museum offers a free supervised playroom with arts and crafts activities so you can tour the show. And to make your life even easier, the city of Miami will offer a free Art Week shuttle service to the convention center.
WHAT ELSE TO DO
During Miami Art Week, the city boasts more than 20 satellite art fairs coinciding with Art Basel. Local museums and galleries get in on the action with special events and exhibits while a plethora of parties and celebrity-sighting opportunities also abound.
Art Fairs: Design Miami returns to the beach next to the convention center with 33 galleries, installations, designs talks and exclusive events. Pulse Contemporary Art Fair is back with a powerful selection of videos in its Play showcase. Aqua Art Miami is expecting 52 international exhibitors, while Spectrum Miami, Red Dot Miami and ArtSpot Miami are “under one roof,” with a single ticket granting admission to all three shows at their location in the heart of Miami’s Arts and Entertainment District.
Museums: After a $12 million renovation, The Bass Museum has reopened just in time for Art Basel with a solo exhibit by artist Mika Rottenberg. Over in the Design District, The Institute of Contemporary Art will debut its permanent home — a 37,500-square-foot building and sculpture garden — and host a massive thematic survey showing 100 works by more than 50 artists. Perez Art Museum Miami has an ongoing exhibition called “On the Horizon,” featuring works by Cuban artists, which is also worth checking out during your trip.
Parties: If you’re looking to schmooze with A-listers, you can never go wrong on South Beach; you’ll certainly want to add Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Fontainebleau Miami Beach’s Liv and Delano South Beach’s Doheny Room to your after-party list.
To jam on the mainland, make your way to the annual III Points Art Basel concert series, headlined by Icelandic icon Björk, in the artsy Wynwood neighborhood. Nearby, Coyo Taco will throw a massive Art Basel block party.
More: Fashionistas should flock to the Miami Design District to glimpse at “The Art of Fashion” exhibition by WWD. Nearby, Miami’s famed Wynwood Walls, which have been painted by some of the world’s most renowned street artists, will unveil 12 new murals dubbed “humanKIND,” that will provide the backdrop for a stellar selfie.
WHERE TO STAY
While most luxury resorts book up early, you can still enjoy a posh stay at properties that are collaborating with Art Basel Miami Beach. The Betsy — South Beach, a Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel, is a well-established haven for artists and has a bounty of Art Basel fêtes and exhibitions lined up, including one highlighting works from nine Miami talents.
The ultra-chic Five-Star Faena Hotel Miami Beach is a celebrity favorite. This year, the glamorous property delivers a program of exhibitions across the district, including an immersive performance art piece on the beach.
Not to be outdone, The Miami Beach Edition, a Forbes Travel Guide Recommended resort, offers both lavish digs and an electric list of late-night dance parties at haute spot Basement.
1 Hotel South Beach will present Art Basel programming and other free events (live music, pop-up fitness classes) throughout the week as well.
If you want to stay off the beach but remain close enough to the action, head to Mandarin Oriental, Miami, a Five-Star hotel on the exclusive enclave of Brickell Key, or Four Seasons Hotel Miami, a chic Four-Star downtown spot.
For a quieter getaway, head to Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour, Miami. With a stay at this property that sits roughly 20 minutes from the convention center, you’ll pick up VIP passes to several art fairs, including Nada Miami, Pulse and Aqua Art.