The first time Art Basel came to Miami, the whole affair was, by today’s standards at least, pretty tame. The year was 2002, and the Art Basel name had already been well-established among serious collectors and staunch gallerists—but it was a bit lacking in sex appeal. Much like its predecessor—which takes place every June in Basel, Switzerland—there was art for the buying, Champagne for the sipping, and plenty of buttoned-up Swiss reserve to go around. But leave it to the Magic City to turn an uptight scene into an A-list affair.
Within a handful of years, Art Basel Miami Beach (artbasel.com) had become a red-carpet-worthy event: Beyoncé and Jay-Z casually showed up to browse the goods; Pamela Anderson gallivanted around in salmon-colored stilettos (and little more) while carrying an Andy Warhol–inspired clutch; and Paris and Nicky Hilton struck poses for the few paparazzi who had caught on that ABMB was becoming the next big thing.
Today, the fair is only one part of what has become Miami Art Week, which every December transforms the city for a long weekend of parties, performances, galas, and VIP events. Hundreds of thousands show up to see it unfold from Surf City to South Beach and over to downtown. This year, Art Basel will once again be the anchor that holds it all together, showcasing more than 200 of the world’s leading international modern and contemporary art galleries and works by upward of 4,000 artists. Partners like Ruinart, La Prairie, and Audemars Piguet will ensure plenty of distractions, as well. (Last year, the watchmaker popped up with a spectacular collectors’ lounge displaying its timepieces, and the Champagne house always makes sure the bubbles are flowing.)
The Miami Beach Convention Center won’t open its doors for Art Basel until December 4, so details on the 18th annual event remain scant. But if last year was any indication, it will be another one for the books. At 2018’s Art Week, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez shopped for new acquisitions (the couple is combining their individually impressive collections at the moment); Serena Williams launched a pop-up shop to show off her new fashion line, Serena; Bono, Naomi Campbell, and Christian Louboutin teamed up for a charity event that raised $5.5 million for the U2 frontman’s foundation, (Red); and Brooke Shields curated a group show of artworks from New York Academy of Art alumni along with painter David Kratz. Oh, and more than $2.5 billion of art was reportedly sold at Art Basel alone.
As is customary, this year’s Art Basel is aiming to outdo its predecessor, with more artists and galleries and an ambitious new sector called Meridians, which will showcase large-scale sculptures and paintings, installations, and live performances. In addition to the show that started it all, there will be more than 20 “satellite fairs,” including Design Miami (an interior design fair where Virgil Abloh has exhibited) and the Faena Festival at Faena Hotel Miami Beach, as well as countless parties and events.
A pro tip: You can’t do it all, but you can do it right by knowing the top players and places to be throughout the four-day affair. This guide will get you there.
The Art Basel After-Parties
Some of the best moments of Art Basel don’t even happen at Art Basel. After the Miami Beach Convention Center closes its doors for the day, the party moves around the city to galas, private events, and major performances. Here are the satellite highlights every ABMB VIP should plan to show face at.
The Nightclub: E11EVEN
Downtown Miami’s all-hours hot spot is the kind of mega-club that seemed to go out of style sometime in the early aughts. But E11EVEN takes the all-night party into the 21st century with 13,500 square feet and multiple rooms of EDM and high-flying theatrics. During last year’s Miami Art Week, G-Eazy and Travis Scott performed here—and Cardi B gave an impromptu performance of “Bodak Yellow” and “Drip.”
The Art Soiree: The Rubell Museum
Mera and Don Rubell are Miami art elite—their private collection of contemporary art is one of the largest in North America—and they always seem to be at the center of Art Week’s biggest events. This year, the duo is timing the opening of their new 100,000-square-foot Rubell Museum to coincide with Miami Art Week. The space’s first exhibition—drawn from a collection of 7,200 works by 1,000 artists—will premiere on December 4; the opening party will no doubt be an epic kickoff to Art Basel.
The Hotel Party: Freehand Miami
Last year, Prada Mode—the Italian fashion house’s very VIP traveling members club—popped up at the Freehand, taking over the hipster hangout’s lobby, pool, lounge, and restaurants with performances by Ella, Theaster Gates, and the Black Monks of Mississippi. No word yet on whether Prada will be back at it again this year, but either way, the Freehand is always a sure bet for A-list Art Week shenanigans—especially the tiki-inspired Broken Shaker bar and garden.
The Satellite Fair: Pinta at Wynwood
With more than 20 satellite fairs all over the city, it’s hard to pick just one. If you had to, Pinta is your best bet not only for its art (which has a vibrant Latin American contemporary focus) but also for its location, which will put you within earshot of Basel House (the pop-up venue where Kanye West made a surprise performance last year) and the Wynwood Shop (which will host an exhibition of fashion and art by local artists this year).
The Hot Hotels
With so many attendees popping in from around the world, Miami’s best luxury hotels tend to become mini–Art Basel ecosystems, hosting their own parties and exhibitions. Here are the top spots where everyone will be staying (and a few where hardly anyone will get in).
1 Hotel South Beach
One of South Beach’s best hotels no matter what time of year it is, the 1 Hotel is as eco-friendly as it is chic and has a 30,000-square-foot pool deck with plenty of cabanas for privacy. The hotel also has official Art Basel cred, hosting annual installations and exhibitions as well as major performances. Last year, as the host of American Express’s Platinum House, the hotel was the site of Pharrell Williams’s blowout beachfront performance.
Soho Beach House
Soho House’s members’ club promises a more exclusive place to stay whether you’re a card carrier or not. It’s also the site of the Soho House Beach Tent, where Art Basel events and surprise performances take place right on the edge of the ocean. Last year, Soul Clap’s Lonely C and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and Nancy Whang all popped in for DJ sets.
For those who don’t want to see or be seen, the five-suite Casa Tua is the place to stay. Housed in a Mediterranean-style mansion, the private estate customizes every guest’s stay, down to the fresh-cut flowers in their rooms. There’s a private restaurant upstairs for guests and VIPS only. But that doesn’t mean it’s sleepy: During last year’s Art Week, Casa Tua hosted a private karaoke party that everyone from Bono to Leonardo DiCaprio popped in on.
Faena Hotel Miami Beach
Hotelier Alan Faena is something of a local legend, as much for his trademark white fedora as for his over-the-top parties. Check in to his opulent Faena Hotel Miami Beach for the extravagant design and incredible collection of art (including Damien Hirst’s Instagram-bait 10-foot-tall gilded woolly mammoth surrounded by palm trees). Stay up late for the wild antics. Last year, the hotel’s garden hosted Maison St-Germain’s annual party with a dramatic ballet performance and floral installation.
Villa Casa Casuarina
The former Versace Mansion, now Villa Casa Casuarina, is the epitome of fashionable stays. Check in to the 1930s residence where the legend lived (and ultimately died) for more privacy than most hotels—and prepare to run into a few faces you know. Last year, the villa was the site of Bombay Sapphire’s annual Art Basel bash, which was hosted by actress Tessa Thompson.
Miami has always had a stellar culinary scene, but this year, ABMB regulars will find more than a few new not-to-miss restaurants—including several from some of the world’s best chefs. Get your PA on these reservations STAT.
Cafe La Trova
Perhaps Miami’s most exciting new opening, Michelle Bernstein’s windowless Cafe La Trova is pure Havana, with nightly Trova music performances, papa dobles and mojitos by famed Cuban cantinero Julio Cabrera, and a menu packed with perfectly executed island favorites like paella croquetas and arroz con pollo.
Pharrell Williams’s Miami Design District hot spot Swan opened just before Art Week kicked off last year. Now, the international restaurant, whose kitchen is helmed by French chef Jean Imbert, is in full swing, with a rooftop lounge that hosts nightly DJ sets and a menu chock-full of curiously creative dishes like spaghetti tossed with caviar and polenta topped with popcorn (apparently one of Williams’s favorites).
The Surf Club Restaurant
Thomas Keller has finally landed in Miami, opening his first Florida restaurant in Surfside’s Four Seasons Hotel. Debuted late last year, the Surf Club is a little bit of Per Se, a little bit of French Laundry, and a lot of Miami, serving up rich classics such as oysters Rockefeller and Wagyu beef Wellington in a laid-back setting where you’re just as welcome in a jacket or a T-shirt.
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Keller isn’t the only Michelin master behind a new Miami kitchen: The late Joël Robuchon’s long-anticipated L’Atelier opened in August in the Design District with an intimate 34-seat dining counter with views of the open kitchen. Robuchon’s legacy lives on with the same exceptional dishes you’ll find in New York. Two new concepts by the chef’s team have also launched with the vegetable-forward Le Jardinier and the ice cream shop Frohzen.
VIP favorite Prime 112 has been pulling in a major A-list clientele since it opened in 2004. Now, restaurateur Myles Chefetz is upping the ante with his recent opening of the even more exclusive Prime Private, just one block south on Ocean Drive. As its name implies, the new space is totally private—meaning you won’t have to share your steak dinner with anyone you didn’t invite. mylesrestaurantgroup.com
The A-Rod Rundown
Five quick picks from the Miami local and avid art collector Alex Rodriguez.
- Best Hotel : 1 Hotel South Beach
- Best Restaurant: Prime 112
- Best Bar: Soho Beach House
- Best Shopping: Bal Harbour Shops
- Best Weekend Activity: Boating with my daughters
A Few of Adriana Lima’s Favorite Things
Last year, the supermodel was spotted all over Miami Art Week, including at producer Swizz Beatz’s traveling art exhibit, No Commission. Here she gives us the inside track on her favorite Miami hot spots, no matter the time of year.
- Faena Hotel
- “I hosted my birthday there when it first opened. A large group went to their cocktail lounge and theater and watched a really amazing show. We had the best time.”
- “I love this restaurant at the Standard hotel. You can sit by the water for a delicious dinner.”
- Broken Shaker
- “This bar at the Freehand hotel is one of my favorite places in Miami. They have such a casual and fun atmosphere.”
- Bal Harbour Shops
- “I enjoy going to the shops at Bal Harbour. They have really amazing stores where you can find almost anything.”