It’s So Much More Than Just an Art Fair

This year marked the 21st year of Art Basel being in Miami as a sister city to the Basel, Switzerland fair.  Every year something new is added to the Miami Art Week landscape to keep all the global art visitors, jetsetters, scenesters and celebrities titillated.  

Art Basel is really, just an art fair staged in the Miami Beach Convention Center, albeit with some of the very best contemporary art in the world on display from the top art galleries selected to participate.  Not just any gallery can be a part of Art Basel.  They need to be invited. 

But what has happened all around this prestigious Art Basel Fair that debuted back in 2002, is truly an explosion of stimulation for all the senses in not only Miami Beach, but Miami and beyond.  Almost every hotel, art museum and public space embraces this week with their own version of visual stimulation. 


Some relative newcomers to the Art Week scene are not your grandaddy’s typical art in the park walk.  These newbies include Elrow, which leaves a mark of euphoria on Miami with electronic music accompanied with artful splashes in the sky, this year with a serpent theme at Factory Town in Miami.  Art With Me is another out-of-the-ordinary Art Week activation held on Virginia Key beach, an immersive and transformative art experience for all your senses.  It breathes a breath of fresh air revitalizing the connection between people, nature and interconnectivity.


Miami Art Week now includes about 20 international fairs from five continents consisting of 1,200 galleries.  It starts off with a variety of vernissages for an assortment of art fairs from tents on the beach in South Beach including Untitled and Scope to Art Miami and Context in tents on the bay in Miami to Red Dot and Spectrum at the Mana Convention Center in Wynwood, and finally to the grandaddy of them all, Art Basel in the Miami Beach Convention Center and its sidekick, Design Miami in an adjacent tent. Some additional vernissages include fabulous Faena Hotel and Acqua art fair in South Beach hotel rooms and museum shows like ICA, Institute of Contemporary Art in the Design District. There are even more, like NADA at the Ice Palace Studios in Miami and PINTA at the Hanger in Coconut Grove.  There is just so much to see and not enough hours in the day to see them all.  And the wall-to-wall traffic and the scarcity of enough Ubers make going the distance even tougher during this jam-packed Art Week. 


And of course, the biggest draw of all seems to be the “Art of the Party.”  Each year, party throwers all vie for the best guest lists and biggest bashes splashed with the right A-List celebs.  And the winner this year perhaps, goes to Casadonna, the new bayfront restaurant/lounge in the historic Miami Women’s Club along with another A-Lister soiree at Wayne Boich’s mansion on North Bay Road. Robert DeNiro was in town on behalf of Tribeca Film Festival and made the party rounds along with Leonardo DiCaprio and supermodel Cindy Crawford and hubby, Randi Gerber plus quarterback star, Tom Brady among many more like Snoop Dog etc… Miami plastic surgeon, Lenny Hochstein held the NYLON party at his Star Island waterfront mansion where mayhem broke out as crashers tried to swim up or jump fences to get in.

With Miami being the condo capital of the world, developer Michael Shvo and architect, Peter Marino, hosted a private VIP dinner for their 3-acre oceanfront Rosewood Raleigh Residences development with guests that included fashion designer, Tommy Hilfiger, supermodel, Karolina Kurkova and art collector, Jane Holzer.  The hype must be working as Rosewood reportedly sold $200 million in presales during Art Week.  Billionaire owner of Amazon, Jeff Bezos who recently bought two homes on Indian Creek Island in Miami Beach was spotted with his fiancée Lauren Sanchez at Untitled Art Fair and was also the subject of an art sculpture at Faena Hotel.


For a more civilized look at art, side trips to some of the private collections are worth adding to your Art Week agenda if time permits.   There is the De La Cruz Collection in the collectors’ private home in Key Biscayne, Margolies Warehouse in the Wynwood Arts District or Rubell Museum and Perez Collection at El Espacio 23 in Allapattah.

Museums are also stocked with cool collections specially curated for Art Week.  There was the Bass Museum of Art with Hernan Bas’ exhibition, “The Conceptionalists” and  PAMM (Perez Art Museum Miami) which featured Gary Simmons’ “Public Enemy” amongst many more.

Collectors’ lounges are another VIP experience worthy of getting in if you can finagle VIP access.  The crème de la crème is Art Basel’s Collectors Lounge.  My favorite activation in this lounge was Casa Dragones tequila daily Happy Hour with artistic mixologists serving a curated menu of tequila cocktails and shots, just what the doctor ordered to fight off germs and keep everyone merry for the long night ahead during Art Week.  And then there were the private access lounges within the private lounge for super VIPS, like the lounges for NetJets and UBS, both prime sponsors of Art Basel. 

Champagne is always flowing with top sponsors like Ruinart in Art Basel and Perrier Jouet in Design Miami. 


Art Week highlights this year were hard to narrow down to a select few.  Art Basel always leads the pack with an attendance of 79,000 coming to view their 277 international galleries from 92 countries.  This year Art Basel initiated “Access by Art Basel,” a new online art sales platform designed to support philanthropic giving.  For each sale made on the platform, the collectors were required to make an additional charitable contribution of at minimum 10% of the artwork price.  This year’s beneficiaries were The Miami Foundation and The International Committee of the Red Cross.  Sales were robust at Art Basel with top galleries like Gagosian, Pace and Hauser & Wirth selling the majority of  their works on day one.  Their galleries were filled to the gills like subway cars for the top collectors preview day. 

Celebrating the intersection of art, music and film, Art Basel partnered with Tribeca Festival for the first-ever Tribeca Festival at Art Basel.  This included four days of live musical performances and conversations with trailblazing artists in Miami Beach Botanical Garden with talk headliner, Robert De Niro.

Design Miami showcased over 50 galleries of historic and contemporary collectible design.  Most seemed to have cool organic themed displays this year, with a standout being Zaha Hadid’s limited edition glass tables. Maestro Dobel Tequila, the official tequila partner, paid homage to the Oaxaca region with Mexican artists works and crafted cocktails. Celebrity sightings included singer Shakira, Victoria Beckham, and Cindy Crawford among others. Two other Design Miami partners stood out from the crowd.  These included Birkenstock shoes which created a rainforest-like installation that offered guests foot massages and the super talented Turkish jewelry designer, Sevan Bicakci whose jewels all tell a story.

Art Miami and Context showcased 240 exhibitors from 31 countries with 900 artists on display.  Strong sales were reported with a special homage to the late Botero. Celebs strolling the fair included Will Smith, Pierce Brosnan, Steve Wynn and more.

SCOPE on the beach had 110 presentations from 24 countries and saw Michel Bay, Tiesto and tennis star, Nick Kyrgios in their aisles. Like at many of the art fairs, art talks were scheduled throughout the week at SCOPE.  One topic was “hope and change” and another was held on a pop-up outdoor artistically painted pickleball court on the beach presented by Joe and the Juice & Miami Pickleball Club for a Q&A with tennis pro Nick Kyrgios

Untitled Art Fair, at the tent next door, curates a more upscale version of art displays.  This year 55,000 visitors passed through Untitled filled with 166 exhibitors from 38 countries. The curatorial themes were “Gender Equality in the Arts” and “Curating in the Digital Age.”  Untitled’s new partner, Resy collaborated with Delta SkyMiles and American Express in a beachfront pop-up experience curated by James Beard and Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard offering dining experiences with top chefs. Champagne Pommery were the bubbles of choice at Untitled.


Probably the most unique art of the week was compliments of Faena Hotel and their Faena Art program. Chilean artist, Sebastian Errazuriz was the talk of the town with two unique art installations at Faena.

Errazuriz presented “MAZE: Journey Through the Algorithmic Self,” a physical maze made of sand that visitors were able enter on Faena Beach, designed using AI platforms. Errazuriz said, “This is the first maze designed not to get lost, but instead to find ourselves.”

Errazuriz’s other artwork on display at the Faena Hotel indoor entrance space was a marble sculpture “Battle of the Corporate Nations,” which portrayed tech giants Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos in a humorous struggle reminiscent of mythological battles.


This year, all the locals were happiest when Monday rolled around, and the traffic eased up and the parties slowed down.  It became time for some serious rejuvenation and R&R to cleanse the system of all the endless visual, audio, liquid, and palate temptations.  Until next year, good riddance, Art Week Miami 2023.  But beware, as it gears up again mid-February in Miami for Wynwood Art Week combined with the Miami International Boat Show followed by Miami Beach Wine & Food Festival.  Yes, wine comes first in Miami, then food.  Liquid libations are the top priority here.  Wishing everyone a 2024 full of more artsy-fartsy surprises.