The world's biggest and best collection
of contemporary art
– with more than 15 art fairs,
hundreds of galleries and thousands of artists and artworks –
happens once a year in December
Special exhibits are scattered all over Miami during Miami Art Week. One example: Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian have had exhibits at the Moore building in the Design District for the last three years.
Miami Art Week is your best opportunity to see the most modern and contemporary art in the shortest amount of time - and this guide will help you maximize your trip.
More than a dozen great art fairs (and a few not so great) come to Miami on the same weekend in December, creating the biggest collection of contemporary art anywhere in the world. If you like contemporary art, this is an extraordinary event you don't want to miss.
The biggest of the fairs is Art Basel Miami Beach, with more than 200 galleries from around the world setting up in the Miami Beach Convention Center. If you want to see a painting or sculpture worth more than $10 million, chances are that this is where you'll have to go. But even though Art Basel Miami Beach can boast of including most of the biggest galleries worldwide, if it's the only art fair you go to, you'll miss some of the best and most interesting art.
Art Miami/Context, with a combined total of 235 galleries at their new downtown location, is a "can't miss" exhibit, and it opens to the public December 5.
If you like street art, Scope, Red Dot and Spectrum had the best exhibits in 2017. Someone who went to all three would have had an appreciation for how much appropriated art is being created and marketed these days.
Unfortunately, it's impossible to predict which fair will be best for you based on what happened last year. Each year the mix is different.
2018 art fair changes: In 2017 there was a major reshuffling of venues and locations. 2018, so far, looks like a repeat of 2017. Art Miami, Context, Red Dot and Spectrum all moved from Wynwood to Downtown Miami. NADA moved from North Beach to Downtown. Pulse is pretty much by itself in Mid Beach. So far. Changes are often announced late, so you'll want to check the current status in December.
Oscar Murillo painting at the Rubell Family Collection, 2012.
The venue reshuffling in 2017 brought some welcome traffic relief to Wynwood. But for the most part, traffic is bad on Wednesday and gets worse every day until Sunday. If you take your own car, you'll likely have trouble with parking as well as traffic. Take Uber, Lyft, a limo, a shuttle, a city bus - anything so you can read or talk while you're traveling from one area to another. Plan on an hour to get from Miami Beach to downtown Miami, with most of that time spent in gridlock close to the art venues. (See our transportation guide below.)
Why go: Miami Art Week gives everyone a chance to see thousands of examples of what's currently selling and being promoted in the world of contemporary art. There's nowhere else you can see this much art in such a short amount of time.
Get your walking shoes ready! In three full days (from noon to 10 p.m.) you can see most of the art fairs and the three private collections you don't want to miss (Marguilles, Rubell and de la Rosa). In four or five days you can add most of the Miami art museums and the Wynwood art galleries.
If you don't have that long, don't let the size of the event put you off. If you only have two hours, use it to see some great art. And if you only have an hour, come to San Diego in January for my annual one-hour summary of all the highlights. (Sign Up to get a reminder.)
David Rodriguez, Pausa (Hiatus), at Art Miami
Besides comfortable walking shoes, you'll need a credit card or plenty of cash. Your art education won't be cheap. Plan to spend $20 to $40 for admission at each venue. Art Basel Miami Beach is $60 (cheaper online) and Art Miami is $50. Most fairs have discounts for students and seniors.
Watch the weather: In 2017 some hotels closed for renovations because of Hurricane Irma, and not all of them notified guests who had reservations during Art Week. If Miami has any hurricanes this year, check with your hotel to make sure it's still in operation. And if you haven't made a reservation yet, now is the time. See our hotel section below.
Anselm Kiefer at The Marguilies Collection in Wynwood, 2016.
IMPORTANT TIP: There is more art scattered throughout the city than you can see in a day. Pick one location and see as much as you can before moving to another neighborhood. If you don't, you'll be stuck in traffic, wondering why you rejected this advice.
Along the way, pretend it's an adventure and expect a few things not to work out. In past years a smaller art fair was cancelled the day it was scheduled to open. Another one closed early. A third - one of the biggest - had no electricity for hours at a time. (No lights for the paintings, no air conditioning for the guests.) A fourth "art fair" was an art gallery trying to draw traffic to their tiny venue. I'll do my best to keep you up to date and to steer you just to the best. But you're bound to encounter some unexpected problems. The payoff is that you'll also discover some unexpectedly great art.
Banksy artwork at Art Miami in 2015.
A few art fairs (like Aqua, Ink and Satellite) are staged in hotel rooms. I visit Aqua after Art Basel Miami Beach closes for the day, since Aqua is open late Thursday through Saturday.
David Bates, Arthur Roger Gallery at Art Miami.
Karlos Carcamo's Hard Edge Painting at Scope 2011.
Street art on a building in Wynwood. Note the car roof in the lower left for a perspective of scale.
Julia and Liz Nolan from Big Brother 17 at the 2015 VIP opening of Spectrum Art Fair, Miami
But watch the reviews and ratings of the hotels before you book. Prices during Art Basel weekend will not necessarily reflect quality.
If you need a cheap option, there aren't many this weekend. South Beach has a growing number of hostels where you share a room with up to eight other guests. It can be as rugged as it sounds. Mid Beach sometimes has rooms with better rates (but noticably worse decor). And sometimes downtown Miami has an overcapacity that lets you get a cheaper room through Priceline. Don't go too far from South Beach or downtown Miami or you'll pay for it in transportation time.
Transportation. The main tip on transportation is to go to a location like South Beach or downtown Miami and stay there for as long as you can. The traffic jams will affect any transportation you try, whether your own car, limo, shuttle, cab, or bus.
After making it through the traffic jams, you'll have to find parking if you bring your own car. I prefer Lyft.
Traffic will often be clogged around the art fairs, so you may be tempted to leave the entrances to hail a cab somewhere else. It won't work. Empty cabs are difficult to find outside the main art areas during Miami Art Week.
Lyft, Uber and limos
If you schedule a ride to pick you up a block away from the areas where traffic is clogged you will save quite a bit of time.
If you arrive by air and plan to take a city bus some or all of the time, stop at the bus shelter in the airport terminal area and get a multi-day pass. Passes are very hard to find once you leave the airport.
One thing you need to know about the Miami bus system: you have to flag the bus like you would hail a cab. Otherwise they will drive right by, even if you are at the bus stop.
Use maps.google.com and click the bus/train icon to find the best option for how to get to where you want to go.
Street art in Wynwood.
In 1993, Morley Safer (right) did a story for 60 Minutes called "Yes...But is it art?" In 2013 he was at Art Basel Miami Beach to do a follow-up. The answer to his original question according to CBS? "Whatever it is, it's worth a 1,000 times more than when you first mocked it."
Joanne Heyler, Elizabeth Diller, Eli Broad, and Paul Goldberger discussed The Broad Museum (then under construction) at Art Basel Miami Beach 2013.
You can see ten times more if you rent a car and drive. You can be at the park in an hour and a half. Just inside the entrance, turn left at Royal Palm. The Anhinga Trail is a short, flat boardwalk. Within two minutes you'll be looking at birds so big that anyone will be able to spot them.
You won't see as many gators as you would in warmer months. But if you hear the reeds cracking, it's because something big is moving through them. Listen carefully and you may be able to spot a gator.
(When you rent your car, be sure to get insurance for the vehicle. There are vultures in the parking lot who like to eat the rubber around car doors.)
To make your trip really worthwhile, drive another 45 minutes to the Flamingo Visitor Center and rent a kayak for a couple hours. You'll be able to see more wonderful birds up close. If you're already in Miami, there's no reason to miss this great adventure.
If you need a break either before or after the event, Everglades National Park is only an hour and a half away. Rent a car and skip the bus tours, which don't go to the park itself. But get car insurance. The vultures like rubber on cars.