Born for Art Basel 2018 in Miami

Here's how to navigate the country's biggest and best art fair.

Art Basel barreled into Miami Beach 17 years ago and forever changed our cultural landscape with its mix of high-end art dealing, nonstop parties and a slew of satellite art fairs and events that have turned the city into an art-making and buying mecca. Just remember, this art-palooza is a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself. 

THE ESSENTIALS 

Here is one universal truth you’ll encounter this week: traffic will be bad. Give yourself time. If possible, take a bike (many hotels have their own fleet of bicycles) or use a ride share service. Miami is a city with multiple wonderful neighborhoods and notoriously terrible public transportation, so tackle one locale at a time. Pick an area to spend the day—Wynwood, Design District, Midtown or South Beach—and have the discipline to stick to that area. And make sure to bring your phone charger, a canvas bag for picking up all those free mags and programs (extra points if it’s from a museum or gallery) comfy shoes and water—these are going to be long days. 

Also, the cultural mayhem is not just a four-day long affair, but rather “Art Week” as it has come to be known, encompasses the days before the main fair opens to include a full seven days of nonstop events. In fact, most of the serious art collectors often fly in the Monday and Tuesday of the week, buy their art at the invitation-only previews and are out by Thursday leaving the weekend mostly to the party-goers and those with enough stamina to have made it to Friday. 

THE SATELLITE FAIRS 

Besides the main convention center— which is equivalent to experiencing the best contemporary museum in the world, with hundreds of galleries from around the globe represented—you’ll be privy to hordes of galleries exhibiting at the satellite fairs dotted around the city. The next biggest fair is Art Miami, now housed in a gargantuan multi-tent structure on the former Miami Herald site in downtown Miami. Give yourself half a day to get through it all, it rivals the main fair in terms of high caliber art and sheer square footage. Scope, Untitled and Pulse are all located in tents directly on the sand in Miami Beach (remember those comfy shoes!) and all usually have preview parties happening for their VIP’s on Tuesday or Wednesday. The NADA fair has no admission charge and consistently shows cutting-edge contemporary work. Another off-the-beaten path fair is Art Africa, showcasing black diaspora artists in Miami. artafricamiamifair.com. 

THE PARTIES 

We’d all like to think this week is about art and culture, but for many of us—including the locals—the week is about the epic number of events to attend (and crash). Be savvy about it—try to attend things with brands or artists you’re actually interested in, and make nice with your concierge, as they sometimes can get you on the list to things that would otherwise be inaccessible. Also, try calling museums and galleries you already follow and see if they’ll be hosting events and express interest in attending—kindness and sincerity will sometimes open those velvet ropes. And if you’re going to crash, do so with aplomb... and try not to overdo it at the open bar. 

That said, here are some events, pop-ups and installations to check out:

From December 6-9, Wynwood Shop will be hosting artists and brands from all over the world at one location, including Cecilia Freire, Redd, Claudia LaBianca, Dennis Ouch and more. 

Across the street from Scope Fair, The Poetry Brothel is taking over the Penthouse at the Hotel Breakwater in South Beach. The installation and performance showcase will include live poetry readings and events. 

For Art Basel this year, prominent environmental artist Xavier Cortada is collaborating with the Village of Pinecrest to make sea level rise visible at 6,000 homes with a participatory public art project, titled Underwater HOA (Homeowners Association). As part of this project, Pinecrest residents will be asked to assist with the mapping of rising sea levels by placing Underwater Markers—artistically designed by Xavier—in their yards. 

Artist Peter Tunney will be celebrating his 10th year within the Wynwood Walls, with a new exhibit. Check wynwoodwalls.com for info. 

Wednesday, Dec. 5, at Boulud Sud, Miami chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud will host an intimate Art Basel-inspired dinner featuring Krug Champagne and Brazilian artist Vik Muniz. Tickets here.

On Sunday, December 9, #AfroBaselMiami, An Afro-Caribbean celebration of art, music and fashion will take place at Treehouse Miami. Tickets are available on Eventbrite.com.