Art Basel, Miami, Florida (Art Consultant Guide)
Art Basel Miami is a week of incredible art viewing, people-watching and taking in the Miami Beach culture. The best of the world’s galleries descend on Miami to exhibit the best of what they have to offer this week. It’s one-stop-shopping for new and experienced collectors!
- More about your oliver guide: Stephanie Breitbard
- Trip type: Adult, Group getaway, Beach, City
- Activity level: moderate
- Ideal length of trip: WE HAVE MASTERED DOING THIS TRIP IN 48 HOURS FLAT, BUT MOST WILL PREFER TO HAVE 3 DAYS TO MIX IN TIME AT THE BEACH AND DOWN TIME!
to & from
We fly into Fort Lauderdale to avoid the Miami Airport zoo and so that we can fly Virgin. We have our arrival strategy down-pat. Absolutely NO checked bags. Land in Fort Lauderdale, rent car, change clothes, drive straight to Art Miami opening night. You can uber or taxi everywhere if you want to avoid parking hassles.
Where to Stay
Reserve in advance – prices go up during the fair so be prepared. We like to stay in South Beach so that even though we never have time to hit the beach, we can at least hear the waves. Hotel Victor on Ocean Drive is a favorite little boutique gem for location and nice rooms at a decent price. For a more pampered experience with nightlife try the Satai, The Ritz or 1 Hotel South Beach.
Where to Eat and Drink
Make dinner reservations well in advance. The city books up for this week.
- Old Fla elegance is the new La Sirenuse. Roof on the 1Hotel. Satai brunch is the best in town.
- Wynwood area: KYU, Alter
- Design district: MC Kitchen, Michaels and Mandolin
- Miami: Zuma, Cantina Veinte, Marion, Niu Kitchen, La Petite Maiso
- South Beach: Casa Tua, Milos, Upland, IL Mulino, The Dutch, Mr Chows, Hakasan, Juvia, Prime Fish and Prime 112 for a scene!
What to Do
Going to Art Basel week can be daunting, even for the experienced art connoisseur! There are over 20 art fairs, containing thousands of galleries and even more artists. It has taken us many years to figure out which art fairs to see, and within those, how to assess the quality of a gallery and their artists. If you are really looking to buy for investment appreciation, we suggest that you go with an art advisor to the fairs. They can tell you what is worth collecting and what is priced fairly. If you venture out on your own, be prepared to be on art “overload”, see thousands of works of art, and hone your eye to pick through what is good art and what is not. That said, there are certainly venues you can go to where the majority (not all!) of what you will see is great quality art. Here are our favorite fairs and a few tips.
- Art Basel, Miami: If you are an experienced collector with unlimited budget or just enjoy seeing museum-worthy contemporary art (or if you love to people-watch) the main Art Basel event is your fair. Quite a bit of artwork here is by the masters of Modern and contemporary art. Many are museum collected artists, and is on secondary or re-sale markets. This fair is enormous, and it is easy to get disoriented inside and forget which aisles you have already seen. Most of the sales action at this event happens at “Vernissage”, which is by invitation only and occurs before the fair is open to the public. By the time the fair opens to the public, many pieces are spoken for, and the remainder of the week will have high attendance of tourists. Due to the higher price point of this art fair, there are some years we actually don’t even attend and focus our limited time (especially for our feet!) on the satellite fairs.
- Art Miami/Context: The VIP preview is Tuesday night of Art Basel week, and Art Miami is considered by Stephanie and Evie to be the best fair to see outside of the main Art Basel exhibit. It is the largest of the satellite fair venues, and it hosts a top quality group of national and international galleries that span emerging to blue-chip artists. Most of the artwork here is first-sale (not on secondary market), and most is of a more affordable price range than what you will find at Art Basel. “Context” is the more emerging venue of the 2 joint fairs. It will have less established artists that are more affordable than Art Miami, and the location of this fair will either be attached to Art Miami or a block away. (It varies every year.) Allow 4 Hours. We like to go to the opening on Tuesday and then return during the following day.
- Pulse: Pulse has been a consistent favorite over the past few years. With a compelling mix of artists from national and international galleries this is a not to miss fair, and if you are looking to purchase works from emerging to mid-career artists, you have a good chance of finding it here. Pulse is much smaller and less overwhelming than Art Miami. Each gallery exhibits a group show with three or more artists. There is a nice range of price-points here and a very well curated group of galleries including some Bay Area favorites. We like to go to their preview brunch on Thursday morning from 10am to 1pm. Visit Pulse anytime and allow two hours.
- Untitled: The work exhibited at Untitled is highly curated and often conceptual. Several galleries exhibit single artist shows and the work can be geared toward impressing museum curators. There are some incredible emerging artists here and it is definitely worth a visit. The gallerists are generally very friendly and excited to talk about the work they are exhibiting. One of the major highlights is the actual tent and the location. Right on the beach, this fair has natural light and a view of the ocean. After freezing in the AC at other tent fairs and wondering if you are actually even near the beach, this fair is a breath of fresh air. We recommend grabbing a snack at the outdoor café here to recharge before your next stop. Allow 1 1/2 to 2 hours or longer for lunch.
- Aqua: Hosted in classic South Beach hotel, Aqua Art Fair is a Miami treasure. Each gallery takes over a hotel room that opens to the outdoor center courtyard of the hotel. There is a South Beach vibe here that is different than all of the tent fairs. The galleries can be hit or miss, but we would not skip it – last year we found some great artists there. Definitely on the more affordable end in many cases, you could walk out the door with something special. Opening night on Wednesday is crowded and buzzy – a great stop before a late dinner. Daytime will be a nice low-key time to go if you prefer. VIP passes for Art Miami will also get you into Aqua.
- If you make it though these five fairs you will have seen a great mix of what Miami has to offer during Art Basel Week, from blue-chip to emerging artists and in diverse venues. Now you can hit the beach!
- Buy what you love.
- See as much art as you can.
- Be patient! Don’t feel pressure to purchase immediately. Make educated not impulsive decisions!
- It is ok to ask gallerists for discounts when you are serious about purchasing work. Closer to the end of the fair this becomes more likely as they do not want to ship unsold work back to their galleries.
- Don’t be afraid to approach gallerists with questions. It is OK to ask price, and regardless of the look you might get on occasion, it is fine if you have never heard of the artist.
- It is ok to take photos of the wall placards with art information. This is a great way to remember what you love and be able to find it again.
- Wear comfortable shoes! You will spend many hours walking cement floors. Our feet often give out before our art appetites do!
- Bring layers or a wrap. Even if it is hot outside, the fairs can be highly air conditioned.
- Get complimentary entry tickets. Plan which fairs you want to see in advance, email any of your local galleries that are exhibiting in that fair (by looking at the art fair’s list of exhibitors on their website) and ask those galleries to send you entry passes. Art Basel passes are the hardest to come by and all fairs sell passes at the entry.
- Plan for traffic! Getting across the causeways this week is a nightmare. It can take over an hour to get across to the beach or to the mainland.
- If the Miami Heat are playing in town, it is fun to get tickets to a game
Skip your stilettos during the day – casual chic is the name of the game.
Stephanie Breitbard and Evie Simon are founders of Simon Breitbard Fine Arts, a San Francisco gallery representing emerging to mid-career artists. Their unique service-oriented approach has them curating homes all over Northern California and beyond. Always obsessed with finding new talent, Art Basel Miami and its’ satellite fairs offer unprecedented exposure to galleries and artists from around the world. For the past six years, Stephanie and Evie and their team have been pounding the pavement in Miami and honing their hunt for compelling artists for their clients. Each has their own tips toward a united goal of great art, good food and always a lot of laughs. They are excited to share their experience with Oliver.
See Art Basal from the perspective of an Art Lover here.