Planning a trip to Miami for Art Basel? Read this first

Nov 30, 2021

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From Dec. 1 to 5, glitterati from the contemporary art world will descend upon South Florida for Art Basel Miami Beach and Miami Art Week for the first time since 2019.

Along with the official Art Basel programming at the Miami Beach Convention Center, expect a slew of sister art fairs, new museum exhibitions and celebrity-studded parties at the same time. It’s high culture in a way only Miami can pull off, and we’re breaking down the essentials so you can be prepared, whether it’s your first time traveling to Miami for Art Basel or it’s basically your yearly pilgrimage.

This year will, of course, be different, with strict COVID-19 protocols in place and some fairs requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter.

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What to expect at Art Basel

Art Basel Miami Beach takes over the entire convention center, with hundreds of the world’s leading galleries showcasing the works of more than 4,000 artists to hopeful collectors (with deep pockets).

This year, special sections include “Meridiens,” a space devoted entirely to monumental pieces, including sculptures, installations, videos and performances; “Positions,” in which galleries can highlight singular projects by individual artists; and “Nova,” the spot to go for the most recent creations from rising talents.

Art displayed in the Samuel Levi Jones, Talk to Me, 2015© Galerie Lelong & CoCourtesy Art Basel
Art from the Meridians 2019 exhibit. Samuel Levi Jones, Talk to Me, 2015. © Galerie Lelong & Co. (Photo courtesy of Art Basel)

And throughout the three-day blitz, Art Basel also hosts 10 expert panel discussions. Topics include post-pandemic resilience, the rising market for NFT art and the need to reinvent the museum.

Day tickets are available from $65 and both student and senior discounts are available. In addition to purchasing a ticket, attendees must adhere to COVID-19 protocols, including showing proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test (within 48 hours for antigen tests or 72 hours for PCR tests), or proof of having recovered from COVID-19.

Masks are mandatory inside the fair regardless of vaccination status.

The best satellite events for art collectors

Art Miami

Art Basel isn’t the only fair in town — and it’s not even the largest. That honor goes to Art Miami (Nov. 30 to Dec. 5), which is in its 31st edition with more than 140 galleries from around the world setting up along Biscayne Bay in Downtown Miami. And while less flashy than Art Basel across the causeway, it brings just as many collectors on the hunt for Picassos, Chagalls and Serras for their homes.

Day tickets are available from $55, with weekly passes from $100. Student and senior discounts are also available. Attendees must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result.

Pinta Miami

In Wynwood, Pinta Miami (Dec. 1 to 5) focuses on established and up-and-coming Latin American and Hispanic artists. Now in its 15th edition, it will see 60 galleries present works from more than 300 creatives. Day tickets start at $25, and student and senior discounts are available.

Design Miami

Back in Miami Beach, the 15th annual Design Miami (also Dec. 1 to 5) will run adjacent to Art Basel. Galleries and studios from around the world will showcase furniture, lighting and accessories from the 20th century to today. The museum-quality pieces are meant to entice both private and public collectors. Day tickets start at $32. Weekly passes are available from $100, and student and senior discounts are also available.

Smaller art fairs

For art collectors with smaller budgets, fairs like NADA Miami (also Dec. 1 to 4; Tickets from $45 to $55; student and senior discounts available), Scope Miami Beach (Nov. 30 to Dec. 5; Day tickets from $40; VIP unlimited access from $150) and Context Art Miami (Nov. 30 to Dec. 5; Day tickets from $55; weekly passes from $100; student and senior discounts available) are all better bets, showcasing emerging and mid-career artists.

Related: The best times to visit Miami 

The best Miami exhibitions during Art Basel

For travelers who identify as art lovers, rather than hopeful buyers, Miami’s museums are getting in on the action as well. The Bass, just a five-minute walk from Art Basel, has a new exhibition that opened on Nov. 29: Alex Israel x Snapchat, which encourages viewers to interact with the art through augmented reality unleashed on your smartphone. Five different experiences are linked to Israel’s self-portraits.

Throughout Art Week, guided tours of the museum’s highlights will be included with the cost of admission. No proof of vaccination or COVID-19 tests are required to enter, but visitors must wear masks inside the museum.

The Bass Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of The Bass Museum of Art Silvia Ros
The Bass Museum of Art. (Photo courtesy of The Bass Museum of Art © Silvia Ros.)

In the Design District, the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami is opening six shows on Nov. 30. There’s the first U.S. museum exhibition of drawings by Canadian Inuit artist Shuvinai Ashoona; paintings and sculptures by Portland-based feminist artist Ellen Lesperance; a show of found objects and cast sculptures by Harold Mendez, a first-generation American of Colombian and Mexican descent; a new stairwell installation by Anthea Hamilton; a survey of ICA’s digital commissions from 2020 to 2021; a suite of monumental new works by New York-based artist Hugh Hayden; and the first solo museum presentation by London-based artist Jadé Fadojutimi.

And the Rubell Museum celebrates its second Art Week in its new home with new exhibitions by artists in residence as well as new artwork by Natalie Ball, Kara Walker and Yayoi Kusama. The museum currently has not one but three installations by Kusama on view: two infinity rooms and Narcissus Room, which features 700 stainless steel spheres that flow 200 feet in the museum’s central gallery. For the duration of Art Week, admission to the museum is free, but there’s a $10 charge to visit Kusama’s infinity rooms.

Even hotels are flexing their creative muscles. Faena is exhibiting a series of large-scale installations and a sculpture by Argentinian artist Pilar Zeta as well as a site-specific installation by Barcelona-based artist Andrés Reisinger as the inaugural exhibit for Faena’s Art Project Room.

Eden Roc Miami Beach, designed by legendary architect Morris Lapidus, is partnering with the Museum of Graffiti to debut a new poolside mural by Stephen Palladino, which pays homage to the original 1950s mural that once graced the hotel. The hotel is also offering a special Art Week Access package that includes a $100 resort credit and a daily cocktail hour hosted exclusively for guests during Miami Art Week.

Where to party during Art Basel

Yes, Miami Art Week is a serious event with millions of dollars passing from collectors to galleries, but what separates it from more staid cities is the see-and-be-seen vibe. That’s where the city’s resorts and clubs come into play.

Many events are invite-only, but open ones to consider include Wynwood Studios, the first-ever NFT art and music festival with four days of parties, including Friday night headlined by Diplo; a 20-hour marathon rave starting on Saturday night and lasting until Sunday evening by Paradise Miami at Club Space; and Ibiza heavy-hitter DJ Circoloco’s day-into-night party at Island Gardens.

Where to stay during Art Basel

The Nautilus Pool and Cabanas at the Arlo Beach Hotel. (Photo courtesy of Arlo Hotels)Be sure to check out the Nautilus Pool and Cabanas at the Arlo Beach Hotel. (Photo courtesy of Arlo Hotels)

The best hotels close to the major event venues sell out fast, leaving last-minute planners with limited options at exorbitant prices, especially if they’re in town for the whole week.

At the time of publishing, it was still possible to book rooms at these hotels during Art Basel — we did not include properties where rooms were booked for the duration of the event.

Best boutique hotels near Art Basel

Some of our favorite hotels closest to the fanfare of Art Basel are not part of any major loyalty program, so be prepared to maximize your cash purchase with a card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x points) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x points). You can also look to see if the property can be booked through Hotels.com.

Travelers should also be extremely conscientious about resort fees, which are pervasive in Miami Beach.

Shelborne South Beach

One of the closest beach hotels to Art Basel, it’s got a sleek pool and a trendy Art Deco vibe throughout. Rooms are still available from $637 per night during the event, but you can find this one on Hotels.com.

Nautilus by Arlo

A sceney beach resort adjacent to Shelborne, tying it for the closest beachfront option. You can still book a room here during Art Basel, from $792 per night. This property is also available through Hotels.com, if you decide to go that route.

Faena Hotel Miami Beach

Arguably the most glamorous hotel in Miami Beach, this will be a major hub for celebrities and high rollers during Art Basel. If you don’t mind spending $6,000 per night to stay here, please book it through the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) program with The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. That way, at least, you’ll get a $100 property credit and daily breakfast for two, among other perks, to soften the blow.

The Goodtime Hotel

One of the newest and trendiest hotels in Miami Beach, this millennial pink resort is known for its Instagrammable design and pool parties hosted by local and big-name DJs. It was created by Pharrell Williams and hospitality heavy-hitter David Grutman, after all. Rooms are available from $740 per night and can be booked on Hotels.com.

There are also still rooms at the Loews Miami Beach (a large, kid-friendly resort in South Beach half a mile from Art Basel that’s ideal if you’re double-dipping with this trip as a family vacation as well) from $782 per night; and the Betsey. This Miami Beach mainstay with a dynamic art program and a great rooftop pool can be booked from $1,395 per night.

The best points hotels near Art Basel

Hyatt Centric South Beach

Hyatt Centric South Beach Miami at this Collins Avenue property, about a half-mile from the convention center. Expect to spend $648 per night or 20,000 World of Hyatt points.

The Confidante Miami Beach

Stay at this Hyatt property, which is known for its retro aesthetic, for $649 per night. Award nights and points are not being accepted during Art Basel at this property. 

W South Beach

This Category 8 property is a jumbo-sized, buzzy property with expansive pool grounds less than half a mile from Art Basel. And a Sensational two-bedroom suite can be yours for $10,126 per night. Unfortunately, points are not accepted during Art Basel.

Royal Palm South Beach

This Art Deco beachfront property has a relaxed vibe and is within walking distance from the convention center. Spend $781 per night or 240,000 points per night.

Miami Beach Edition

Vying with Faena for top after-party status, Miami Beach Edition is a splashy, celebrity-approved resort just over a mile from Art Basel. Cash rates are creeping upwards of $2,718 per night and a night will set you back 100,000 points.

Gale South Beach, Curio Collection by Hilton

The Hampton Inn Miami South Beach – 17th Street no longer has availability during Art Basel, but you can still redeem Hilton Honors points for a nearby stay at the Gale South Beach. Rooms during these dates start at $810, or 80,000 points per night.

Bottom line

It’s not too late to plan an unforgettable trip to Miami during Art Basel, but you’ll want to act fast (like, stop-what-you’re-doing, make-you-plans-now fast). For more tips on booking a trip, check out our guide to getting to Miami on points and miles. And if you’re willing to venture beyond Miami Beach for a different vibe — and definitely a better price — consider our guide to points hotels in Miami, which includes a range of properties (from budget to ultra-luxe) from all the major loyalty programs.

And you can really get around Miami in style with Blade helicopter transfers that take you straight to Miami Beach from four airports, including Miami International (MIA) and Ft. Lauderdale Airport (FLL).

Additional reporting by Laura Itzkowitz. 

Featured photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

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