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

Nov 23, 2019

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From Dec. 5 to 8, glitterati from the contemporary art world will descend upon South Florida for Art Basel Miami Beach and Miami Art Week. Along with the official Art Basel programming at the Miami Beach Convention Center, expect a slew of sister art fairs, new museum exhibitions and celeb-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.

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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 a dozen expert panel discussions. Topics include the fraught world of museum funding, Stonewall at 50 and how art can confront climate change denial. Day tickets are available from $65. Weekly sell for $145, and both student and senior discounts are available.

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 (Dec. 3 to 8), which is celebrating its 30th anniversary with nearly 200 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.

Pinta Miami

In Wynwood, Pinta Miami (Dec. 4 to 8) focuses on established and up-and-coming Latin American and Hispanic artists. Now in its 13th edition, it will see 60 galleries present works from more than 300 creatives. Day tickets start at $35, and student and senior discounts available.

Design Miami

Back in Miami Beach, the 15th annual Design Miami (also Dec. 3 to 8) will run adjacent to Art Basel. Galleries and studios from around the world will showcase furniture, lighting and accessories from the 19th 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 available.

Smaller art fairs

For art collectors with smaller budgets, fairs like Pulse (Dec. 5 to 8; Day tickets from $35 and weekly passes from $55), NADA Miami (also Dec. 5 to 8; Day tickets from $20; weekly passes from $40; student and senior discounts available) and Context Art Miami (Dec. 3 to 8; 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 two exhibitions opening on Dec. 1. Mickalene Thomas: Better Nights transforms several of the museum’s galleries into a 1970s apartment (think: faux wood and flashy textiles), with live performances, concerts and a bar. It’s all designed to resemble parties the artist’s mother threw at her own home, and is a sequel to Better Days, which ran at Art Basel in Switzerland in 2013. And Lara Favaretto: Blind Spot, showcases the Italian artist’s recent works.

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 four shows on Dec. 3. There’s a survey of Dutch artist Sterling Ruby; a new installation and commissioned video from Hong Kong-born artist Wong Ping; a retrospective on late Cuban artist Agustin Fernández; and an installation from Miami-born, New York-based artist Carlos Sandoval de León.

And Wynwood Walls is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year by inviting some of its most prominent artists back for new murals. If you’re in town before Dec. 2, catch them in action before the big unveiling on Dec. 3.

Even hotels are flexing their creative muscles. Faena’s hosting a culinary-themed exhibition, The Last Supper, with new commissions and recent works from multiple artists exploring topics like indulgence and abstinence, shared meals and spirituality. At The Betsy, Obama’s inauguration poet Richard Blanco will be on hand to formally kick off the property’s nine open-to-the-public art shows that will run during Miami Art Week, including one on portrait artist Michael Halsband, who’s photographed the likes of Andy Warhol and David Hockney. And iconic French art duo Les Lalanne is taking over the Raleigh Hotel’s gardens with 39 whimsical sculptures.

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 the 10AK pop-up at Rockwell Club, with Miguel, Virgil Abloh and Wiz Khalifa headlining on Dec. 3, 4 and 5, respectively; the Miami Beach Edition’s Art Week parties in the Basement club, headlined by Diplo and Idris Elba on Dec. 7; the pop-up Arlo Beach Club at Nautilus; and Ibiza heavy-hitter DJ Circoloco’s Art Basel closing party on Dec. 8 at Space.

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)

Where to stay during Art Basel

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 $546 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 closest beachfront option, and the best place to bed down if you plan on partying at Up & Down on Dec. 4. You can still book a room here during Art Basel, but expect to drop more than $1,000 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 more than $2,300 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.

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 $549 per night; and The Fontainebleau. This Miami Beach mainstay with a fabulous pool scene is two miles north of Art Basel, and can be booked from $436 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 $639 per night. World of Hyatt points and award nights are not being accepted for these specific dates.

The Confidante Miami Beach

Stay at this Hyatt property, which is known for its retro aesthetic, for $539 per night. Like the Hyatt Centric, award nights and points are not being accepted during Art Basel.

The Betsy South Beach

This art-fueled boutique hotel with a great rooftop pool at the top of Ocean Drive is a Small Luxury Hotel of the World available for $856 per night. Thanks to a relatively new partnership, travelers can earn World of Hyatt points by booking directly through the Hyatt website.

Kimpton Surfcomber

Rooms are still available at this well-liked oceanfront property, which is just a six-minute walk from the convention center. Be prepared to spend $658 per night during Art Basel, or 35,000 IHG points — plus $139.

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 Spectacular suite can be yours for $2,098 per night — or 100,000 points per night.

Royal Palm South Beach

This Art Deco beachfront property has a relaxed vibe, and is walking distance from the convention center. Spend $582 per night or 60,000 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 $1,279 per night, but you can still spend three nights at this Category 8 property for 300,000 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 $589, or 70,000 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-your-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).

Featured photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

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