Art Basel Miami Festival—Paintings, Sculptures, Installations, Photographs, Films & A Ton More

Art Basel is the best art bash you’ll ever experience. Held every year during the first week in December, Art Basel is four jam-packed days of art, art lectures, celebrities, and parties all happening in the sunny city of Miami Beach.

Art Basel moved to Miami in 2002.

Art Basel moved to Miami in 2002.

The Basel Beginnings
Art Basel began in Basel, Switzerland in 1970 as the brainchild of art gallerists Ernst Beyeler, Trudi Bruckner and Balz Hilt. The first show featured 90 art galleries and was a hit with over 16,000 attendees. The Basel fair was born out of the desire to showcase artists from all parts of Europe in one art convention.

Art Basel moved to Miami in 2002 and has been exploding each year after that. Miami is hailed as the center for Latin American and North American art, and Art Basel capitalizes on this incredible cultural crossover. Art Basel Miami Beach exists as its own international art fair within the Miami Beach Convention Center featuring work from galleries and artists around the world.  Simultaneously, other satellite fairs, art exhibitions, and Art Basel parties occur in other parts of the cities.

How to Basel
Art Basel is truly a magical time to experience new opportunities, meet new people, and have the time of your life. Basel is all about scheduling so, take care to plan out what shows you want to go to and all the fairs and events happening in neighboring cities, so you can drop by as many as possible.

Plan to start your Art Basel experience off before the main show opens at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Exhibitions and art shows will be happening all over the city, many of which are free and have complimentary reception fare as well. If you are planning to go to Art Basel Miami Beach, it’s best to purchase tickets before hand so you can skip the line. Take note as to what times of the day the show is open to the public as private receptions occur throughout the week.

Art Basel Miami Beach features over 250 galleries and 4,000 artists, so you’re going to want to have several hours to spend checking out the art inside. Once inside the convention center, you want to make a plan of attack with your map. Figure out which direction you would like to take and which artists you would like to see first—it’s easy to end up walking in circles! Many people choose to see this fair over a series of days to make sure that they see EVERYTHING.

What You’ll See At Art Basel Miami Beach
Art Basel Miami Beach features the best of the best from the modern and contemporary art world. Art Basel has been described as a giant shopping mall for art dealers. This description is quite accurate as the first visit to Art Basel Miami Beach can be very overwhelming.

From giant sculptural heads, wall-to-ceiling abstract paintings, experimental films and photography, to the craziest and most absurd installations, Art Basel Miami Beach is sure to catch you off guard. All of the art and artists featured here are the best the modern art world has to offer. You may not like everything but it still pays to check it all out.

Miami Art Week
During the days leading up to weekend of Art Basel, Miami’s galleries and museums start gearing up for what is known as Art Basel Week or Miami Art Week. Several art exhibitions host their own Basel parties and opening receptions prior to the main show. These shows often feature a variety of artwork ranging from life size installations, mixed media paintings, incredible photographs and so much more.

The museums you need to visit during Art Basel include the Lowe Art Museum in Coral Gables, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Miami, the Bass Museum of Art on South Beach, the Jewish Museum of Florida in South Beach, and many more! The best satellite art fairs that happen each year during Art Basel are Art Miami, Scope, Pulse Miami, NADA, Art Unlimited, Aqua, Select Fair, Red Dot Art Fair and more.

While many of the Art Basel exhibitions and openings during Art Week are free, the tickets and entrance fees to all the fairs may be costly. Try to score free passes to whichever art fairs you can to get the most for your money. A great way to get a free pass to certain fairs are to visit their websites and request passes as a student, collector, or VIP. If you plan in advance, several of the fairs will send you free tickets. Additionally, many fairs require a simple online RSVP to secure admission at no cost.

If you are a student, most fairs offer discounts. If you haven’t purchased tickets beforehand, purchasing tickets at the door isn’t out of the question. A day pass to Art Basel Miami Beach is $45 and a Permanent Pass is $100. Consider the Permanent Pass if you see yourself returning more than once.

Where to Stay
When looking for places to stay during Art Basel Week, try to look all over the city. During Art Basel, everything is happening everywhere, so your guaranteed to still be in on fun even if you aren’t staying Miami Beach. Check Air BnB for extra rooms people may be offering in their houses or their vacation homes.

Eating at Art Basel
The convention center in Miami Beach offers food, beverages and even champagne to sip while you view the artwork. However, all prices during Art Basel do run high. For those of you that are visiting Miami, I encourage you to have a meal (or six) in the city itself. Miami has a unlimited variety of fare and the best food can come from that corner restaurant you might have normally ignored.

Should I Go to Basel?
A lot of people that aren’t involved in the art world or even interested in art may wonder if Art Basel is right for them. If you’re wondering if you should make the trek to Miami Beach, the answer is YES. Basel is for anyone and everyone. If you don’t understand the art immediately, still make a point to look at everything. If you can’t find like art or can’t find anything you like in the galleries, the Basel parties are non-stop!

What to Avoid During Basel
Art Basel boils down to a week of craziness! In order to have the best experience, you need to know what to avoid. Pretty much same precautions one would have to take if attending any of the other festivals around the world:

Traffic is number one on the list—take shuttles or public transportation if possible. It isn’t uncommon to be stuck in HOURS of Basel traffic when commuting through the city, so be prepared for that.

In order to avoid wasting time and energy, have a solid plan! Don’t try to go all over the city in one day, break up your Art Basel excursions based on the areas you will be in each day.

Make sure you eat and drink water; you may end up doing a lot of walking throughout the week and weekend. Prepare yourself for rain, the weather in Miami is unpredictable.

Many people that go to Art Basel try their best to achieve their 5 minutes of fame. Don’t do this! Certainly, you may be in the limelight for some part of Art Week but you may end up in trouble trying to pull a publicity stunt. Additionally, if you are an artist, choose how you network carefully. Many gallerists, dealers, and buyers at the convention center are not interested in looking at your portfolio.

Welcome to Wynwood
Wynwood is Miami’s premiere art district that becomes its own city-wide party during the four days of Art Basel. While the Main Convention Center in Miami Beach hosts the actual Art Basel Fair, Wynwood features a stunning combination of fine art galleries and street artists that are spraying graffiti or selling art work right there on the street.

Wynwood offers an insider’s look into the Miami art world and can act as a gateway event to those that are new to the art world and to Art Basel. Having a chance to meet and talk the artists in person is an unforgettable experience. Prepare to walk a lot in wynwood; the district is known for its incredible murals and amazing graffiti spanning several buildings and blocks. You may even find yourself spending an entire day in Wywnood, between the galleries, the street art, and the wide array of food trucks.

Walking around Wynwood during Art Basel

Take time to get out and see the city!

Outside of Basel
After visiting galleries with friends or spending most of the day at Art Basel in Miami Beach, you have to get out and see the city! If you’re already at the convention center, make it a point to head out to Ocean Drive and visit the bars, clubs, and restaurants that stars like to frequent. You may even get to see your favorite celebrity while getting a drink with friends!

Most of the Art Basel festivities are indoors so take some time to get out in the sun! Go kayaking at Oleta State Park in North Miami or perhaps take the day to go strawberry picking at Knaus Berry Farm in Homestead. Take a boat tour out in the Everglades and maybe go on a day trip to the Florida Keys. Whatever you do, have fun! Any time well spent is a work of art.

So whether you’re into art or you just like to be around the fabulous atmosphere that surrounds it, Art Basel is where you need to be this December.

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