Your All-Encompassing Guide to Miami’s Sprawling Art Scene
To the contemporary art set, Miami is a place of annual pilgrimage, where productivity and decadence play nice. Each December, gallerists, collectors, artists, and curators make their way to the palm-studded metropolis to sell their wares, mount exhibitions, and party in duds that would make Miami Vice’s Crockett and Tubbs proud. Art Basel in Miami Beach might be considered the nucleus of this activity, but with satellite fairs and ephemeral exhibitions opening in Art Deco monuments and beach bungalows alike, it’s high time to take a comprehensive look at what’s happening across the city’s sprawl, from South Beach to Little Haiti.
With guidance from four Miamians—gallerist Nina Johnson-Milewski, artist Emmett Moore, curator Diana Nawi, and collector and philanthropist Jorge Perez—we highlight the art spaces and watering holes of a city where beaches and swamps, American and Latin American traditions, and collections of rare palm trees and blue chip art collide. Our takeaway: even after the art-crowd’s dust settles, Miami is a mysteriously enchanting place where cultural output of all persuasions churns.
Edged by sherbet-hued high-rises and beaches dotted with hotel lounge chairs, this skinny strip of land—some call it a sandbar on steroids—is where Miami’s more flamboyant character traits originate. Separated from the mainland by Biscayne Bay, this is the sandy ground on which the holiest Art Deco edifices, flashiest clubs, and the smallest bathing suits consort. It’s also home to sprawling art fairs, beachside pop-up projects, old-school restaurants, and dive bars heralded by glowing neons that look like they were forged in the ’50s.
Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Drive
After Art Basel expanded to Miami in 2002, settling into the Miami Beach Convention Center (between the beach and the Botanical Garden), the city quickly became an annual stop for collectors and artists. As the parent of an ever-growing brood of art fairs that crop up during the first week of December, this mainstay is the first stop for many people, thanks to its mix of booths from the biggest, bluest-chip galleries and ambitious younger spaces, curated projects, and a constant flow of programming.
Meridian Avenue & 19th Street, adjacent to the Miami Beach Convention Center
Across the street from Art Basel, this sophisticated fair hosts a robust cohort of galleries focused on contemporary and historic design, from immersive architectural environments to jewel-like light fixtures that fit in the palm of your hand, created by the world’s most inspired designers—Giò Ponti, Maria Pergay, and Julie Richoz among them.
Insider tip: Don’t miss Kengo Kuma’s nomadic tearoom, rendered completely in plastic, at Galerie Philippe Gravier, or Jean Prouvé’s 1939 military hut—the only one of its kind still in existence—at Galerie Patrick Seguin.
2100 COLLINS AVENUE
Though this museum, founded in 1963 and housed in an impeccably preserved Art Deco structure, is currently under renovation, conceptual artist Sylvie Fleury is hanging her site-specific Eternity Now on the building’s facade from December 1st through May 31st, 2016.
The glowing neon sign is a part of Art Basel and the Bass’s five-year-running public art collaboration in Collins Park, which is adjacent to the museum. This installment, curated by Public Art Fund’s Nicholas Baume, brings works by Sam Falls, Katharina Grosse, Jacob Kassay, and Hank Willis Thomas to the lush lawn.
D. Nautilus, a SIXTY Hotel
1825 COLLINS AVENUE
Two blocks away and right off the beach, a shiny renovation of this hotel is accompanied by activations from “Greater New York” breakout artist Mira Dancy (with a sprawling mural), Katherine Bernhardt (with a plucky fresco on the floor of one of the pools), Eddie Peake (with a mirrored rooftop installation), and other works tucked playfully into idiosyncratic spaces throughout the compound. Curated by Artsy’s Elena Soboleva, Artsy Projects: Nautilus is a collaboration between Artsy and the hotel.
E. The Standard Spa Miami Beach
40 ISLAND AVENUE
Swing by the swank Standard hotel, just off Miami Beach on Belle Isle, for a snack on its expansive deck, or pick up one of Miami-based artist Jim Drain’s limited-edition posters, released for fair week.
Ocean Drive and 12th Street
This curatorially driven satellite fair on the beach boasts booths by The Hole, Taymour Grahne, Steve Turner, and even Aperture Foundation. Throughout the week, performances move through the tent and its surrounding landscape. Don’t miss artist and choreographer Madeleine Hollander’s MILE, beginning each day on the east side of the structure at 4 p.m. Also on our radar is UNTITLED Radio, a series of daily radio shows that replace traditional art fair panel discussions.
801 Ocean Drive
This year marks Scope’s 15th anniversary in Miami. They bring 120 exhibitors along with curated sections Juxtapoz Presents, the Breeder Program, and FEATURE, the last featuring 10 booths that highlight new approaches to photography.
C. La Sandwicherie
229 14th Street
For a much needed dose of sustenance after a long day of fair hopping, grab a stool at La Sandwicherie’s counter, where you’ll likely devour one of their signature sandwiches—all available on a croissant in lieu of bread or bun. Wash it down with a smoothie or early evening beer. Or come back late night for a snack and hazy conversation with the post-party art crowd. It’s one of the few places in South Beach that’s open very late—until 5 a.m.
D. Mac’s Club Deuce
222 14th Street
Miami’s oldest bar, Mac’s Club Deuce is also the city’s greatest dive, offering a swirl of whiskey and jukebox tunes to colorful regulars, pool sharks, and wobbling newbies alike. Last year, its Hawaiian shirt-sporting owner, Mac Klein, turned 100.
1001 Washington Avenue
This museum is one of the crown jewels of Miami curiosities. Founded by Miami philanthropist and passionate collector-wanderer Mitchell Wolfson in 1986 to house his ever-growing collection of decorative art and propaganda—his collecting habits famously began with a stockpile of treasured vintage hotel keys—this wunderkammer is housed in a boxy, stunningly beautiful Mediterranean Revival building. Up now, don’t miss “Margin of Error,” which takes a look at “cultural responses to mechanical mastery and engineered catastrophes of the modern age—the shipwrecks, crashes, explosions, collapses, and novel types of workplace injury that interrupt the path of progress.”
F. Puerto Sagua
700 Collins Avenue
Insider tip: For a quick, low-key, and delicious bite (don’t miss the flan), take a seat at this Cuban diner—and take home one of their fantastic paper placemats, complete with a vintage Miami map. Take note: after a kitchen fire, Puerto Sagua has temporarily closed its doors but is set to reopen on November 30th, just in time for fair week.
G / H / I. Joe’s, Milo’s, and Prime 112
11 Washington Avenue; 730 First Street; 112 Ocean Drive
Insider tip: For a longer, more luxurious meal, try one of Jorge Perez’s favorites: Joe’s for stone crabs, a local delicacy (everyone wears bibs); Milo’s for fresh fish; and Prime 112 for a nice big steak.
A. Faena Hotel
3201 Collins Avenue
Collector and hotelier Alan Faena’s newest complex fuses a freshly minted hotel with an ambitious art space called Faena Forum, designed by Rem Koolhaas’s OMA. While the Forum won’t open until spring 2016, its programming kicks off—and into the streets, during the first week of December, when assume vivid astro focus installs a kaleidoscopic roller-disco on the beach. It’s open to the public, who can take a spin to DJ sets.
B. EDITION Hotel
2901 Collins Avenue
While it might be best known for the long lines that amass outside its club (cool-kid magnet BASEMENT), EDITION hosts a set of diamond-in-the-rough projects in its poolside bungalows. If you can find them through the long marble lobby and stand of towering potted banana plants, Louis B. James (Bungalow 262) shows virtual reality-laced works by Jeremy Couillard, and Harper’s Books (Bungalow 252) hosts a signing with artist Sue Williams of her new, gorgeous monograph on December 2nd.
The Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Avenue
Making a move from the charmingly retro Deauville Beach Resort way uptown to the high-gloss Fontainebleau marks a big shift for the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) fair, which is focused on younger galleries. From L.A.’s Anat Ebgi to Berlin’s SANDY BROWN to New York’s Karma, its exhibitors are known for bringing an inspired mix of new work into the fold.
Indian Beach Park, 4601 Collins Avenue
A couple of blocks north is another fair that’s carved a place for itself on the main drag. From mainstay galleries like Yancey Richardson to groundbreaking nonprofits like Visual AIDS and RxArt, most booths here mount focused presentations of works of two to three artists. Don’t miss the fair’s curated section, PLAY, surfacing innovative video and new media selections from idiosyncratic New York-based curator Stacy Engman.
Deauville Beach Resort, 6701 Collins Avenue
Take a cab a few minutes north, and you’ll find satellite fairs Miami Project and Art on Paper, taking NADA’s place at the Deauville Beach Resort. Also filling this hub is a dynamic selection of performance, installation, and new media interventions from SATELLITE, a multipart curatorial effort. We’re especially excited that Brooklyn bar and concert venue Trans Pecos is setting up shop there with sets by Fade to Mind and Michael Beharie, among others.
F. Sandbar Lounge
6752 Collins Avenue
Insider tip: Across the street, visit Sandbar Lounge, a sand-covered dive bar for a drink and game of pool after a long day trekking up the beach.
As you pass across the causeway that traverses Biscayne Bay, Downtown Miami’s skyline comes into focus. Behind it lie some of the city’s most dynamic cultural spaces. You might first land in the city’s Design District, just north of highway 195, where boxy warehouses and parking garages have, in recent years, been converted into sharp design shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
A. ICA Miami
4040 NE 2nd Avenue
While its new Aranguren & Gallegos Arquitectos-designed building begins construction, the one-year-old ICA brings a strong assortment of contemporary exhibitions to its temporary home. This season surfaces a solo exhibition by radical video artist Alex Bag, which Diana Nawi is keenly anticipating. For his part, Emmett Moore is looking forward to future programming: “I’m excited to see the new ICA building. They’ve managed to put on some great shows in their temporary space so I can only imagine what’s in store.”
B. de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space
23 NE 41st Street
Around the corner, visit one of Miami’s acclaimed private art collections, brought into the public sphere by Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz. This year, the group show “You’ve Got to Know the Rules...To Break Them” promises irreverent highlights from the couple’s encyclopedic holdings of today’s most influential work.
Insider tip: “The private collections in Miami are amazing troves of contemporary art,” says Diana Nawi.
3852 North Miami Avenue
Since its founding in 1998, this artist-run nonprofit space has produced a steady stream of experimental projects. This month, it’s a platform for ambitious work by a bevy of young artists—sculptor Martha Friedman, choreographer Silas Riener, installation artist Beatriz Monteavaro, and conceptual artist Martine Syms.
Insider tip: And as you traverse the city, look out for Syms’s NITE LIFE—graphic prints, emblazoned with phrases like “Darling It Won’t Be The Same Always” plastered on city buses and bus stops. They resemble mid-1900s “Chitlin’ Circuit” posters, which advertised shows at venues where black musicians could perform freely and securely during segregation.
D. Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian’s “UNREALISM” at the Moore Building
191 NE 40th Street
Sometime rivals Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian embark on their first collaboration over four floors (about 28,000 square feet) of this Design District architectural gem. Their joint curatorial project, “UNREALISM,” brings together artists—from John Currin to Elizabeth Peyton to Jamian Juliano-Villani—representing a renaissance in figuration.
E. Larry Bell’s 6 x 6 An Improvisation at the Melin Building
Suite #200, Melin Building, 3930 NE Second Avenue
White Cube brings Larry Bell’s 6 x 6 An Improvisation—an ethereal installation built from towering, reflective glass panels—to Miami. The Light and Space pioneer’s masterwork promises a quiet, contemplative reprieve from the teeming fairs and sprawling collection shows.
4312 NE 2nd Avenue
Insider tip: For lunch or dinner, try one of Nina Johnson-Milewski’s favorites, Mandolin: “It’s such a lovely atmosphere, owned and operated by the nicest people.” It also serves some of the city’s best seafood, on a hidden patio dotted with sky blue chairs and fresh flowers.
G. Michael’s Genuine
130 NE 40th Street
Insider tip: Or for heartier fare in an equally unhurried environment, grab a seat at Michael’s Genuine, opened by James Beard-honored Michael Schwartz. It’s one of Jorge Perez’s favorites. You’ll have no regrets after devouring the Harris Ranch black angus burger (don’t dare skimp on the brioche bun).
Little Haiti / North Miami
In the 1800s, this area, north of downtown Miami, was covered with lemon groves, from which it drew its first nickname, “Lemon City.” Today, it’s defined by its Haitian immigrant population and burgeoning art scene.
A. Gallery Diet
6315 NW 2nd Avenue
Founded by impresario Nina Johnson-Milewski in 2007, this Miami mainstay recently moved north from Wynwood to a four-building, 15,000 square-foot compound in the heart of Little Haiti. “I’m loving our new home,” says Johnson-Milewski. “For the first time in nearly ten years I have windows and outdoor space. Who knew Vitamin D was so essential?” “Trees in Oolite,” the gallery’s first design exhibition, uses this fresh air to its full advantage. In the complex’s courtyard, brutalist furniture by Emmett Moore, Katie Stout, and Snarkitecture sits among lush mango, avocado, and oak trees. Inside, don’t miss Ann Craven’s solo show of lush skyscapes she painted en plein air in Maine, with the moon and the occasional candle as her only light sources.
7221 NW 2nd Avenue
This experimental space is up to its old boundary-pushing tricks during fair week with “Littlest Sister,” a conceptual exhibition that calls itself a “faux” art fair, with the tagline “Smallest Art Fair, Biggest Balls.” The project gathers “booths” by 10 women-identified artists, all unrepresented and working in painting, installation, new media, and performance.
C. Michael Jon Gallery
255 NE 69th Street
This gallery’s roster is chock full of up-and-coming artists from across the country—Paul Cowan, Math Bass, and JPW3, to name a few. This month, Sofia Leiby brings bright, active paintings that resemble letters and words breaking out of alphabetic confines and wiggling their way to abstraction.
5555 NE 2nd Avenue
Insider tip: Travel south past Little Haiti Park and you’ll find Fiorito, a small Argentinian restaurant that’s “a good local spot for a low key dinner,” says Emmett Moore. “I have dreams about their grilled octopus.”
Wynwood has become the poster child for the rampant expansion of Miami’s art scene to the mainland, and likewise into the city’s streets. Over the last six years, murals have spread across the concrete walls of the district’s abandoned factories and warehouses. Galleries and private collections have followed suit, marking a cultural renaissance for this formerly industrial neighborhood, nicknamed “Little San Juan” for its still-vibrant Puerto Rican community.
A. Wynwood Walls
2520 NW 2nd Avenue
Pioneered by vociferous street art advocate Jeffrey Deitch, along with late real estate developer Tony Goldman, the murals that make up Wynwood Walls were some of the first carrots to draw the international art set to Wynwood in 2009. Every year, new murals are added to the colorful cohort that includes street art’s most influential names—and some of its undisputed masterworks—from Aiko to Shepard Fairey to Futura to Os Gemeos. This year, 14 new murals and installations (by Fafi, Crash, Logan Hicks, and more) are unveiled.
B. Rubell Family Collection
95 NW 29th Street
Amassed by charismatic patrons Donald and Mera Rubell, this expansive collection is housed in a monumental 45,000-square-foot space that was once owned by the Drug Enforcement Agency. This year, they present “NO MAN’S LAND,” focused on the influential output of female artists ranging from Michele Abeles and Jenny Holzer to Shinique Smith.
Insider tip: Don’t miss Jennifer Rubell’s Devotion, one of the artist’s signature interactive food-based installations that, this year, explores buttering bread as an act of intimacy and interpersonal connection, on December 3rd from 9–11 a.m.
C. The Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE
591 NW 27th Street
Housed in a repurposed Wynwood warehouse, this must-see private collection belongs to Miamian Martin Z. Margulies. This year, don’t miss new exhibitions of work by Anselm Kiefer and Susan Philipsz, as well as recent acquisitions of pieces by Mark Handforth, Lawrence Carroll, and more.
D. Spencer Finch’s Ice Cream Truck
3401 NE 1st Avenue
Insider tip: While strolling through the neighborhood, drop by artist Spencer Finch’s ice cream truck. “His solar-powered truck will provide anyone in the area with edible frozen works of art free of charge,” explains Jorge Perez.
E. Mana Wynwood
318 NW 23rd Street
This year, Mana Contemporary unveils a 30-acre campus—every corner devoted to contemporary art and culture—that rivals its much talked-about New Jersey compound. Large-scale exhibitions highlighting three influential private collections (the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, the Jorge M. Pérez Collection, and the Tiroche DeLeon Collection) herald this new mainstay on the Wynwood circuit.
3101 NE 1st Avenue
These sister art fairs, the 26-year-old Art Miami and the four-year-old Context, are must-see stops in Wynwood.
H / I. Panther Coffee, Gramps
1875 Purdy Avenue; 176 NW 24th Street
Insider tip: For a caffeine boost, pass through the doors of a Barry McGee mural-swathed building to Panther Coffee. Or for a stiff drink among creative Miamians, try Gramps, “pretty much the only bar I got to,” says Emmett Moore. “It has a lot of the qualities of old Miami dive bars with some silly artsy stuff mixed in.”
Taking the southern route from Miami Beach to the mainland, across the MacArthur Causeway, you’ll land in Park West, with Downtown Miami just south of you. Here, skyscrapers house big business and club culture alike. In recent years, the adjacent waterfront, formerly monopolized by the run-down Millennium Park, has transformed into Museum Park, an impeccably manicured landscape of gardens and cultural centers.
A. The Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)
1103 Biscayne Boulevard
This stunning museum, which opened its Herzog & de Meuron-designed doors in 2013, recently brought star curator Franklin Sirmans on as director to helm its ambitious program. This fall, don’t miss Nari Ward’s mid-career retrospective, “Sun Splashed,” curated by Diana Nawi, and Miami-based artist Nicolas Lobo’s “The Leisure Pit,” which showcases large-scale concrete sculptures, festooned with the occasional flip-flop, that he forged in a swimming pool.
B. Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation
1018 North Miami Avenue
This stunning building, its facade covered in over one million tiles that together resemble a verdant junglescape, houses patron Ella Fontanals-Cisneros’s comprehensive collection of primarily Latin American art. Up now, don’t miss Cuban artist Gustavo Pérez Monzón’s “Tramas.”
C / D / E. The Corner, NIU Kitchen, and Zuma
1035 N. Miami Avenue; 134 NE 2nd Avenue; 270 Biscayne Boulevard Way
Insider tip: For a cocktail (we recommend their Hurricane, complete with passion fruit shrub and pineapple) pop into The Corner, Diana Nawi’s “go-to bar.” For dinner, head south to NIU Kitchen’s beautiful nook for delicious Catalan fare. Or for a more dramatic dining experience, make a reservation at Zuma for elegant Japanese plates enjoyed from a perch overlooking the water.