Art Basel

The ultimate art extravaganza is Miami’s annual Art Basel celebration. (Photo: Alamy)


Don’t Know Monet From Manet? Tackle Miami’s Art Basel for Beginners

The ultimate art extravaganza is Miami’s annual Art Basel celebration. (Photo: Alamy)

The artsy chaos of Art Basel erupts in Miami every December, with smaller art festivals, shows, and parties dotting the landscape from Wynwood and Midtown to South Beach and North Beach. There are swarms of people floating around wearing insanely expensive couture and sipping chilled white wine, as well as pockets of hipster artists looking, well, hip (and bearded).

The main Basel show is held at the Convention Center, but other events scattered throughout the city give you the chance to check out various galleries and the famed Wynwood Walls — a haven of street art, and allow you to see some street artists at work on their creations, which is a fascinating experience.

Yes, like many art-centric events, Basel is a great chance to score free wine at art shows (though attending them for the booze is a pretty amateur move). But really the festival offers both novices and art experts a wonderful opportunity to chat with up-and-coming artists, connect with them about their vision and inspiration, and generally make your world a little bit larger.

As an added perk, it’s deeply heartening to see the volume of incredible art that’s currently getting made — and hopefully bought — sustaining creatives from around the world.

Here’s how to get the most from your Art Basel experience in Miami.

Preparation is key

First things first. Basel is HUGE. And the event has sparked the creation of smaller festivals, as well as a seemingly endless number of exhibits, shows and parties. Know this: you will not get to see it all. And that is perfectly fine. With a little planning you’ll rock the full Art Basel experience.

Start your Art Basel research a few weeks in advance. Download the Eventbrite app to your phone, if you haven’t already, and keep an eye out for discounted or free shows and exhibitions. Tickets to events sell out quickly, and can be pretty pricey, so scoring cheap tickets is a huge win.

It’s all about the art, silly

You’ve obviously come to see art, but with the overwhelming number of shows, it’s hard to know where to begin. Start with the main show at the convention center. This is ground zero for all that happens at Basel, and it is from here that everything else has sprung. Tickets are pricey but it’s well worth it to ogle art from more than 4,000 (!!!) artists and 200-plus international galleries.

From there, make your way to a smattering of satellite shows around the city. The Wynwood neighborhood is a epicenter for the arts in Miami, and is home to the now iconic Wynwood Walls, which get a refresh each year for Art Basel. The neighborhood’s street art is another force to be reckoned with. You’ll see works from some of the top street artists in the world in vivic display. The best part? It’s all free, public art.

Wynwood and the neighboring Design District neighborhood transform during Basel, as enormous tents unfold and host exhibits, empty warehouses transform into art spaces and galleries host special events.

Satellite fairs worth popping into include Art Miami, Design Miami, Aqua, and for the budget conscious, Pulse, which showcases less expensive works from up-and-coming artists.

Party up in here

Miami nightlife is notoriously epic and Basel is quite literally a 24-7 party scene. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, so ease into the week’s festivities like a pro. You’re bound to find late-night parties at many of the buzzier hotels across the city. Your best bets include the Basement at The Miami Beach EDITION, the W South Beach, as well as cocktail hot spots like Employees Only and Broken Shaker.

Fill your belly

Chances are, you’ll be hitting up the various sights and scenes in South Beach or the Wynwood area. In the former, tuck into heaps of delectable fried chicken at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, or go for a classic like Joe’s Stone Crab (yes, there are tourists, and yes, it’s worth it). Once you’ve hit the hip hangouts of Wynwood, save your dough by ordering up a storm of tacos at Coyo Taco, or splurge and get an Asian food fix at wildly popular KYU.

Getting around

Art Basel is often synonymous with one word (no, not “art”): Traffic. The city is clogged with cars on a good day, but Basel week is a constant, excruciating traffic jam. The city has launched the Miami Beach Art Week FREE Shuttle Service to compensate. There are two routes linking the Convention Center with locations from Miami Beach from 72nd Street to 10th Street and Midtown Miami. You can download the map here.

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