We’ve always wondered what all the Art Basel commotion was about, so this December we decided to investigate things for ourselves. Everything we heard was true, and then some!
We went for the art, but were ill-prepared for the fabulous fashion. We usually feel we can hang with the best of them, but found ourselves scouring our suitcases just to be presentable for breakfast.
Art Basel has been a Miami fixture for over ten years. Early each December, the art world checks into South Beach and transforms the city into a glamour-fest. The main fair, Art Basel, is just the beginning. Satellite fairs are everywhere as are special showings at private collections and museums.
The W South Beach was our HQ and the minute we walked in, we knew we were in the right place. We were greeted by Jean, who asked if he could send up some champagne. Never ones to turn down the bubbly or the free, we happily obliged. Front desk manager, Marc, went out of his way to make sure everything was perfect during our stay. We loved the groovy digs, complete with an ocean view and balcony, and did we mention the champagne?
TIP: Book your flights early and start saving your hotel points now. We were patting ourselves on our backs for getting such a steal on our flights, only to be humbled by the uber-steep hotel prices. Every hotel, if you can find one with vacancy, practically quadruples their rates for art week. We knew we’d been saving up those hotel points for a reason and we definitely put them to good use.
Our heads were spinning as we tried to figure out how to squeeze in everything we wanted to see into five short days. Choices were going to have to be made, and our leisurely breakfasts at the hotel weren’t helping with our time management.
Art Basel, the main fair is a must, and although we were overwhelmed at first, much of this blue-chip locale is thankfully broken down into manageable sections. We made our way through the core space, seeing some of the world’s top galleries, chock full of fabulous, but uber-pricey pieces. The other sections of the fair such as Positions, Nova and Survey, each focus on a specific theme and feature many of the art world’s up and coming stars.
Just across the street from Art Basel is Design Miami, which is all about furniture, lighting and objets d’art. Lots of dreamy lighting, mid-century furniture and jewelry made this fair a fun stop after all the intensity across the street.
TIP: As we were pondering whether to splurge for tickets to both Art Basel and Design Miami we noticed we could get a dual ticket for only $55. Miami locals get an even steeper discount and pay only $20 for both fairs. Surprisingly we must have looked very Miami that day. Even if you don’t, this dual ticket is well worth it.
The satellite fairs, Scope, Pulse, NADA and Untitled were also on our list and we had to bounce all around South Beach to make certain we saw them all. These shows focus on the work of less established and emerging artists, have an edgier feel and happily, the lower price tags to match. There was a lot to see and we witnessed sales left and right, with telltale little red dots (sold signs) next to some of our favorites.
The Wynwood Walls, which transformed Miami’s warehouse district into a showcase for graffiti and street artists, adds another layer during Art Basel by featuring artists on-site and at work on outdoor murals throughout the week. Shepard Fairey is one of the featured artists who was working away during our stay, creating a new mural to add to his growing collection in Wynwood.
The Art Miami fair was not far away from Wynwood and after a long day on our feet, the Maserati Lounge in the center of the fair was a welcome stop. There was a lot to take in and we spent much of our time chatting with gallerists and artists. The nearby Pérez Art Museum Miami and the Rubell Family Collection are also on the Miami side of town, but were way too much for us to pack in that day.
As if that weren’t enough, Dutch artist Theo Jansen’s fabulous open-air exhibition, Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen, was right outside of our hotel door. Although we were exhausted, we couldn’t pass up this golden opportunity to see the work and meet the artist in person. Theo has been perfecting his wind-powered creations for years and not only are his pieces on display, but each day this week he orchestrates a not-to-be-missed live demonstration on the beach, right behind the exhibition. His breathtaking pieces, made of PVC pipe, water bottles and fabric catch the wind and come alive, walking across the sand like ancient, yet graceful beasts.
TIP: We think this exhibition is a must-see, but if you somehow manage to miss it in Miami, fear not. Theo’s work will travel to Chicago, New York and San Francisco beginning late 2015. We will do everything in our power to see this work again.
Since we arrived on the late side our first night in Miami, we decided to keep it local and head downstairs. Little did we know that The Dutch, one of our NYC faves was right there in the lobby of the W, and would be host to the hottest party of the week. We found our perfect perch, a small, cozy booth in the bar facing the fashionistas. Michael, the host, gave us the star treatment and kept us entertained with his running commentary. Caesar, Kevin and José made sure the champagne was flowing and our favorite citrus, avocado, butter lettuce salads were there in a flash. The Dutch became our home away from home and we started each day with breakfast served by our most-efficient waitress, Eve. The get-up spotting was good and we saw everything from transparent crochet cover-ups with stilettos to ultra-chic fashion statements, all before 10:00 am.
When we finally managed to tear ourselves away from The Dutch, we ventured to the Pulse opening where we saw some intriguing art and had a little more of the sparkly on their outdoor deck. We met up with a curator friend for lunch at Cecconi’s in the Soho House. We loved the vibe and the peeps. We were not the only ones who ventured out from the W for lunch that day. Mr. Chow chose to leave his namesake restaurant there, to dine al fresco with us, just a couple of tables away. After lunch, we were invited up to the rooftop for a Natura Bisse beauty treatment. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay long enough.
TIP: Cecconi’s all you can eat deconstructed salad bar, complete with heirloom tomatoes, salmon, prime rib, roasted vegetables, etc. is a steal at $18. The price made it easy for us to justify that lunchtime rosé.
Other local lunch spots we enjoyed included Sugarcane, conveniently located right across the street from the Art Miami tents, Michaels in the Design District near Wynwood and the Lido right on the water at the Standard Hotel. We met up with our long-lost friend, Virginie, for dinner at Hakussan and discovered they had an incredible gluten-free menu. Who knew?
Last month in St. Barth we sampled some of chefs’ Laurent Cantineaux and Gregory Gourreau’s creative concoctions and knew we had to go for the whole shebang at their Miami hotspot, Juvia. We were whisked up to the penthouse where we sat on the patio overlooking the lights of Miami. Laurent and Gregory greeted us and started things off right by sending over an off the menu appetizer. We followed it up with the Rock Shrimp Tiradito, Lobster Salad and Mushroom Risotto, satisfying our appetites and all our crazy dietary restrictions (pescatarian and gluten-free, just to name a few). Things also ended well, when Gregory, the pastry chef, sent over a trio of delicious desserts.
Although we couldn’t squeeze in much shopping, after checking out the Untitled art fair, we magically found ourselves right across the street from The Webster, an art deco building, jam-packed with cutting edge fashion. It came highly recommended by Christina, our go-to concierge at the W. As we were heading upstairs, we nearly bumped into the fashionably-turbaned style icon, Waris Ahluwaria, coming out of the elevator. We knew something good was brewing up there. Our instincts were right as there was a happening Eres rooftop party, with what else, but more bubbly flowing.
Before we could figure out how to get back to the hotel, we were swooped up by The Free Ride, coconut-topped golf-cart. Never ones to go too highbrow or turn down a free ride, we hopped right in. Gino, the driver, entertained us as he magically maneuvered through a sea of South Beach traffic. Complete with island music and our choice of coconut water, we somehow managed to make it back safely (albeit a bit windblown) and all for the price of a tip. We squeezed a little more shopping in while we were in the Design District and sadly didn’t have time to make it to the other spot on our list, The Alchemist.
The trip was a whirlwind of fabulous art, fashion, food and plenty of characters but it was over before we knew it. Too much art was left unseen, too many restaurants were left untried and too many get-ups were left unworn. Our work is not done in Miami.
The Standard Hotel, 40 Island Avenue, Miami