Think of Miami and its art-deco architecture, vibrant nightlife and diverse culinary and cultural scenes spring to mind. Or perhaps it’s the city’s turquoise shores, sunny climes and Latino influences. Yet to the creative crowd, the “Magic City” is best known as the home of a thriving contemporary art scene rivalling that of London, Paris, New York and Hong Kong.

Since the launch of Art Basel Miami Beach in 2002, the city has seen a boom in world-class galleries, public art commissions, design hotels and art-inspired restaurants. While December remains the best time for art lovers to visit the palm-studded metropolis, there’s plenty to see year round.

MUST-SEE MUSEUM

The Bass Museum

When it comes to blockbuster contemporary art museums, you’re spoilt for choice in Miami. Among its treasures are the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Rubell Family Collection and The Bass Museum, which was founded in 1964 to house the private collection of John and Johanna Bass on its donation to the city.

Set in a splendid 30s art-deco building, just a stone’s throw from Miami Beach, The Bass is home to works by some of the biggest names in contemporary art, including Sterling Ruby, Sarah Morris and Urs Fischer. It also boasts a rich collection of European painting and sculpture, textiles, tapestries, photographs and Latin American art.

Following the completion of its $12M facelift in 2017, which was masterminded by Tokyo-based architect Arata Isozaki, the museum’s exhibition space is now almost twice as big as it was before. After wandering around the museum, grab a coffee and a pastry at The Bass Café (catered by Thierry Isambert) before swinging by the gift shop, which offers a delightfully curated selection of artist editions.

Insider intel: Stop by Ugo Rondinone’s Miami Mountain, a towering stack of fluorescent stones in Collins Park on the way out. The site-specific installation was acquired by The Bass in 2016 as part of its 10-year acquisition initiative to grow its holding of contemporary art.

  • +1 305 673 7530
  • Go to Website
  • 2100 Collins Avenue
    Miami Beach
    FL 33139

THE HIDDEN GEM

Wolfsonian-FIU

Located in the heart of the Art Deco District of Miami Beach, the Wolfsonian-FIU (a library, museum and research centre belonging to the Wolfsonian Florida International University), is a veritable cabinet of curiosities. Its collection of more than 200,000 objects, the majority of which date from between 1885 and 1945, includes everything from rare books and medals to textiles and ceramics. Offering an unparalleled insight into the history of modern design, the Wolf should top the to-do list of any architecture, design and technology enthusiast.

Insider intel: Museum entry is free every Friday from 6-9pm. Expect large crowds.

  • +1 305 531 1001
  • Go to Website
  • 1001 Washington Avenue
    Miami Beach
    FL 33139

THE GALLERY

Fredric Snitzer Gallery

Fred Snitzer has been a leading light of Miami’s contemporary art scene for more than 40 years. An early champion of Latin American artists in the United States, Snitzer is credited with launching the careers of major avant-garde Cuban artists such as Luis Cruz Azaceta and María Martínez-Cañas. Today, the gallery has expanded its reach and is committed to promoting a diverse range of artists working in media, including painting, drawing, sculpture and photography.
Located in Downtown Miami, Snitzer’s space boasts two luminous exhibition galleries and a 2,600sq ft outdoor sculpture garden. The gallery hosts at least eight temporary exhibitions each year and is a veteran exhibitor at Art Basel Miami Beach.

Insider intel: The bonus? Entry is free

OUTDOOR ART

Wynwood Walls

Located in the former warehouse district of Downtown Miami, Wynwood Walls is one of the country’s most experimental outdoor playgrounds for street artists. Conceived by the late Tony Goldman in 2009, The Walls complex comprises six windowless warehouses (what Goldman described as giant “blank canvases), as well as a handful of restaurants, a gallery and shop. Over the past 10 years, some of the biggest names in graffiti art – Invader, Kenny Scharf, eL Seed and Lady Pink – have covered over 80,000sq ft walls. Rather miraculously for Miami, the open-air space is still free to enjoy. Nose around the thriving artistic neighbourhood of Wynwood afterwards.

Insider intel: If you’re in town on the second Saturday of the month, check out Wynwood’s Art Walk Block Party, a free outdoor festival with food trucks, live music and, of course, great art.

THE ART FAIR NOT TO MISS

Art Basel Miami Beach

Every December, the art world flocks to Florida for Art Basel Miami Beach, a glitzy affair with raucous celebrity parties, VIP dinners and big-buck spending. The fair hosts more than 200 leading galleries from North and South America, Europe and Asia that showcase a breadth of mixed-media work by leading modern and contemporary artists.

Alongside the blue-chips such as Sadie Coles HQ, Gagosian and David Zwirner are fledgling newcomers, primarily exhibiting a new generation of rising stars. There’s also a comprehensive talks and events programme, as well as numerous top-notch restaurants and Curated Sections, which, this year, includes the inaugural edition of Meridians, a showcase of large-scale sculptures, paintings, installations, film and video projections.

While Art Basel is the lifeblood of Miami’s annual December Art Week, the wealth of satellite fairs, exhibitions and events are worth investigating, too. Highlights include Pulse, Scope, Untitled and NADA, as well as interiors mecca Design Miami.

Insider intel: In keeping with art-fair etiquette, roving eyes alight on the art and attendees in equal measure. We warn you now: Art Basel Miami Beach is one place to bring your sartorial A-game.

  • Go to Website
  • Miami Beach Convention Centre
    1901 Convention Center Drive
    Miami Beach
    FL 33139

TO SHOP

Lincoln Road Antique and Collectible Market

The Lincoln Road Antique and Collectible Market, which takes place every second Saturday between October and May along Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, draws vintage lovers and collectors from far and wide. More than 100 vendors set up shop for the occasion, offering everything from vintage clothing and furniture to ceramics and jewellery. Come between 9am and 5pm to scout out a bargain.

Insider Intel: You snooze, you lose!

TO STAY

Palihouse Miami beach

With its lashings of pinks, peaches and cream, Palihouse Miami Beach is a pastel-coloured haven for Instagramming millennials. Just two blocks from the beach, this Miami newcomer (formerly the Greenbrier Hotel) is set in a gloriously restored art-deco building originally designed by architect L. Murray Dixon.

Overlooking the Indian Creek Waterway, Palihouse is a sleek, no-fuss spot to retreat after a long day tramping the city. Nearly all the 71 spacious residential-style rooms boast kitchenettes and an eclectic mix of contemporary and vintage furnishings, porcelain wall art and an on-trend pastel palette. Head poolside to Greenbrier Swim & Social club for all-day hearty American fare, or to the lobby bar where craft beers and cocktails flow aplenty.

Insider intel: Hotel guests have access to complimentary bicycles and to the “Beach Butler” service which offers round-trip transportation to the hotel’s favourite beaches.

  • +1 305 763 8006
  • Go to Website
  • 3101 Indian Creek Drive
    Miami Beach
    FL 33140

TO EAT

KYU

If the wood-fired, Asian-inspired cuisine at KYU has been dazzling foodies since its launch in 2016, so has its paired-back, industrial-chic design. Located in the heart of Wynwood, KYU is a convivial spot with a buzzy vibe. Here, it’s all about the fusion of flavours and the sharing plates, so come with friends in tow. The wagyu beef brisket and fried chicken come highly recommended, as does the roasted cauliflower with shishito herb vinaigrette. Then, there’s the art. Strike a pose with street artist 2 Alas’ magnificent “KYU lady” at the restaurant’s entrance before attempting to unravel the backstory of the golden Porsche.

Insider Intel: Book in advance. Otherwise, expect to wait (and wait) to nab a table.

TO DRINK

Vandalo Wynwood

With its blooming cluster of plush hotel bars, all-night drinking dens and Instagrammable cafés, Miami is not short of decent watering holes. Yet city newcomer Vandalo Wynwood has made it its mission to offer “something new, something better’” that encourages you “to be who you are – whatever that means”.

While the striking graffiti murals by local artists are the main attraction here, the craft cocktails and Hispanic-inspired street-food dishes – the pork-belly chicharron and green plantain empanadas are house specialities – are top-notch. Visit for a raucous night out, rather than an intimate date à deux.

Insider intel: Check the events calendar online for the most up-to-date programme of DJs, live music, special events and more.

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