When the international art fair known as Art Basel first arrived in Miami, it had a rough start. Scheduled for 2001, the tragic events of September 11 forced a year delay. Perhaps some would have thought that beginning to be a bad omen. But organizers refocused on a 2002 opening, putting two solid years into the planning.
That first Miami edition of Art Basel attracted 160 galleries from across the globe and 30,000 attendees. It spawned several satellite fairs, drew attention to local galleries and collectors, and invigorated the art scene throughout South Florida, helping to bolster Wynwood and the Design District. Nearly two decades later, Art Basel has spawned the more broader Art Week, with events and shows spread across the region.
Art Week is perhaps Miami’s most significant cultural event, and despite a necessary cancellation last year, it returns for what organizers hope is the kind of comeback we saw way back when it all began. The lineup can be overwhelming, but we’ve boiled it down to the must-attend fairs and can’t-miss highlights at Art Week 2021.
The single biggest show during Art Week returns with slightly curtailed public participation. Art Basel reportedly adds a half-billion to the local economy, but perhaps more significantly, it has led to satellite fairs, nighttime events, and shows throughout South Florida. For the main Art Basel event at the Miami Beach Convention Center, the public will gain access December 2-4, while private exhibitions will open November 29 through December 1. Those entering must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test and wear a mask. For those not ready to return to in-person events, Art Basel will also offer an online viewing room and livestreamed conversations, among other programming, as part of the digital initiative Art Basel Live. The event itself will boast more than 250 participating galleries spread across its sectors, including the return of the Meridians sector featuring large-scale works curated by Magalí Arriola of Museo Tamayo.
Taking over a sweet piece of bayfront real estate at One Herald Plaza, Art Miami is not only one of the biggest contemporary art shows in Miami but among the biggest anywhere, comprising somewhere near a couple hundred galleries each year. While visiting Art Miami from November 30 to December 5, be sure to also stop by its neighboring sister fair, Context Art Miami, where collectors can discover and acquire works from cutting-edge artists.
Untitled Art prioritizes experimentation in contemporary art. This year, more than 146 galleries will participate, taking up residence in a custom-built structure at Twelfth Street and Ocean Drive November 29 to December 4.
Latin-American art takes center stage at Pinta. The fifteenth edition—December 1-5—will comprise four sections covering solo projects and photography, among other topics.
If it wasn’t for Art Basel and everything else happening during Art Week, Scope would be a huge draw on its own. Hitting the 20-year mark in Miami, Scope sets up a glass-enclosed entranceway on the sands of South Beach, leading into a massive gallery stretching out along the seaside. Inside, some 140 international exhibitors await. There’s also a slate of presentations and panels, live music nightly, and a massive video screen outside showing multimedia presentations. It’s open to the public December 1-5, but spring for VIP access and you’ll get in a day early on November 30.
While much of Art Week’s fairs focus on the traditional forms of visual art, Design Miami/ takes a different spin, showing off what’s new and newly classic in interior design. Attendees will find everything from chairs to sculptures—some practical and others that prioritize form over function—all meant to dress up the modern home. Taking up residence this year in Pride Park, Design Miami/ begins with a VIP preview November 30 and runs December 1-5. Plus, the addition of an online show means design enthusiasts can access the works from anywhere.
Spectrum Miami and Red Dot Miami
Two shows with more than a decade of history will team up inside the 100,000-square-foot Mana Wynwood exhibition hall December 1-5. Spectrum will look at contemporary art through the lens of a “Double Take” curatorial theme, asking viewers to slow down and savor the experience, while Red Dot will focus on the notion of “Reveal,” with artists using their works to unveil inherent truths about themselves and the world around them.
Pérez Art Museum Miami
An architectural jewel of a museum, PAMM has unveiled a work by multimedia artist Zhivago Duncan called Pretentious Crap, meant to tell a story of a post-apocalyptic survivor who roams the world collecting bits from a ruined civilization. There’s also a massive virtual reality installation from Marco Brambilla titled Heaven’s Gate that satirizes the excess of Hollywood stars. A talk on December 1 will take on art across the African Diaspora, and a panel will discuss indigenous contemporary art December 4.
Museum of Art and Design
The Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College is mounting three one-person exhibits, from Cuban-American Jorge Pardo, Miami’s Loriel Beltrán, and Icelandic artist Hreinn Friðfinnsson, his first American museum exhibition after decades of influential work. The shows cover topics from the loss caused by the Cuban regime to moments in Miami’s cultural past.
Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami
The Museum of Contemporary Art recently opened a new exhibition entitled “My Name is Maryan,” featuring works by the late artist Maryan, who was a Holocaust survivor.
Aqua Art Miami
Now in its sixteenth year, the Aqua Hotel’s Aqua Art Miami is one of the longest-running satellite fairs. The event will take place December 1-5 (with a VIP preview on the first day) and focus on emerging artists and galleries. The quirky Aqua Hotel turns into something of a hangout during Art Week, with those in the know stopping by for the what’s-next art on display and the breezy courtyard in the center of the property.
Works on paper are the focus at Ink Miami, making it unique among the Art Week shows. The Dorchester hotel hosts the show December 1-5.
The Rubell Museum will debut four shows to join three exhibitions already on display. Check out works by Hernan Bas, Yayoi Kusama, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Genesis Tramaine, and Kennedy Yanko, along with an exhibit of collection highlights.
Last year, Jennifer Roberts had a major decision to make. As CEO of the global design forum Design Miami/, a show that runs at the same time as Art Basel in both Miami and Switzerland, Roberts had to decide whether to cancel her show in Miami, as nearly every other event was doing, or take a risk and hold the fair amid a pandemic. The 2020 Design Miami/ moved forward, providing a safe environment for its attendees to enjoy a cultural event in an otherwise bleak year—and propelling the Design Miami/ brand into new stratospheres. Here, Roberts reflects on how the pandemic has changed her industry and more.
FLI: What has this past year been like for the collectible design world?
Roberts: People spent so much time in their homes, and as they’re sitting there looking at their four walls, [they’re] thinking of how they can adapt their space. And so, a lot of people invested in collectible design. By many accounts, it has been a really successful year for many of our top galleries.
For collectible design artists, what has this time been like?
Anecdotally what we’re hearing is that there has been a lot of production through this time and a lot of inspiration in their solitude. At our September show in Basel, Switzerland, a number of galleries exhibited the works of designers that have been done specifically during their quarantine.
How about the galleries and stores?
Most of them have said that they have done really quite well. One of the big challenges has been shipping and materials. But what’s been most interesting is that a lot of the twentieth-century material has gone up or increased a great deal, simply because there’s a sense of urgency to acquiring pieces.
Design Miami/ was one of the only Miami Art Week fairs to continue in 2020. What was that experience like?
We were convinced that we had to do something, in part for the brand, in part for our own sanity after sitting at home for so long. It was stressful in the sense that we were concerned about the COVID numbers rising at that time, and we didn’t have vaccinations yet. But we made it safe for social distancing, we had temperature taking, and all sorts of protocols. People remarked at how wonderful it was to actually be able to go and experience something and to have a cultural moment. It’s propelled us into a different space too. By taking that risk, we now have a show in November in Shanghai, and it looks like we’re going to Doha in March. So, you know, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
You’ve added an online store. How significant is that for Design Miami/?
We anticipate a lot of growth, and it has been really important during this time when people can’t travel as frequently, or at all. We’re getting new audiences, and giving access to people far and wide has been really rewarding.
A New Context for Creativity
Franklin Sirmans took over as CEO at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) in 2015, just two years after the museum relocated to its new home. Sirmans had previously worked as a writer, editor, and curator, most recently and notably at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Steering a museum that’s widely regarded as Miami’s most influential through a pandemic had its challenges, Sirmans told us, but he says he never took his foot off the gas.
FLI: A lot of industries are undergoing unprecedented ups and downs. What’s it like in the art world these days?
Sirmans: From the standpoint of the museum, we’re still challenged, but we’ve been really fortunate in that we reopened in November of last year, so we’ve had almost a year dealing with the ongoing challenges. We’ve been able to do events, and we’re looking forward to December in a really big way. We’re bringing people together, and that’s the most exciting thing. We are super optimistic for each and every day we move forward.
These past few months have had major lows but also bright spots. Are you seeing these times reflected in new works produced by artists?
First and foremost for us, this period has not slowed at all as far as our collection growth. We’ve been making major acquisitions every month. As far as that, that’s fantastic. As far as looking at what we’ve acquired and whether these times are reflected in it, I have to think of Marco Brambilla’s totemic-like video installation he made during lockdown. It is an eight-minute loop from scenes that have been pulled from Hollywood movies throughout the years that almost create a heaven and hellish cycle.
What will Art Week be like this year?
It’s looking like it’s going to be a lot of fun and full on, filled with a lot of events and programming. We will have talks, parties, and artists who are on view in town. It’s looking great.
What should an Art Week visitor to PAMM not miss?
Don’t miss Marco Brambilla’s video installation. Marco’s work is the kind of art that makes use of popular culture in a way that people will recognize from other contexts, movies in particular. To see it in the gallery in this display he created is a whole other experience. There is also a VR headset that’s a supplement to the installation.
Outside of a visit to PAMM, what are you most looking forward to during Art Week?
I’m really excited to be back in the Design District again. The way that our partners over there make art a part of everyone’s experience is really exciting and a lot of fun. I’m excited to see what they’re cooking up.
Can’t Miss Events and Installations
Find yourself in a mirrored labyrinth and other alternative realities created by artists Es Devlin, James Turrell, and teamLab in an immersive art experience located across from the Rubell Museum in Allapattah. Get tickets at superblue.com.
The Bakehouse Art Complex’s annual event, slated for December 2, includes visits to artist studios as well as exhibitions and installations inside and outside its sprawling Wynwood campus.
This interactive art project in the Miami Design District combines a series of sculptures, seating, and ornamentation to turn the neighborhood into a virtual and tactile playground. An app uses AR tech to allow visitors to collect totems throughout the area. If you miss it during Art Week, the playground will continue until May.
“Agents of Change” at Wynwood Walls
The street art epicenter Wynwood Walls will debut new installations from a roster of globally known artists that will come into focus just in time for Art Week.
Miami Arts, Culture, and Heritage Months
Explore a curated list of attractions and sights in Miami’s diverse neighborhoods and score some sweet deals on hotels during December and January. See the full lists of specials and tours at miamiandbeaches.com.
Rum maker Brugal 1888 has a pop-up in the Nautilus by Arlo that’s equal parts coffee and cocktails. During the day you can sip cafecitos; stay until happy hour when the drinks switch to rum creations from master mixologists.
The Confidante’s Pop-Up Skate Park
The Museum of Graffiti teamed up with Few and Far, a collaboration of women street artists, to create a skate ramp in the backyard of The Confidante. Drop in to watch demos by pro skaters daily.
Rachel K at the W Miami
Colorful art displays from French-Lebanese artist Rachel K will be on view at the W Miami in Brickell through December 6. Snap your next selfie with the standout Wings of Joy angel wings