With sauntering style and year-round sunshine, Miami turns the good life into an art form — the whole city’s an open-air gallery of cool, from South Beach sidewalks to the beaches of Key Biscayne. It’s no surprise that the colorful metropolis is a magnet for the creative elite, too, and in recent years, Miami’s earned a long-deserved title as a global capital of art.
Towering murals in the renowned Wynwood neighborhood draw graffiti and street artists from around the world, and private galleries aim to match the buzz with their own collections of cutting-edge work. But the biggest paint splash remains the annual Art Basel — North America’s biggest contemporary art fair — which, since 2002, has made headlines with record-setting sales, bold installations, and auctions with celebrity glitz.
Miami’s art scene is rapidly growing, too. In December 2019, a pair of scene-shaping collections — the Rubell Museum and El Espacio 23 — moved to the working-class Allapattah neighborhood, signaling that art is still a dynamic force in the city’s future. Here’s where to dip your toes, or fully immerse, into the Miami art scene:
More than 4,000 artists bring their work to Art Basel Miami Beach, a December blowout in the Miami Beach Convention Center. This is where high-profile collectors come to mingle with celebrity artists, but the Art Basel experience isn’t just for the velvet rope crowd. Anyone can purchase day tickets or passes for the entire, four-day affair, soaking up the buzz alongside the star-studded crowd.
While Miami Beach is the event’s energetic nucleus, the creative spirit doesn’t stop there. The same week brings a grab-bag of big events including downtown’s Art Miami, gallery shows in Wynwood, and Design Miami, featuring furniture and home goods from the 19th century to today.
A labyrinth of colorful murals in the Wynwood neighborhood invites a leisurely stroll through some of Miami’s boldest artwork. Here, find work by international graffiti and street artists like Kelsey Montague and Dan Kitchener spread across 70,000 square feet, with additional indoor galleries displaying smaller-scale pieces.
Plan your trip for the neighborhood’s bi-monthly Saturday art walks, when galleries, shops, and other local businesses throw open their doors for a night out. If visiting during the day, plan to join an artist-led tour from Miami’s Best Graffiti Guide, getting a window into the constantly-evolving art scene in this vibrant area.
More than 130 art galleries jostle for eyes in the Miami Design District, an upscale hub of downtown haute style. See and be seen at the bi-monthly Art and Design Night, or design your own gallery tour. Start with the not-for-profit Locust Projects, whose 2020 exhibitions include Acta Est Fabula, by French-Caribbean multi-media artist Marielle Plaisir, and Christina Pettersson’s In the Pines, a series of handmade tombstones highlighting South Florida history.
Next, brush up on big names — Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, and Fernando Botero — in Markowicz Fine Art, a gallery that juxtaposes established work with pieces by younger artists such as sculptor
Before leaving the Design District, make a final stop at Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, where free admission makes it easy to duck in for an hour or two of browsing. The permanent collection features work by art-world heavyweights like Christo, Pablo Picasso, and Roy Lichtenstein, with wide-ranging exhibitions on rotation.
The New Allapattah
Taquerias and industrial spaces flank roadways through the Allapattah neighborhood, a magnet for artists as nearby Wynwood becomes ever more expensive. Now, the Rubell Museum and El Espacio 23 have moved here, too, helping to establish the low-key area as one of Miami’s newest art destinations. The Rubell, a family-owned institution, recently moved into a 100,000-square-foot warehouse space on NW 23rd Street and features destination-worthy pieces include a wall-sized painting by Kehinde Wiley, Jeff Koons’ New Hoover Convertible, and a pair of immersive installations by Yayoi Kusama.
The other new arrival is El Espacio 23, an art center established by billionaire Jorge Pérez. Visitors to the 28,000-square-foot space will find thousands of multimedia pieces that have been hidden for years in Pérez’ personal collection, and while 2020 exhibits are still under wraps, the inaugural show in December, 2019, hinted at edgy ambitions with work by Ai Weiwei, William Kentridge, and Yinka Shonibare.