Fair Preview

The Insider’s Miami

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Miami Art Week offers endless visual stimulation, both at the main Art Basel Miami Beach fair and the 20 other satellite fairs, including Miami Project, seen here in 2013, which this year runs from December 2 to 7. Photo courtesy of Art Market Productions

Now in its 13th year, the swirling, whirling bacchanal — and, oh yes, tremendous coming-together of a great deal of world-class art — that is Miami Art Week is showing no signs of slowing down. Anchored by the Art Basel Miami Beach fair (ABMB), which runs December 4 to 7, the week’s myriad events, parties, openings and other fairs vein to amp up next Monday. Serious collectors and gallerists may grumble about the looky-loos (only a fraction of the 75,000 attendees take home any art) — and the traffic and the frantic pace and the press of parties, openings and dinners — but everyone still goes. They almost have to: If you’re even tangentially connected to the art world, there’s simply nowhere else to be come December. And it’s usually a darn good time, too.

Indagare members have long benefitted from the site’s insightful, in-depth reviews of the best places to stay, eat, shop and — yes, even! — relax in Miami (as well as countless other enticing destinations around the world). Here, the site’s own Amelia Osborne has tapped into that rich editorial resource for Introspective, in addition to reaching out to the 1stdibs community of dealers, designers and collectors for their very personal recommendations for navigating Miami’s frenetic Art Week.

“The balmy weather melts even the hardened cynics,” says artist Hubert Bush, who lives in Miami Beach with his partner, uber-collector Douglas Cramer. And John Cheim, co-founder of the New York gallery Cheim & Read, adds that of all the world’s art fairs, ABMB, in which his gallery will exhibit, has “perhaps the sunniest disposition.”

Indeed, the weather makes even being stuck in traffic not so bad, but adding to the fun is the palpable current of energy coursing through all of Miami. As Peter Fetterman, an L.A.-based photography dealer showing in Art Miami notes, “the curiosity quotient is on super-charge.” Unlike fairs in bigger cities, say London or New York, “the city completely gives itself over to art for the week,” continues Bush, while Miami-born artist Michele Oka Doner likens it all to a medieval festival: “The jugglers, the fire-swallowers, the hawkers, they all come to town and set up shop.”

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Edward Cella Art + Architecture, based in Los Angeles, is bringing ASMI #41, 2014, by celebrated ceramicist Adam Silverman to Design Miami, a fair focused on 20th- and 21st-century collectible design.

That said, this year, as in past, there will be plenty of earnest looking and buying going on, too. Explains Elizabeth Feld of New York’s Hirschl & Adler, a mainstay at ABMB, the week “attracts a very serious audience, important buyers, museum professionals and those who deeply consider the academic aspect of modern and contemporary art as well.” Galleries, in turn, meet these connoisseurs halfway, saving up their best pieces all year to exhibit in Miami and competing to have the best booth. The New York–based interior designer Robert Couturier explains, “These fairs force dealers and artists to produce better and newer things each and every time they show. They can no longer afford to just show up.”

No doubt in concession to the galleries and serious collectors alike, one change this year is that the main fair, ABMB, held in the heart of South Beach, has scheduled its invite-only vernissage preview the morning of Thursday, December 4, instead of Wednesday night after the daytime VIP previews. In effect, this allows dealers more face-time with principal patrons before the public is allowed in at 3 P.M. on Thursday afternoon.

Also adding some gravitas to this year’s fair, which will host 267 galleries from 31 countries, is a new sector called “Survey.” Thirteen galleries within the main fair will stage solo and group shows that look at the impact of art history on the careers of some contemporary artists. Featured names include Niki de Saint Phalle, Paul Feeley and Chilean-born Lotty Rosenfeld. Gallerist Augusto Arbizo, of New York’s Eleven Rivington, which is showing at NADA, is looking forward to this addition. “Miami’s fairs are well known for emerging artists and introducing work by very young artists,” he says, “so I hope this section will allow for more depth in terms of works exhibited, encouraging an introspective mood.”

The fair’s other sectors — including “Nova,” featuring works completed in the last three years; “Edition,” which offers multiples; and “Public,” focused on outdoor installations and showcased in nearby Collins Park — are all returning.

In addition to the main fair, there are, of course, numerous top-flight satellite fairs, which offer great potential for seeing new works by younger, lesser-known artists as well as the established ones. As Paul Kopeikin, an L.A.-based dealer exhibiting at Miami Project, notes, “Miami differentiates itself through the sheer number of fairs, more than are going on at any other time and place on Earth. Nothing even comes close.” As opposed to the main fair, where the bulk of sales occur during VIP previews or even before the fair begins, at the satellite fairs, he continues, “business is spread out more evenly throughout the week and so the dealers continue to be optimistic. Anything can happen at any time.” Another bonus: Many of the satellite fairs open on the evening of December 2, and invitations to the openings are easier to come by than those for the main fair.

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To name but a few of the satellites: Miami Project features contemporary art in Midtown, at the Miami Project Pavilion; SCOPE, held on the beach at 9th Street, specializes in emerging artists and multidisciplinary projects; UNTITLED, located on the beach at 12th Street, highlights emerging and mid-career contemporary artists, with a nonprofit-art-space aspect; the fair of the New Art Dealers Alliance fair (NADA) held in North Beach at the Deauville Beach Resort, shows cutting-edge new art; Design Miami, adjacent to ABMB’s Convention Center location, focuses on modern and contemporary furniture and design; and Pulse exhibits contemporary art at Indian Beach Park.

How to cover it all? You can’t. All you can do is form a rough strategy, wear comfortable shoes and, according to at least a few fair veterans, start each day with an ocean dip. Below, read more essential do’s and don’ts from art-world insiders, as well as their favorite places to stay, eat and drink during the annual pilgrimage. And for more expert advice, try out a free 30-day Indagare trial where you can read about Miami and dozens of other enticing locales around the globe.

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Do’s and Don’ts

DO: Walk — or bike

Traffic during Basel is notoriously bad. The main fair does organize shuttle services, and there are taxi stands around the busiest areas, but walking, if possible, remains the best mode of transportation. Another option for getting around town is the DecoBike bicycle-sharing program, which has 100 stations dotted around South Beach and lets you rent by the hour or the day.

DON’T: Miss the museums

As the fairs don’t typically open until noon, many attendees make the most of the morning hours by visiting spaces showing private holdings, like the De La Cruz, Rubell and Cisneros collections. Worth visiting for its Herzog & de Meuron-designed building alone, the year-old Pérez Art Museum (formerly known as the Miami Art Museum) is showing Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes’s first U.S. retrospective as well as an exhibit of multimedia work by Mexican artist Mario Garcia Torres. The Bass Museum of Art, meanwhile, is planning a show centered on the famously leather-clad architect Peter Marino, which will include art from his own collection, site-specific installations and an opera collaboration.

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DO: Enjoy the natural beauty

No amount of praise can describe Miami’s reliably clear skies, warm days and refreshing ocean temperatures in December. The tradition of gallerist Paul Kasmin, who’s exhibiting at ABMB, is to have “one early-morning swim in the sea with [gallerist] David Nolan,” and Hubert Bush makes sure to “jump in the ocean every day.” Early risers strolling along the beach or boardwalk will encounter dozens, if not hundreds of gallerists, as a morning walk is the preferred prelude to a day of sales. Elizabeth Feld, of Hirschl & Adler, notes, “I need to do something each day to remind myself that I am in the tropics!” Peter Fetterman agrees that a beach walk “invigorates and centers me for the intense day.”

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Taking a break while perusing the fairs — which requires hours upon hours of being on one’s feet — is highly recommended. Photo courtesy of Art Market Productions

DON’T: Try to see it all

“I recommend deciding to do three to five fairs, pace yourself, do a little homework ahead of time, and then enjoy!” says Houston gallerist Kerry Inman, who is at Miami Project. And, if somehow you have time, “Go back to your favorite fairs for a second look; it’s usually a bit overwhelming on the first pass,” adds Andrea Zieher of New York’s ZieherSmith, a former Miami Project participant. “Don’t rush through everything — just most things. If you see something you like, then take the time to really see it,” says Paul Kopeikin, adding “Don’t be afraid to engage with any dealer, even if you think they are too important to talk to you. That said, don’t waste anyone’s time.”

DO: Appreciate the insanity

Give in to the hectic, exciting and unpredictable energy of the week and see where it takes you. “Go to the opening of ABMB, and enjoy the scene,” advises Kopeikin. “And don’t spend time at boring parties.” New York gallerist Pavel Zoubok, a Miami Project exhibitor, notes that he “treats the art fair like an Olympic event.” And fitting for an art-fair athlete, he typically ends the week with a massage — in this town, there is no shortage of excellent options.

Thanks to Art Basel Miami Beach and its attendant satellite fairs, events and parties, the city has become a mecca for the art world on a level that likely no one anticipated when the fair first touched down in Miami in 2002. “Miami and Southern Florida have always been home to some great collectors and museums,” says New York gallerist Paul Kasmin. “But it is astonishing how the art fair has made Miami in December the top place in the world for contemporary art.”

Not surprisingly, this phenomenon has ushered in many high-caliber restaurants, bars and hotels on top of the city’s already copious offerings, and thus, no shortage of options when it comes to eating, drinking and sleeping well.

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Where to Stay

The most commonly heard question around town during (and on the plane down to) Art Week is, Where are you staying? People have loyalty to their favorite hotels, which run the gamut from tiny boutique inns to huge, Vegas-like resorts. Location is important, and everyone tries to sleep close to the fairs they plan on spending the most time at. Because of the week’s notoriously congested traffic, you should attempt to do the same.

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A quick lay of the land for first-timers: The part of Miami Beach stretching from First Street north to 23rd Street is commonly referred to as South Beach, and anything north of 23rd Street is considered Miami Beach proper. The main fair, Art Basel Miami Beach, is held in the Miami Convention Center, a 500,000-square-foot space in the heart of South Beach. The SCOPE and UNTITLED fairs are held within walking distances of each other in massive tents set up on the beach off 9th and 12th Streets. A drive across the causeways, in Midtown Miami, are the Art Miami and Miami Project fairs. The NADA fair is held in North Beach, en route to Bal Harbour, home to some of the country’s best shopping.

SOUTH BEACH

The classic choice is to stay in South Beach, within walking distance of excellent restaurants, nightlife, the ABMB fair and, of course, the beach. Christy MacLear, executive director of New York’s Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, stays at The Betsy, which is “close to the beach so you can enjoy Miami’s beauty. In the morning it’s quiet.” Others, like Paul Kasmin, prefer The Standard for its location (on a small island just east of Miami Beach), great pool and cool, laid-back atmosphere. Choosing somewhere with access to the beach is a huge plus, explains Nathalie Dheedene, director of New York’s Magen H Gallery, which will be at Design Miami. “A nice run on the beach before the fair opens is always a good start of the day.”

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The retro-modern look of the rooms at the Metropolitan by COMO, which opened last spring, is the work of Italian designer Paola Navone. Photo courtesy of COMO Hotels and Resorts

MID BEACH

The area deemed “Mid Beach,” located north of 23rd Street, has seen great popularity recently with the development of hotels like COMO’s Metropolitan and the new Faena complex (due to open in mid-2015). It is also the location of some of the city’s most popular hotels like Soho Beach House, Fontainebleau and Eden Roc. New York designer Robert Stilin prefers to stay in this part of town, which feels, he says, “secluded from everything but still close in proximity to the fair.” Los Angeles dealer Peter Fetterman agrees, claiming to like the “old-fashioned ‘gangster’ hotels. To me, a ’boutique’ hotel means I can never figure out how to turn the water on after a long day.”

DOWNTOWN

Downtown Miami boasts many hotels suited to business travelers, including the Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental and The Viceroy. New York dealer Pavel Zoubok says: “the Epic is convenient to the fair I do, Miami Project, dog friendly — my dog Dragon works all the art fairs with me — and removed from the chaos of South Beach.”

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 EAT

Given the city’s extensive global influences, surplus of fresh seafood and young, energetic population, it’s no surprise that the Miami culinary scene is thriving. As the city continues to get more glamorous, so do the dining options. Throughout the year, but particularly during Art Week, it’s important to make reservations as early as possible.

BREAKFAST

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A Murano glass chandelier crowns the dining room at Quattro on Lincoln Road, a glam spot specializing in Northern Italian dishes.

While most visitors will take advantage of their hotel’s breakfast spread (the Delano, W South Beach and Standard breakfasts are particularly fabulous), the city boasts excellent offerings and tends to be quiet in the early mornings as visitors and locals are sleeping off the night before. New York gallerist Andrea Zieher recommends Big Pink for its casual atmosphere and because “there are always cops eating there, which is usually a sign of good food.” For grab-and-go options, Michele Oka Doner recommends True Loaf Bakery, fellow artist Hubert Bush likes La Sandwicherie, particularly after a morning ocean swim, and Christy MacLear says Tinta y Café “serves the best coffee in Miami.”

For sit-down breakfasts, favorites include the Canyon Ranch Grill, Balans on Lincoln Road and Cecconi’s, where Robert Stilin says “the brunch is overflowing and everything they serve is amazing.”

LUNCH

Exhibitors who are busy in their booths and devoted visitors navigating the fairs often skip the midday meal , but for those who can tear themselves away, there are some excellent spots including Fifi’s Seafood, Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink, Milos, Garcia’s Seafood Grille, Buena Vista Café, Joey’s Wynwood and Quattro.

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Joe’s Stone Crab, established as a small lunch counter in 1913, is an area institution.

DINNER

As lunch tends to be either skipped or rushed through during Art Week, dinner is an elaborate affair. Favorite restaurants among dealers and collectors include Escopazzo, Prime Fish, Macaluso’s, Sugarcane and Zuma.

Groups of colleagues and friends, often uniting from different corners of the globe, gather around large tables at the classic Joe’s Stone Crab, The Bazaar at the SLS hotel and Juvia, which, due to its location on the top floor of the Herzog & de Meuron–designed 1111 Lincoln Road parking garage, offers what Hubert Bush describes as a “killer view of Miami Beach.” Dinner is a chance to gather and reflect on the day of viewing, selling and buying, and there is a custom of great camaraderie. “My friends and I have a tradition of going out for the enormous lobster tails at the Park Central. They are spectacular!” says Pavel Zoubok.

Others opt for a quieter night to wind down after a long day. Paul Kasmin explains, “Casa Tua is the only place I feel vaguely at home. Micky Grendene attempts to look after me when I am there.” And the adorable Mandolin is, according to Christy MacLear, “the best foodie place in Miami.”

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Unless you’re Jay-Z and Beyoncé, who visited Seasalt & Pepper soon after it opened last spring, it can be hard to get a reservation at this restaurant overlooking the Miami River.

Art or no, a trip to Miami wouldn’t be complete without a Cuban dining experience. Many agree that Puerto Sagua is the best option. As Arbizo notes, “the restaurant on the Friday and Saturday night of the art fair week is a who’s who of younger dealers and directors; every other table is full of gallerists and assistants getting sustenance before going out for the long evenings. It’s a fun scene.” For Cuban coffee options, head to Versailles, which also has outposts in the Miami Airport, and, according to Kopeikin, “any of the spots on Washington Avenue.” 

DRINKS

Pre- and post-dinner drinks are an inescapable ritual in Miami, a town that has perfected the expertly crafted cocktail and hot spots in which to drink them. Favorites include Soho House, the outdoor bar at the SLS, the Raleigh, the Delano and Seasalt & Pepper. For a fun dive-bar scene, head to Mac’s Club Deuce.

The morning after a late night, there’s only one place to go before heading anywhere else: the ocean.

 

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