Art & Design

Your 12-Step Guide* to Art Basel Miami Beach

Art & Design

Your 12-Step Guide* to Art Basel Miami Beach

Mestizo City
Terry Richardson, Girl with Rainbow Hair, 2012 C-print 72 x 48 inches. Courtesy of the artist and OHWOW 
Bert Rodriguez, The Great Dictator, 2012. Black and white print 60 x 40 inches. Courtesy of the artist and OHWOW

*Okay, I missed a step but it should probably be “wear sunscreen.” Or “condoms.”

1. See things you can’t see anywhere else.

The main fair is where 257 of the world’s finest galleries gather to make incredibly expensive art look cheap. This year, Barbara Kruger has a new painting called “Money Hungry” at Mary Boone , while Galerie Lelong is selling literally a puddle of pink paint, by Cildo Meireles, for like seven figures. Between those two poles, Art Basel Miami Beach spins… and spins… and spins. It feels like Stendhal Syndrome, except you’re not faint of art, you’re faint of neon lights and new credit lines. Ugh. However, I recommend checking out Art Nova and Art Positions for smaller, focussed arrays of newer, more interesting work, like Galerie Michel Rein‘s solo presentation of working-class photographer-turned-Whitney star Latoya Ruby Frazier.

But really, you should get out of the mall—I mean, the Miami Beach Convention Center—and seek out satellite attractions and site-specific radness you’ll never see again. Artworks that could only happen in Miami, and should probably stay in Miami, include:

Peter Anton‘s candy-coated rollercoaster through a post-apocalyptic nightmarescape, titled Sugar & Gomorrah and presented by Context Art Miami. Fully rideable and plays Lesley Gore? SOLD.

– A brobdingnagian black dog named Gypsy and installed by Desi Santiago at Lords South Beach.

– Also-huge alligators, created by Cracking Art Group and William Sweetlove, for the FOREVERGLADE Exhibit, that “climb” the Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College.

– Banners by blue-chippers Ed Ruscha, Richard Prince, Jenny Holzer and more, to be flown overhead in the Morgan Hotel Group‘s imaginatively named “Plane Text” project. When you’re on the beach, look upppppp.


– Asif Khan‘s Parhelia, which recreates a stunning visual phenomena—found in nature where ice and sun collide—using 1.3 million Swarovski crystals. That is obscene, but probably worth the price of admission to Design Miami ($20 per day). So is this year’s Snarkitecture tent, which looks like a white vinyl pipe organ from the Huxleyian future.

– Mestizo City, a 6,700 square-foot inflatable “playscape” featuring elements of ostensible Latino culture: taco trucks, typical street art, Jarritos bottles. As I type this it sounds less “things you can’t see anywhere else” and more “things you could see at DisneyWorld,” but… welcome to Miami.

– A working recreation of Madrid’s famous San Miguel Market—real Spanish food and all—designed by Andres Jacques for the brand-new satellite fair JustMad Mia (one of many, many things to love in Wynwood, a hood we’ll further explore in Step 8).

2. Buy some sexy concert tickets.

If you prefer pop to pop art, you’re in luck. On December 5, skip the stultifying official opening of Art Basel Miami Beach and go see Rick Ross, Meek Mill, Wale, and Machine Gun Kelly in a rap show to end all rap shows, probably (tickets here). The next night, December 6, there’s a multi-disciplinary exploration of Kurt Cobain‘s life that ends with a performance by everybody’s real dad, Thurston Moore (tickets here). My ever-faves, the Chromatics, are playing Olympia Theater on December 7 (tickets here) with Floridian natives Prince Rama. Annnnd finally, Basel Castle fills the night of December 8 with performances by Purity Ring, Twin Shadow, Teengirl Fantasy, and other recently trending acts (tickets here). Get your shit together before you go, because tickets are selling quick.