Get Ready for Art Basel Miami Beach

Art Basel in Miami Beach 2021 © Art Basel

When I first attended Art Basel Miami Beach in 2007, very few people knew what it was. But year after year more people hear about it, aided by news stories and celebrity sightings.

Art fairs are a major player in the art world and the art market, so join me for a series of articles and tweets about the premier art fair in America, including reporting from the 20th edition of the fair that begins in two weeks.

Let’s start with a look at how you would prepare to attend. It may be late to start planning for this year, but by describing the things to consider and arrange, we’ll begin learning about how art fairs work, what to expect, and how to plan for a great time. 

Once you’ve decided to go to Miami, your first step is to book flights and your hotel. I like to fly into MIA on Tuesday and leave on Sunday evening. Hotel rates skyrocket and rooms sell out, so you should start looking about six months out. I have hopped around over the years, but my favorite area to stay is pretty narrow…Ocean Drive or Collins Avenue, between 7th and 22nd Street. (Washington Avenue, one or two blocks west of Collins, is not bad).

Photo by Tuan Nguyen on Unsplash

This area is ideal because it strikes a walking-distance balance between these three places:

  1. The Art Deco main drag of South Beach, the place you’ve seen in countless movies and TV shows, is Ocean Drive from 5th to 15th Streets,
  2. The Miami Beach Convention Center, the home of Art Basel Miami Beach, stretches along Washington Avenue from 17th to 20th Streets, and
  3. Lincoln Road Mall – the pedestrian area for eating al fresco, shopping, strolling, and people watching – between 16th and 17th Streets. It goes from Washington west to Alton Road, covering eight blocks.

You may experience sticker shock when you start looking for a room. At the nicest hotels you are competing for rooms with the superrich from across the globe. The earlier you book the better, but let’s say you were looking today, and money was no object. You could book a 5-star hotel like the W at the beach and 22nd for about $2,600 a night including taxes and fees. How about the Ritz Carlton at the beach and Lincoln Road for about $1,800.

If you are not in the 1%, you can find a South Beach room at one-off properties like the iconic Colony Hotel on Ocean in the $400-600 range. But be careful because these hotels range from charming to sketchy.  Look at photos and read some reviews.

If you really want to save on a room, and you are in your twenties, you can book a bunk bed at one of four hostels. With names like Bikini Hostel (with beer garden!), I imagine you will return home with some stories that have nothing to do with art.

These room rates might be daunting to many people but here are some things that you can do to bring them down. First, book early, say some time in June; you can find one-off properties around $100-150, at least for Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Second, consider staying north of South Beach. After all, Collins sticks to the beach as it goes north for 15 miles, one high rise condominium building after another. Note: keep your eyes on the road when passing Haulover Beach.

warning sign of naked sunbathers on beach - haulover beach sign stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images
Haulover Beach © Getty Images 

Third, think about staying across the water in Miami where there are many options for about $100 every night, if you book early.

Do you need a car? I do, because I attend satellite fairs, museums, and galleries every day in both Miami and Miami Beach. It looks like most of the visitors do not have cars; they depend on rideshares, cabs, and satellite art fair shuttles. But I value being able to make many stops from morning to night without having to make arrangements and wait. Plus, a shuttle is not going to make an impromptu stop at my favorite American-Latin fusion restaurant when hunger suddenly strikes between Wynwood and the bridge to Miami Beach.

In South Beach I use public parking garages for about $20 daily. Everywhere else, I use parking apps like ParkMobile to pay for meters. But even with a car, when staying in South Beach I walk to the convention center whenever possible.

I pack for warm weather, highs close to 80 degrees, rain, and an afternoon at the beach. I also take something dressier and stylish for evening events.

Okay…Flight?   Hotel? √  Car? √  We’re ready to go!  Next time we’ll talk about the fair, satellite fairs, and Miami Art Week so we can start planning our days in Miami.

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