Insiders’ Guide to Art Basel

The usual trip to Miami is all about sunshine. But each December, the brilliance comes not from the sky but from the artistic talent on display, when Art Basel in Miami Beach rolls into town. This year marks the 17th edition of the art fair—a veritable smorgasbord of creativity, taking place in the Convention Center December 6 to 9 and featuring 268 galleries from 34 countries. To help first-timers hit the high points, we asked some of the art world’s most influential people for their “must-do” list when in Miami and Miami Beach for the fair. Here’s what they said.

Rachel Vancelette: Art and Fashion Adviser

Collector Alan Faena’s signature hotel, FaenaHotel Miami (305.534.8800, faena.com) showcases new artist installations, a pop-up beach dome, and a house made of neon—definitely a must-visit each year. Damien Hirst’s permanent installations, Golden Myth and Gone but Not Forgotten, have so far survived all the hurricanes. And don’t forget La Cava, the hotel’s private wine cellar with a 22-seat private dining table hand-carved by Frank Pollaro. It’s a little-known secret spot nestled in the basement.

When you get hungry, head to A La Folie restaurant (305.538.4484, alafoliecafe.com). I regularly sneak in here for a little French flair and for my guilty pleasure, gluten-free galette. For shopping, Krel Tropical Knitwear (305.528.2755, krelwear.com) is a favorite. Designer Karelle Levy always features a must-have new dress of the season, and each time I visit the atelier they pick out the perfect color. Over at The Webster (305.674.7899, thewebster.us/shop/), I consult with Laure Heriard Dubreuil, the co-founder and mastermind behind the ultra-chic trendsetting emporium. Each year she welcomes me to some of the fabulous events. She has a flair for launching new fashion brands and supporting contemporary artists. Secret tip: Go to the rooftop for a cocktail toast or a coffee. It has a great view!

Amy Cappellazzo: Chairman of the Fine Art Division at Sotheby’s

Bone-in Tomahawk Ribeye Chop at The Palm, a Miami classic for meat lovers

I find Ana Mendieta’s tree installation in Cuban Memorial Park (SW 8th Street and SW 13th Avenue) so inspiring. The Cuban-American artist Mendieta (1948–85) died too young, but this carving into a Ceiba tree is amazing. She was so talented. If you’re a practitioner of Santeria, Ceiba is a holy tree. You’ve never seen anything like it in your life. It’s like an altar. Restaurants come and go in Miami. If you want to go old guard, do The Palm Miami (305.868.7256, thepalm.com/restaurants/miami) in Bay Harbor. It’s a sea of white Cadillacs in the parking lot. It’s Palm, so that means great steaks. It’s redolent of that old Miami gangster feeling.

John Zinnser: Artist

Art Basel
An untitled oil-on-canvas work by Joe Bradley in the de la Cruz Collection.

The Miami private art collection museums are mind-blowing trophies of personal wealth and exquisite connoisseurship. Avoiding the homogeneity of most U.S. museums, they follow the European Old World model, where individual taste matters.

Most jaw-dropping is the Rubell family collection (305.573.6090, rfc.museum), run by Mera and Don Rubell with son Jason Rubell, in a converted Drug Enforcement Agency confiscation warehouse that feels as big as the Whitney Museum in New York.

At Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz’s gem, the de la Cruz Collection, the pristine white cube gallery ideal has been extrapolated into a stand-alone modernist edifice. (305.576.6112, delacruzcollection.org)

Iconoclast Martin “Marty” Margulies’s Wynwood district warehouse, The Margulies Collection (305.576.1051, margulieswarehouse.com), favors sculpture mostly, with a slightly funkier edge.

Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (305.455.3333, cifo.org), under the spirited direction of Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, promotes Latin American contemporary art. Its building facade, by architect Rene Gonzalez, is behind a spectacular pixelated tropical bamboo landscape made from multicolored Bisazza tiles.

Nina Johnson: Local Gallery Owner

Art Basel
Miami Mountain by Ugo Rondinone, at the Bass Museum.

We have so many great museums. Pérez ArtMuseum Miami (305.375.3000, pamm.org) is an extraordinary place with sweeping views of the city, an incredible building by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, and the directorial vision of Franklin Sirmans. I’m proud to have it in my hometown. Recent and upcoming highlights include an encyclopedic show of works by Dara Friedman, Nicolas Lobo’s first solo museum exhibition, and an upcoming retrospective on the work of Christo and Jeane-Claude.

The brand-new ICA Miami (305.901.5272, icamiami.org) in the heart of the Design District is a tour de force. Director Alex Gartenfeld is building an institution of global proportion that continues to grow; most exciting is their upcoming Judy Chicago show. If you’re opposed or unable to cross the bridge to mainland Miami and want to stay in Miami Beach, that works: Go to The Bass Museum (305.673.7530, thebass.org). Silvia Cubina has brought it to global acclaim by commissioning permanent installations by a bevy of artists and designers from around the world, including Ugo Rondinone, Katie Stout, Sylvie Fleury, Emmett Moore, and Jim Drain.

Sometimes you need a break from art—such as shopping. One of my favorite places is Mrs. Mandolin (786.420.5110, mrsmandolin.com) where Anastasia Koutsiouk is has put together a beautiful selection of pieces that capture a traveler’s sensibility. Each garment tells a unique story, such as the hand-crocheted tops that are made by her own mother-in-law. As for going out, I’m a mother of two and don’t do as much of it as I’d like. But when I do, it’s usually poolside at the Soho Beach House (786.507.7900, sohobeachhouse.com), since they make a great Bloody Mary!

Ellen Salpeter: Former Director of the ICA Miami

Miami has great museums like the ICA, but don’t forget the galleries. At Nina Johnson Gallery (305.571.2288, ninajohnson.com), the eponymous owner has a great eye and champions emerging and mid-career artists, some local. Mindy Solomon Gallery (786.953.6917, mindysolomon.com) specializes in ceramics.

A mall seems like an unusual setting for world-class art, but the Aventura Mall (305.935.1110, aventuramall.com) has quite a few examples: the Carsten Höller slide; Gorillas in the Mist by the Haas Brothers; Louise Bourgeois’s Eye Benches; and Mark Handforth’s Blackbird, a massive iconic wire hanger.

Foodwise, I love Mandolin Aegean Bistro (305.749.9140, mandolinmiami.com). It has an enchanting garden with extraordinary Mediterranean cuisine. Try the grilled octopus, Greek and Turkish samplers, and grilled halloumi cheese. Soon to open is Swan Miami, a collaboration between restaurateur Dave Grutman (Komodo, LIV, OTL, and Planta) and musician Pharrell Williams, serving “modern chic cuisine.” Expect it to be super-tasty—and crowded.

—By Ted Loos

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