T he arrival of Art Basel Miami Beach in 2002 put the city on the art world’s map. Locals, including the art patrons who have opened their collections to the public, would argue that it had much to offer even before then. Indeed, one of the reasons the Swiss fair chose Miami over cities such as Los Angeles was the presence of civic-minded patrons such as Mera and Don Rubell, Marty Margulies, Craig Robins and Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz, who were already showing their modern and contemporary collections to a wider public.
Today the cultural renaissance of this party city, nestled between the Florida Everglades and the Atlantic Ocean, is hard to ignore. In December 2013 the Pérez Art Museum Miami opened in Downtown Miami, with a new Herzog & de Meuron building near the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, with its striking Cesar Pelli-designed building. The Bass Museum in Miami Beach reopened in October 2017 with a $12m revamp of its 1930s home, already extended in 2001 by Arata Isozaki. It is now simply called The Bass to signal a greater emphasis on contemporary art.
In November 2017, entrepreneurs Ximena and Alan Faena, who are reviving a run-down area of mid-Miami Beach, opened the Faena Forum, a multidisciplinary arts centre designed by Rem Koolhaas’s OMA. Plus in December 2017, the Institute of Contemporary Art reopened in a building designed by Madrid- based firm Aranguren + Gallegos Arquitectos. It has been funded by collectors Irma and Norman Braman, and is built on land in the Design District donated by property developer and collector Craig Robins.
As well as art, there is much for visitors to enjoy beyond the pleasures of South Beach and the Art Deco Historic District. The redevelopment of Downtown continues, while Wynwood and the Design District are must-see areas. Cool new hotels and bars have sprung up and a local foodie movement has emerged in a city already known as an exciting meeting point for American, Latin and Caribbean cultures.
Miami’s Must-See Museums
Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)
PAMM is one of Miami’s leading publicly-funded art museums, focusing on 20th and 21st century art— international work as well as art from the American Latino population, the African diaspora, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Although founded with a collection of Old Master European paintings, textiles and sculpture donated in the 1960s by John and Johanna Bass, The Bass now focuses on international contemporary art. Arata Isozaki, architect of the museum’s first extension to its 1930s building (a former library) in 2001, has worked with architect David Gauld on the latest extension.
The Wolfsonian was founded by former diplomat and philanthropist Micky Wolfson. It has staged shows on everything from early 20th century kinetic sculptures to the aesthetics of the Trans-Siberian railroad, in an important Mediterranean Revival building.
One of the latest additions to the Miami art scene, the Faena Forum complex houses pop-up art exhibitions, performances and cultural events.
Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA)
After almost three years in a temporary space, the ICA reopened in December 2017 with its own folded-steel clad 37,500 sq ft building.
De la Cruz Collection
Another addition to the Design District, Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz - who have been collecting contemporary art for 30 years - opened their collection to the public in this large, airy and minimal museum in 2009.
Rubell Family Collection
Two of Miami’s most important contemporary art collectors, Mera and Don Rubell, are also responsible for the transformation of the Wynwood Arts District, where the Rubell Family Collection can be found. Their exhibitions - such as the influential 30 Americans, on the work of contemporary African Americans - frequently tour the US.
The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse
Collector Marty Margulies mixes a permanent display of works by John Chamberlain, Amar Kanwar, Willem de Kooning, Olafur Eliasson, Michael Heizer, Donald Judd, Jannis Kounellis, Richard Serra and Tony Smith, with exhibitions drawn from his contemporary collection at the Warehouse.
Norton Museum of Art
About an hour’s drive from Miami, the Norton is Southern Florida’s most important museum of art, with collections spanning the historic to the contemporary. While still open to the public, it has undergone a major extension and renovation by Foster + Partners and will fully reopen on February 9th, 2019.
Where to Eat
A wood-fired Asian-inspired restaurant by Chef Michael Lewis, an alumnus of the London edition of Japanese restaurant Zuma. This is a trendy place with a green ethos.
251 NW 25th St, Miami, FL 33127.
Alter is one of the hits of the emerging arts district of Wynwood (which is also home to the Rubell Family Collection). Chef Brad Kilgore, a James Beard 2017 Semifinalist, uses locally-sourced ingredients to create a super-stylish Floridian menu in a warehouse.
223 NW 23rd St, Miami, FL 33127.
El Mago de las Fritas
One of the best places in Miami to get a ‘frita’ - a Cuban burger which devotees claim has more character than its American counterpart. The original owner, ‘the Magician’, is still at the head of this family-run business.
5828 SW 8th St, West Miami, FL 33144.
Where to Drink
A favourite with locals on Miami’s vibrant Upper Eastside, this 80s-inspired retro bar is a staple when it comes to exotic cocktails and vintage music.
709 NE 79th St, Miami, FL 33138.
Mac’s Club Deuce
Mac’s Club Deuce is Miami’s oldest bar. It’s a South Beach institution where the cast and crew of Miami Vice hung out, and still attracts a large, loyal and local
222 14th Street, Miami Beach, FL 33139.
Where to Sleep
The Standard Spa Miami Beach
Away from the bustling waterfront of South Beach, the Standard Spa is located on Belle Isle. Famous for its spa facilities, it boasts a large swimming pool, hydrotherapy and mud treatments that guarantee a youthful, party crowd.
40 Island Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139.
Mandarin Oriental, Miami
In a prime location on Brickell Key, the Mandarin Oriental has great views of South Beach and the city centre’s skyline. It has an infinity pool, a large spa, access to its own beach and a well-regarded, high-end Peruvian-inspired restaurant.
500 Brickell Key Drive, Miami, FL 33131.
The little sister of the lavish Faena Miami Beach (which has interiors by film director Baz Luhrmann), the Casa Faena is a Spanish-style inn built in 1928. With two bars, just 50 rooms and a lot of art, this is a relaxed and cheery place to stay.
3500 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33140.
Miami is generally not a foot-friendly city, and despite the existence of bicycle schemes (Miami Beach Decobike and Citibike) this is only an option for the more proficient cyclist. Bus services are patchy and payment complicated unless you buy an Easy Card. Make your life easy: local taxis, Uber or Lyft are really the only viable option.
Sotheby's connects with three of Miami's leading culture experts to discuss their favorite destinations and insider tips for the contemporary art hub. For more on Miami, see the Museum Network's Miami City Guide.
Miami: the Insiders' Guide
Franklin Sirmans, Director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami
"I go to the Adrienne Arsht Center, our major performing arts centre, a lot. It’s just walking distance from the Pérez Art Museum Miami. I particularly look forward to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater residencies. The company comes regularly because the Artistic Director, Robert Battle, is from Miami. The Bass has recently reopened with a new extension, so that’s a must-see, and the ICA Miami has just opened its permanent space in the Design District. The Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami has been putting on some great shows recently: it is a way of keeping in touch with the pulse of what’s happening on the ground here.
It is also worth checking out local galleries like Nina Johnson and Spinello Projects. Anthony Spinello is a huge advocate for artists who are living and working in Miami. But it’s so gorgeous here in Miami in the autumn and winter, that it’s also a great time to be outdoors. The ideal is to hire a boat and go out on the water. If you can’t do that, we just revamped our restaurant at PAMM, it has an outdoor terrace with magnificent views of Biscayne Bay! The main thing is – don’t just stay around South Beach."