Above: Looking across Biscayne Bay to downtown Miami.
Whether for food or fashion, art or architecture, there’s never been a better time to visit Florida’s Magic City, where the dazzle of Art Basel week suffuses a thriving cultural scene
By Andrew Sessa
Photographs by Blasius Erlinger
It is well after 11 p.m. on the night before the night before Art Basel Miami Beach officially begins, and the party is already buzzing. This particular fete, a somewhat unlikely collaboration between Sotheby’s, Ferrari, and Interview magazine, has been going on for three hours. And though the champagne has largely run out, Solange Knowles (sister of Beyoncé) is still spinning beats from the DJ booth, and rising R&B chanteuse Janelle Monáe has commandeered the stage, joining friends for an impromptu dance party.
The setting for all this rollicking fun? The fifth floor of a parking garage—but not just any parking garage. 1111 Lincoln Road is a marvel of contemporary architecture designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the Pritzker Prize–winning firm responsible for London’s Tate Modern and Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” Olympic stadium. Combining retail, residential, dining, and parking spaces, the wall-less structure, supported by trapezoidal concrete columns, is more sculpture than garage. And in Miami right now, that makes perfect sense. Because art and architecture—and fashion and design—aren’t just commerce here. They’re a way of life.
In its decade of existence, December’s annual Art Basel Miami Beach bacchanal—an offshoot of the eminent Swiss art fair, which also now owns a majority stake in Hong Kong’s Art HK—has become the western hemisphere’s most important contemporary art event. Today, Basel week is as much about who goes where and when and with whom as it is about who buys what from whom and for how much. And everyone who’s anyone—and every luxury brand worth its fleur de sel—has to be there.
Thus, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, together with the Kingdom of Morocco and the ultra-luxe carmaker Maybach, hosts a vastly oversubscribed dinner party at the beloved Art Deco hotel The Raleigh, during which the editor in chief of Artforum can be seen chatting over cocktails with billionaire Eli Broad, L.A.’s most influential art collector, not long before Paris and Nicky Hilton show up for a photo op. Thus, Louis Vuitton mounts a “beachside barbecue” at Soho Beach House, to celebrate something of which no one is quite sure, but Wendi (Mrs. Rupurt Murdoch) Deng and Dasha (the almost Mrs. Roman Abramovich) Zhukova are hosting, so everyone will talk about it for days. Thus, on any given night, the head spins at the number of celebrity-studded soirees. As Luis Rigual, the new chief editor of Miami magazine, puts it, “It’s not even possible to keep up with the invitations, much less attend all the events.”