Miami Beach is better known for interminable kitsch than cutting-edge art, so it seemed odd when the organizers of Switzerland's annual sophisticates' jamboree, Art Basel, chose Miami for its first American sortie in 2001. Despite widespread initial cynicism, by last year the fair was pulling in 70,000 collectors and there were more than 250 galleries across the main fair. Art world figures from as far afield as New York, Berlin and Tokyo had quickly discovered the joys of schmoozing over cocktails on the sand and alfresco power dining, not to mention a pre-work swim. Now dealers could go home boasting a profit and a tan.
This being Miami, showbiz culture and celebrities are also part of the equation. Spotting stars buying up art, and then spotting them again at exclusive galas, is all part of the fun. The South Beach clubs get in on the act by hosting art parties, and even restaurants offer Art Basel specials. And then there's the art itself. Lots of it, from installations set up in cargo containers along the beach to all the satellite fairs that have sprouted in the Wynwood Arts District. These side shows—such as Pulse in a tent in Wynwood, and Design Miami/ in the Design District—now garner almost as much attention as the main event.
The 2013 event was the most successful yet; buoyed by momentum, Art Basel returns in 2014 for a four-day festival lasting from December 4 to 7. As in previous years, hundreds of venues will host shows, with the Miami Beach Convention Center serving as a hub of sorts. Full details of the line-up and ticket prices will be announced in fall—keep an eye on the official website.