By: Fred Bernstein
For 4 days each December, Art Basel Miami Beach and its sister show, Design Miami, lure thousands of the world's top gallerists, design firms, and wealthy collectors to South Florida. In 5 short years, the shows have vaulted the city into the upper echelon of art destinations. But Miami's art and design attractions don't disappear when the private jets take off, and the city's homegrown scenes, bolstered by Basel, have taken root in two neighborhoods, Wynwood and the Design District, both just a short drive west of Miami Beach. The former was a neighborhood even most Miamians hadn't heard of a few years ago. But in rapid succession artists, designers, gallery spaces, and museums began moving into warehouses there, and it's now drawing comparisons to New York's Chelsea. A few blocks away, the aptly named Design District has similarly sprouted shops and showrooms with collections of furniture, housewares, and objets d'art by creators global and local.
Behind the stucco facades you'll find modern art treasures and today's cutting edge.
In other cities, art and design usually occupy distinctly different worlds (and neighborhoods). Miamians don't make the same distinctions – some of the city's top artists work out of Design District lofts, and some of the best art galleries are connected to design-based enterprises. As such, a great place to start your tour of Wynwood is The Lab Projects (120 NW 25th St.; 786/472-9195; www.thelabprojects.com), an art gallery housed in the office of a leading Hispanic advertising and promotions agency, which presents work at once conceptual and sociological, like Grimanesa Amorós's glassy domes illuminated by images of Machu Picchu or geometric farm landscapes.
The real sea change in Wynwood took hold when Mera and Donald Rubell, the city's most daring collectors, turned a bunker-like building (once owned by the DEA) into the Rubell Family Collection (95 NW 29th St.; 305/573-6090; $5; www.rubellfamilycollection.com). The museum is filled with stellar pieces from the 1960s (when the Rubells began collecting on a shoestring) to today. See works by Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman's enigmatic self-portraits, or browse the Phaidon bookstore, with art and design tomes from the famed publisher, and the Cerealart kiosk, with its affordable, mostly limited-edition art and home products designed by top artists (Marcel Dzama salt-and-pepper shakers, $50).
Walking distance from the Rubell are two outposts of conceptual art. Paris-based Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin (194 NW 30th St.; 305/573-2130; www.galerieperrotin.com), home to Takashi Murakami, Sophie Calle, and design collective Gelitin, hosts Aya Takano's melancholy, anime-inspired paintings through July 4. Around the corner, the Luis Adelantado Gallery of Valencia, Spain (98 NW 29th St.; 305/438-0069; www.luisadelantadomiami.com) sometimes hosts group shows, but ask to see Anthony Goicolea's haunting photos.
Six blocks away is the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse (591 NW 27th St.; 305/576-1051; www.margulieswarehouse.com), a remarkable (and free) contemporary museum established by developer Martin Z. Margulies. Photography is the specialty here, with a comprehensive array of images from Bauhaus photo-experiments to Farm Security Administration archival prints.
MOCA at the Goldman Warehouse (404 NW 26th St.; 305/573-5441; www.mocanomi.org), an offshoot of North Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art, hosts a show featuring Cologne, Germany artists including Martin Kippenberger and Rosemarie Trockel through the summer. The nearby Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (1018 N Miami Ave.; 305/455-3380; www.cifo.org), or CIFO, focuses on Latin American art and cross-cultural exchange. Check out CIFO's bamboo forest-tiled exterior, designed by architect René González.
It's another short drive to the Bakehouse Art Complex (561 NW 32nd St.; 305/576-2828; www.bakehouseartcomplex.org), a 1930s bakery building that now provides studio space for 70 up-and-coming artists and mounts shows of their work. "Sculptural Objects At the BAC" (June-July), features work from the complex's sculptors, jewelry artisans, ceramicists, and mixed-media artists. You may even get a bargain by an art star of tomorrow.
Visit www.wynwoodartdistrict.com for dozens more galleries and design boutiques, plus local art events. Art Basel happens every December; for more information visit www.artbasel.com.
In an area just north of Wynwood, stylish and forward-thinking home shops flourish.
It's only a mile or so to the Design District, about 10 square blocks packed with stores showcasing the latest in furniture and decorative objects. Holly Hunt (3833 NE 2nd Ave.; 305/571-2012; www.hollyhunt.com), based in Chicago, is a veritable museum of high-end furniture, featuring big names like Christian Liaigre and John Hutton. For local talent, one of the best design shops is NiBa Home (39 NE 39th St.; 305/573-1939; www.nibahome.com). NiBa's owners champion Miami designers like Doug and Gene Meyer, known for bold geometric rugs, and Luis Pons, who wittily reinterprets furniture (one chest of drawers is made not with decorative moldings, but of them). The Meyer rugs run around $75/square-foot, and Pons's pieces start around $10,000, but more modest items like brilliant lacquer boxes dotted with mother-of-pearl inlay sell for as little as $135.
Next door to NiBa is Genius Jones (49 NE 39th St.; 305/571-2000; www.geniusjones.com), filled with unique design items for kids. A molded plastic Keith Haring chair by French designers Vilac is just $99; and a wooden Alexander Calder 3-D elephant is $60. If you're really splurging, check out the child-sized rendition of Mies van der Rohe's iconic Barcelona chair at a cool $3,900.
Down the block, Rosa de la Cruz, one of the city's top collectors of conceptual art, has established the Moore Space (4040 NE 2nd Ave.; 305/438-1163; themoorespace.org), a gallery where rotating exhibits feature international contemporary art in various forms.
Design Miami happens every December; for more information visit www.designmiami.com.
Boutique Hotels in Wynwood and Design District
These four hotels have memorable aesthetics and will provide a perfect home base for a tour of Wynwood's galleries and museums and the Design District's home boutiques.
Regent South Beach: The 500-square-foot suites here are made better still by truly huge balconies, Roman hot tubs, and a prime Ocean Drive location. Suites from $489/night; www.theregentsouthbeach.com.
Hotel Victor: Redesigned by Jacques Garcia, with its trademark jellyfish tank in the lobby, the Victor combines 1930s opulence with pure sophistication. Rooms from $375/night; www.hotelvictorsouthbeach.com.
The Tides: Redesigned in Hollywood Regency style by Bravo's Top Design judge Kelly Wearstler, the luxurious Tides offers true Miami flair. Rooms from $345/night; www.tidessouthbeach.com.
The Standard: Beyond the Atomic Age facade lies a newly redesigned, calming, yoga-centric atmosphere. The waterfront property isn't far from Wynwood. Rooms from $225/night; www.standardhotel.com.