The ‘MIAMIZATION’ of the Art World as Art Basel week turned 20 this year in the magic city


Time flies…a blink of the eyes and OMG, two decades of Basel Madness have passed in the Magic City of Miami. The 2022 edition marked the twentieth year of Art Basel in Miami Beach.


Courtesy of Art Basel
Courtesy of Art Basel

At the very first year’s press conference for Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB) in 2002, the Miami Beach Mayor said to the Mayor of Basel, Switzerland, this is a match made in heaven. Miami is a Latin dominated city which is never on time and a bit disorganized but knows how to throw one helluva party. While Basel and the Swiss on the other hand, are always on time, totally organized, but a bit boring! Well, 20 years into this shindig, and the two cities are still happily ‘married’.  Miami has transformed from a city best known for bikini clad beach babes and nightclub galivanting, to a major contemporary art capital of the world.

Art Basel was the catalyst from Basel, Switzerland that made Miami its sister city.  The Basel fair was founded in 1970 and Miami launched in 2002. Along the way, a Hong Kong edition in March was added in 2013 and this year a Paris version in October 2022, rounding out the entire year’s calendar of Basel fairs. Additionally, Design Miami joined forces with Art Basel and runs simultaneously at adjacent sites.


Meridians Courtesy of Art Basel 2
Meridians Courtesy of Art Basel

Art Basel Miami Beach 2022 was its biggest ever with 282 premier galleries from 38 countries with 76,000 attendees. The most buzzworthy art piece this year was the ATM Machine Leaderboard created by MSCHF in collaboration with Gallerie Perrotin. This year’s attention-getting ATM puts the cash balance of those that use it on display with their photo. It sold for $75,000. “ATM Leaderboard is an extremely literal distillation of wealth-flaunting impulses,” shared MSCHF co-founder, Daniel Greenberg.  DJ Diplo tried it out and was #1 on the leaderboard at $3 million on Friday of the fair but was later toppled from the top.

Design Miami memorable pieces included “Como Stai?,” a new chair by Gaetano Pesce and a Harvey Nuriev Curio couch created with stuffed garbage bags. Ukrainian artists had a voice at this year’s Art Week as well as African American-centric artworks.  Noteworthy celebs passing through the aisles this year included Venus Williams, Pharrell Williams, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sylvester Stallone and renowned homemaker, Martha Stewart. 

Design Miami Come Stai A Chair by Gaetano Pesce with Matthieu Blazy for Bottega Veneta at Design Miami 2022. Photo credit James Harris.1
Design Miami Come Stai_ A Chair by Gaetano Pesce with Matthieu Blazy for Bottega Veneta at Design Miami 2022. Photo credit – James Harris


What happened in Miami with the arrival of Art Basel was much bigger than anyone expected. As the Mayor had predicted, Miami took Basel by storm and embraced it with its all its ‘joie de vivra’ or more appropriately ‘la vida loca’. An explosion of art, parties, and brand activations across almost all industries took place. And the art movement took over both the city of Miami Beach which is where the actual Art Basel art fair is held at the Miami Beach Convention Center and the city of Miami across the causeway where the Wynwood Art District was birthed.

Penfolds Party DJ @ The Temple House
Penfolds Party DJ @ The Temple House

Every nook and cranny in both cities from public to private spaces became backdrops for art. In South Beach art installations blossomed from the sand and sea while satellite fairs mounted big tents on the beach to house their art wares. One-year art flowers were growing out of the sand, another year a mega-sand sculpture of an oversized bikini clad babe surfaced, and floating art appeared in the nearby ocean several times. And even an art parade or two took place along the beach over the years.

Sand Sculpture babe cropped 2008
Sand Sculpture babe cropped 2008

The Miami hospitality industry embraced the December art migration with all its glory.  The Faena Hotel with its original Faena Art District in Buenos Aires made a duplicate copy in Miami Beach. The Faena Miami Beach became art central station with monumental art installations curated annually on the sand for Basel Week. Alan Faena himself hosts a variety of parties.

Additionally, the art-infused W Hotel South Beach, owner Aby Rosen hosts an annual hot invite only dinner party for a well curated list of the rich and famous who can all enjoy his personally curated art collection on the hotel walls. A bit further north, Soho Beach Houseis always a buzz of Basel madness with parties galore and the White Cube hospitality tent on their beach. And in between, just about every hotel has a happening including the annual art brunch at the Sagamore.



The beachfront art fairs on the sands of South Beach include Untitled, a more refined fair and Scope a more outrageous and experimental rendition.  Both fairs have outside chill areas facing the Atlantic Ocean. Scope also added some outdoor oversized colorful art installations this year and offered morning healing and meditation sessions. Both fairs included live musical performances and art talks.

Scope entrance 2022
Scope entrance 2022

Scope lobby art 1
Scope lobby art

Luxury brands have gotten in on the act building their own VIP outposts on the beach including Le Prairie and Yves Saint Laurent to American Express and more. Madonna even made an appearance for YSL. This year the ever-popular Turkish hotspot hotel brand, Macakizi from Bodrum made their first successful appearance with a mega tent.

Macakizi Med Miami entrance
Macakizi Med Miami entrance

Tequila took the top spot over bubbles this year for the libation of choice. Many sponsors offered up freebies of their tequila varietal including Art Basel sponsor Casa Dragones. They hosted a daily Happy Hour in the Art Basel VIP Lounge.

So even though the official Art Basel art fair (ABMB) takes center stage, what people refer to as “Art Basel” has really morphed into “Miami Art Week”. Many making the pilgrimage to Miami this first week of December each year, never even step foot into the actual art fair at the Miami Beach Convention Center.


Context entrance 1
Context entrance 1 KHaydenArtMiami2019


For those brave enough to travel across the causeway, other great satellite fairs awaited.  Art Miami, the longest running fair (22 years) along with Context, sit in big tents adjacent to Biscayne Bay. A few celeb and VIP sightings this year at Art Miami included Jon Bon Jovi, Donna Karan and Carl Icahn among many more. NADA Art fair has been held in the Miami Ice Palace Studios for the past several years while Red Dot and Spectrum set up shop in Wynwood. There are private art collections to see like Marguiles Warehouse in Wynwood and Rubell Museum and Perez’ El Espacio 23 which opened further west in Allapattah while de la Cruz’sare in their Key Biscayne home. ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) is a top spot to tackle in the Design District.


Making Miami an art capital of the world did not happen overnight and without a team of local and global supporters and believers.  It started with the Swiss gentleman, Lorenzo Rudolf who was the Director of Art Basel and the visionary who had the idea to expand the fair to Miami. Norman Braman, billionaire owner of Braman Motors in Miami was a big advocate for the Basel fair coming to Miami and later served as its chairman for many years. Tony Goldman who started the Wynwood Walls movement was  a big promoter for Art Basel. Major Miami Art collectors opened their homes to VIP visitors and some even opened museums to showcase their art collections.  Art Museums got in on the act and some new museums got built like PAMM (Perez Art Museum Miami).  Miami Mayors have been Art Basel advocates.  Celebrities have contributed to making Art Basel the talk of the town. UBS has held the top sponsor spot since Art Basel Miami Beach’s inception.  The list of helpers is endless. The Art Basel story seems to be flourishing and will continue with many more chapters, characters and countries to come.


The future looks bright for the art world and Miami.  This year marked the changing of the Art Basel guard with a new American leader, Noah Horowitz and a new parent ownership partner, James Murdoch. The fair brings in an estimated $500 million to the Miami region each year.


excellence magazine miami grattacielo energia solare

Miami Beach’s rendition of Art Basel turned an art fair into a global extravaganza. Art Basel Miami Beach became Miami’s cultural calling card to the world. It transformed the Miami brand making it the best of all lifestyle choices for sun, fun, food, fashion, nightlife, architecture, design and art!

Meanwhile, Miami has helped teach the Swiss Basel how to throw more than just an art fair, but how to be the toast of the town. “The art of the party” has moved from Miami to Art Basel Hong Kong and Paris as well as back home to its original city of Basel.

Along the way, Miami has become one the most desired city brands in the world.  And other cities want to emulate the Magic City. Let the Miamization of civilization continue to rock the art and party world for decades to come.

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