Celebrate Miami Art Basel the Thrifty Way at These Free Parties and Pop-Ups

Beyond the fancy art, Miami Art Week will bring a sand maze made by AI and other mind-blowing works to the 305.

Art Angels Gallery Christopher "Flore" Florentino
Christopher "Flore" Florentino | Photo courtesy of Art Angels Gallery
Christopher "Flore" Florentino | Photo courtesy of Art Angels Gallery

When pop-up art galleries, celebrity-filled parties, live paintings, and more out-of-this-world art lands in Miami, it must be time for Art Basel.

Starting December 5, there will be more fancy art in the 305 than there is anywhere else in the world as Art Basel returns to Miami for the 21st year. Miami will be buzzing with activities pertaining to the art world (some will be completely obvious, while others are basically just an excuse to party). It’s one of the busiest weeks of the year, helmed by the prestigious Art Basel show, that over the years has drawn in more fairs, more parties, and much more traffic, all together known as Miami Art Week.

The Art Basel Miami Beach show takes place at the Miami Beach Convention Center, but the massive annual art fair isn’t the only place you can experience the action. Other notable art fairs to check out during Miami Art Week include SCOPE Miami Beach, CONTEXT Art Miami, Design Miami, Untitled Art Miami Beach, and Art Miami.

If you’re looking for something to do that’s a little more intimate than one of the sprawling art fairs, you won’t have to look far. Here’s a list of free events that are open to the public during the course of this year’s Miami Art Week.

'The Chronicles of Miami' | Photo courtesy of Superblue

Art Events During Miami Art Week and Art Basel

Art Angels Gallery Pop-Up at Mandarin Oriental

Mandarin Oriental Miami; Free
Mandarin Oriental Miami is partnering with Los Angeles-based Art Angels Gallery for Art Week and will be spotlighting new school artist Christopher "Flore" Florentino. The hotel itself will transform into a gallery with an exhibition of his vibrant paintings. Entitled “Best In Show”, they merge street art influences with fine art technique and will include pieces created exclusively for the hotel and La Mar by Gastón Acurio, with several available to purchase. Of course, those who prefer to eat their art can enjoy a menu of special dishes at La Mar and cocktails at MO Bar + Lounge inspired by Flore's works. Reservations available via SevenRooms.

'The Power of Purpose' at Wynwood Walls

Wynwood Walls; Free
What many Miamians consider the center of the city’s artsy atmosphere, Wynwood Walls is a must visit during Miami Art Week. To kick off this celebration of art, Wynwood Walls will reveal a reclaimed subway car as a permanent installation at the museum. This 48.5-foot by 9.5-foot immersive “art piece” will find its new home in the 305 after completing a 1,000 mile journey from West Virginia. Exclusive artist events will also take place throughout the week, including sculpture unveilings by Dan Lam and Ron English, a solo exhibition inside the GGA Annex Gallery by international artist Kai, and the launch of Street Sessions, a 30-minute "Watch & Learn" session with artists as they paint new murals inside the Walls. In the main Goldman Global Arts Gallery, guests will find canvas work of the more than 100 artists that have graced the Wynwood Walls over the years and exclusive artist product collections in the Wynwood Walls Shop.

'Infinite Growth' at The Set

Friday, December 8–Saturday, December 9
The Set; Free
Jägermeister will be repurposed into stunning works of art during Miami Art Week. No, we’re not talking about when you thought it was cool to line the tops of your kitchen cabinets with empty liquor bottles back in college. This exhibit at The Set takes it to a whole new level as Jägermeister has teamed with Brazilian artist and designer Gustavo Barroso. On December 8 and 9, visitors can explore new works by Barroso executed using Jägermeister’s signature green glass as well as an interactive machine installation. Called “Infinite Growth,” viewers can explore the myriad ways glass can be repurposed through Barroso's innovative pâte de verre (French, “glass paste”) techniques. Think: sculptures and chairs all crafted from Jägermeister’s green glass bottles result in shades of green that permeate the gallery.

'Illustrating Bal Harbour' at Bal Harbour Shops

Bal Harbour Shops; Free
Make your way to Bal Harbour Shops to check out art on all three floors of the outdoor mall. Newly opened, the exhibition entitled “Illustrating Bal Harbour” features four contest-winning drawings, while other images selected from Bal Harbour Shops collection and Whitman Family Archive will span two floors. On the second floor, illustrations created between 1980 and the present include Jenny Kroik’s Chanel “alligator,” Reyna Noriega’s colorful, patterned portraits and landscapes, and Ruben Toledo’s mystical fairy atop the destination’s renowned koi pond. On the third floor, witty advertisements that originated in the 1970s are displayed, some made using traditional copper plates and printed, with others embodying descriptions of the playful charm that underpins Bal Harbour Shops.

'The Art of Hip Hop' at The Museum of Graffiti

The Museum of Graffiti; Free, but act fast
Just in time for a Miami Art Week debut, The Museum of Graffiti, presents the Art of Hip Hop, an immersive exhibition that spotlights the visual unsung heroes of hip-hop culture like photographers, album cover artists, graffiti visionaries, and logo designers. The exhibit offers a unique exploration of hip-hop history and Miami's cultural contributions that nicely coincide with the 50th anniversary of the genre. The inaugural exhibition, entitled From the Bronx to the Beach, will showcase rare vintage ephemera from hip-hop’s first NYC DJ Kool Herc to Miami’s own pioneer Uncle Luke. Check out the website for a full slate of (mostly) free events. If you're one of the first 250 people to snag a ticket to visit the exhibit on your own, CIROC will cover the tab.

Exhibits at Superblue

Superblue; Prices vary
Two new works of art at Superblue are must-sees for Miami Art Week. Scaling Superblue’s exterior and visible from afar, The Chronicles of Miami projects recognizable faces of mayors and celebrities alongside the city’s locals to define the city at this moment in time. To create the work, JR’s mobile studio traveled through historic Miami neighborhoods like Wynwood, Little Haiti, the Design District, Downtown, Liberty City, and Coconut Grove, asking people to have their portrait taken either individually or as part of a group, choosing how they posed and represented themselves. Following their portrait, each participant stepped into a recording booth where they could share a thought, story, or experience. Each participant’s voice is connected to their portrait through the free augmented reality app JR:murals. Also debuting at Superblue this month, JR’s The Machine Behind the Art: Inside JR’s Printing Press invites visitors to walk through a portal-like door embedded into The Chronicles of Miami mural on the building’s façade and take a portrait in one of four individual photo booths. Then visitors enter the interior of an oversized, whirring printing press where their portraits escape from the rollers and float to the ground. The Chronicles of Miami is free and open to the public, while The Machine Behind the Art: Inside JR’s Printing Press is $25 per person.

Bleacher Report’s ‘The Residency’

Friday, December 8–Saturday, December 9
The Lab; Free
This Miami Art Week, Bleacher Report will debut The Residency, a year-long creative collective at the nexus of sports, art, fashion, and culture, all in partnership with the NBA. This captivating gallery experience will take place at The Lab and is open to the public on Friday, December 8 and Saturday, December 9. Celebrating an eclectic mix of artists while paying homage to five NBA teams, the inaugural event will highlight: Esther Wallace with the Boston Celtics, Bryan "Blue the Great" Blue with the Dallas Mavericks, D'ana "COVL" Nuñez with the Miami Heat, Mark "MADSTEEZ" Paul Deren with the Phoenix Suns, and Demitrius Omphroy with the Toronto Raptors.

‘The Naked Project’ at Rosa Sky Rooftop

Wednesday, December 6; 7 pm
Rosa Sky Rooftop; Tickets start at $1
Rosa Sky Rooftop will join forces with The Naked Project to deliver an unforgettable evening dedicated to authenticity, art, and women's empowerment. The Naked Project, led by photographer John Claude Tohme, stands at the forefront of challenging conventional beauty standards and inspiring women to embrace their natural beauty with confidence. Through his lens, John Claude has exquisitely captured the essence of 100 women in Miami, both with and without makeup. All profits generated during the evening will be dedicated to supporting the Lotus House. Tickets for the event, ranging from almost free at just $1 to $500, are available via Eventbrite.

MAZE: Journey Through the Algorithmic Self at Faena

Tuesday, December 5–Sunday, December 10
Faena; Free
Faena is known for providing over-the-top and interesting experiences, so it’s no surprise that for Art Basel this year, Faena is the site of a huge sand maze designed by artist Sebastian Errazuriz. Made using popular AI platforms Midjourney and DALLE2, the sand-covered labyrinth titled MAZE: Journey Through the Algorithmic Self lets guests explore intricate pathways, eventually converging at a reflective monolith at the center. This monolith will serve as both an art piece and a gathering spot for performances and community interaction throughout Miami Art Week. Concurrently, Errazuriz will release a new book titled AI MAZE, accessible via QR codes within the maze. The public art installation and book will be accompanied by a series of panel talks on AI and its transformative role for the creative industries.

Marion | Photo courtesy of Mr. Hospitality

Food and Drink Events During Miami Art Week and Art Basel

Atwater Cocktail Club Pop-Up at Sweet Liberty Drinks and Supply Co.

Wednesday, December 6
Sweet Liberty; Free to attend, drink prices vary
Two of North America’s most iconic bars (both recently recognized among North America's 50 Best Bars of 2023), Miami’s Sweet Liberty and Montreal's Atwater Cocktail Club will join forces for a one-night-only pop-up at Sweet Liberty on Wednesday, December 6. As all great bar takeovers should, they will feature specially curated selection of cocktails blending the unique styles of both establishments in addition to live art exhibitions by Roberto Porres, co-founder of Atwater Cocktail Club, who also happens to be a talented artist and will create a series of one-of-a-kind artworks available for purchase during the event.

Supperclub at Marion Miami

Thursday, December 7–Saturday, December 9
Marion; Free to attend, food and drink prices vary
For those seeking a unique dining escapade during Miami Art Week, head to Mr. Hospitality’s Marion for an immersive art and entertainment experience from December 7 to 9. Renowned lifestyle artist, Franck Brill is teaming up with fellow artist Manuel Angarita to create imaginative works of art in real-time as guests indulge in Marion’s indulgent Asian-inspired cuisine. Additionally, on Friday, December 8, visual artist Mark Rios aka “Mr. Drippings” will debut a special live art exhibit by painting a surprise celebrity guest with an art performance to commence after midnight. During the live art spectacles, guests can anticipate an escalation of excitement and energy as the lights dim, the music turns up, and the ambiance transforms into a lively party scene. To book reservations call (786) 717-7512 or visit the website.

Other Parties and Pop-Ups During Miami Art Week and Art Basel

Hastens Sleep Spa Basel Breaks

Hastens Design District; Free
If all this partying has you ready for a solid nap, let the fanciest mattress store on the planet help you out. Throughout Art Basel week, Hastens is opening up Hastens Sleep Spa Basel Breaks where guests can book a private sleep session or meditation in their top-of-the-line beds, including the $600,000 Grand Vividus bed. Refreshments, champagne, sleep masks, clean sheets, aroma therapy, mood lighting, and spa music will be included in the Sleep Spa experience. Appointments are recommended, but walk-ins available with Design Miami VIP card.

HIVE Wynwood

Thursday, December 7–Sunday, December 10
Wynwood Marketplace; Free
Celebrate Miami Art Week at Wynwood Marketplace, where HIVE Wynwood is transforming the venue into a massive pop-up haven perfect for an all-day party. Throughout the village, guests can enjoy an array of dishes by talented chefs, music with live performances and DJ sets, and immersive art experiences by renowned artists and creatives.

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Amber Love Bond is a contributor for Thrillist.