The ultimate guide to Miami's coolest art galleries, museums, and experiences.
Miami is more than just beautiful beaches and beautiful people. Behind its glittery façade is a world-class art hub with ever-evolving contemporary and street art scenes. From the colorful murals of Wynwood to the internationally acclaimed Art Basel fair and many museums to choose from, here’s how to dive into the Magic City’s vibrant art scene.
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Wynwood Arts District
The now-trendy Wynwood Arts District was once an unremarkable neighborhood with textile warehouses and a few hidden storage facilities for serious art collections. Through visionary development, and what some may call gentrification, the area transformed into an international destination for edgy street art and galleries in the mid-2000s. Check out the Wynwood Walls, an outdoor museum dedicated to street art; it mirrors the murals that pop up organically throughout the district but comes with curatorial oversight. The unplanned or unsanctioned murals disappear as quickly as they appear. Other must-sees include The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, a family collection of vintage and contemporary photography, videos, and installation art, and The Bakehouse Art Complex, with open studios for the public to catch artists at work.
Art Deco and MiMo Architecture
In Miami, even the buildings are art. The unmistakable Art Deco structures that line Ocean Drive and Collins Ave, with their pastels, tropical friezes, and geometric shapes, are time capsules of the boom in building that put South Beach on the map in the ’30s and ’40s. Check out the Wolfsonian-FIU art museum, located inside a 1927 Mediterranean revival jewel, then head north on Collins Avenue to North Beach, where you’ll see another iconic architecture style–Miami Modern (MiMo). Born in the post-war ’50s, the futuristic style features asymmetrical shapes and eccentric additions, including catwalks, cheese hole accent walls, and cement canopies. Later in the heyday of the ’80s, neon lights changed the landscape forever. You can follow the timeline of these storied structures by car or by foot on a guided tour with the Miami Design Preservation League.
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
The European-style manse is an urban oasis, where endangered native forests and formal gardens meet at the edge of Biscayne Bay. Built about 100 years ago, Vizcaya has survived Miami’s extreme subtropical climate and subsequent hurricanes, its economic troubles, and its redevelopment craze. The former winter home of industrialist James Deering is filled with mostly original furnishings and decorative art spanning the Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo periods, but there are also special exhibitions. Installations range from long-term engagements to one-night-only performances by solo artists and groups. As you amble through the 10 acres of gardens, keep an eye out for the orchids that Deering loved so dearly—there are more than 2,000 scattered across the greenhouse, orchidarium, and the courtyard.
Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)
The Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)’s stunning building is relatively new to the downtown skyline, but the museum has deep roots in Miami. Founded in 1984 as the Center for Fine Arts, it became the Miami Art Museum 10 years later. It was one of the first collecting museums in South Florida and focuses on international art of the 20th and 21st centuries; it’s celebrated for sparking much of city’s electric arts environment. Overlooking Biscayne Bay, the museum’s indoor-outdoor venue with hanging gardens, trusses, and steel frames, is almost as exciting as the art inside.
The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum
In 2008, Florida International University’s art museum moved from a small space in an office building to a 46,000-square-foot building by the chief of design for I.M. Pei on the Grand Louvre Project in Paris. The Frost’s permanent collection grew over the course of a few decades, as did the university itself, and it now boasts thousands of objects ranging from pre-Colombian era artifacts and American printmaking from the ‘70s to contemporary works in a free-to-the-public museum. Exhibitions typically investigate poignant and provocative themes through the eyes of diverse international artists. Note that this experience is off the beaten path in West Miami.
AIRIE Nest Gallery at Everglades National Park’s Visitor Center
Artists in Residence in Everglades (AIRIE) Nest Gallery is a contemporary art gallery in the heart of North America’s only subtropical wilderness. Since 2001, it has hosted more than 100 artists, writers, choreographers and musicians who spend a month in a live-work space in the Pine Island section of the 1.5 million-acre park, communing with its wildlife and creating original works for display in the gallery. Unconventional programming like immersive dance, musical performances, and bicycle theater excursions take place throughout the year with multidisciplinary artists who are eager to express the importance of conservation. It’s worth the drive to nearby Homestead.
Little Haiti and Little River Galleries
Several top-notch galleries—Emerson-Dorsch, Nina Johnson, Mindy Solomon Gallery, Pan American Art Projects—have moved from Wynwood to the neighborhoods of Little Haiti and Little River, so it’s no wonder the up-and-coming areas are being referred to as the “new Wynwood.” The area continues to expand, especially in Allapattah. There’s a slightly stronger commitment to preserving cultural integrity here through the support of the Little Haiti Cultural Complex and other hyper-local initiatives. Visit Laundromat Art Space, an artist collective with working studios and exhibitions influenced by the surrounding neighborhood, and stop by Yo Space to experience what the founder calls “Miami’s creative ecosystem.”
Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (MOCANOMI)
This intimate museum prides itself on serving diverse audiences with provocative contemporary art, having amassed more than 400 works by names like Edward Ruscha and George Segal since it became one of South Florida’s first collecting museums in 1995. MOCA’s stark gallery spaces are ideal for exhibitions that require time and space to fully understand. Stop by for Jazz at MOCA on the last Friday night of each month, which features local jazz musicians performing in the museum’s backyard (rain or shine) for free. During this event, the galleries are open by donation from 7-10 p.m. The surrounding neighborhood has worthwhile antique shops and vintage stores if time permits.
The Design District is a haven for ultra-high-end fashion houses and boutiques. If you can make it past Louis Vuitton, Hermes, and Saint Laurent, you’ll find several notable galleries. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA) is the latest addition to the city’s museums; many pieces in its permanent collection and its major funders were once part of MOCA. You’ll find innovative and experimental contemporary art by trailblazing artists on exhibition with equally interesting programming to engage the community. The de la Cruz Collection opened in 2009 as a 30,000-square-foot home to a family’s captivating collection of works by established and local artists. Entry is always free to the ICA and de la Cruz. Noteworthy galleries and exhibition spaces include Markowicz Fine Art, Locust Projects, Primary, and Swampspace. A couple of blocks above the glitzy district is Buena Vista, a historic residential neighborhood brimming with charm and architectural relics from the ‘20s. Take a stroll to spot Craftsman, Mission, Mediterranean Revival, and Art Deco styles.
The Bass Museum of Art
The Bass Museum of Art is housed in an Art Deco gem from the ’30s that in 1964 became the first public exhibition space for art in Miami Beach. The museum, recently renovated and expanded in 2017, spotlights contemporary art’s relationship to culture, design, fashion, and architecture through groundbreaking programming. You may find whimsical contemporary pieces presented alongside historical works from the Renaissance from The Bass’ permanent collection.
The most prestigious art show in the United States and the event around which the Miami Beach art (and social) calendars revolve is Art Basel, a not-to-be-missed art fair that takes place each December. More than 250 galleries from around the world showcase modern and contemporary works ranging from paintings and sculptures to installations and films, and along with the pricey art come a host of swanky parties. Purchase tickets and book accommodations well in advance if you want to join in people-watching the who’s who of the art world.