My 6 Days in Miami

Sorted out your schedule for Art Basel week? Insider Craig Robins shares his daily diary for contemporary art and design’s big event.

A decade ago, if you visited Miami in the weeks right after Thanksgiving, you could expect a mix of retirees, fashion models, and bargain vacationers taking advantage of the pre–high season rates. But, as you might’ve heard, things have changed here, especially since the Art Basel contemporary art fair started coming to town in 2002, turning Miami into the early December destination for collectors, curators, and scene-seekers. Now there are no fewer than nine concurrent fairs, as well as exhibitions, performances, and talks—not to mention the breathless succession of brunches, dinners, and cocktail parties. Crammed into just six days, it’s an endurance race. Developer and art collector Craig Robins, a central figure in the rebirth of South Beach and, more recently, the Design District, shares his personal date book for the week. A key supporter of Art Basel, Robins also launched Design Miami, the timely show that was a big hit in its debut last year. (The cofounder and director is Ambra Medda, who happens to be his girlfriend.) "With everything that goes on, this is the most important cultural happening in the United States," says Robins, noting that his ambitious schedule just scratches the surface. Try to keep up.

Tuesday, December 5

THE WARM-UP

12:30 p.m.
LUNCH WITH ARTIST RICHARD TUTTLE
Take my friend Richard—who has a traveling retrospective now at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago—out for a bite at Elements restaurant (3930 N.E. Second Ave.), the Design District’s best lunch spot. Chef Lorena Garcia serves perfect tuna sashimi (above) and smart Latin dishes, including my favorite, pollo à la parrilla.

9:00 p.m.
OPENING OF THE MOORE SPACE LOFT
Stop by to congratulate collector and Miami art world force Rosa de la Cruz on the new Moore Space Loft (3627 N.E. First Ct.) in the Design District. The 7,500-square-foot warehouse—an outgrowth of the Moore Space, which we founded together in 2001—is dedicated to long-term exhibitions. The first project is John Bock’s Zero Hero (left), a performance and installation the artist created for last year’s Venice Biennale and is reenacting here.

Wednesday, December 6

OFF AND RUNNING

8:30 a.m.
BREAKFAST WITH DEALER JACK TILTON
Meet at the Raleigh hotel (1775 Collins Ave.) for a macchiato beside the chicest pool in Miami. In addition to his galleries in New York and Los Angeles, Jack runs a residency program in Beijing for young artists. He’s always scouting fresh talent from that scene and I’m eager to hear about his latest trip over there.

12:00 p.m.
ART BASEL MIAMI BEACH VIP PREVIEW
This is the invitation-only vernissage for the week’s centerpiece, at the Miami Beach Convention Center (400 S.E. Second Ave.). No fancy dress affair—we’re in Miami, after all—it’s about buying and selling. VIP clients get first crack at works from 200 top dealers, such as Marian Goodman of New York and White Cube of London. I have my eye out for a great emerging artist, whose name I’m keeping to myself. (Last year Galerie Gebr. Lehmann of Dresden, Germany, showed Eberhard Havekost’s 2005 painting Boulevard 2, above).

7:00 p.m.
DESIGN MIAMI DINNER
My girlfriend, Ambra, and I host a poolside dinner at my house in the Aqua development (pictured here), on Allison Island, for dealers participating in the Design Miami show we started last year. The 18 exhibitors are all specialists in modern and contemporary design, among them R 20th Century of New York and Galerie Kreo of Paris, and David Gill Galleries of London.

9:00 p.m.
RECEPTION FOR ARTIST GUILLERMO KUITCA
Walk down the street to toast Aquarelle, Guillermo’s new public art installation in a sunken plaza, followed by cocktails and dancing to the sounds of DJ Tiësto at the Aqua South Pool.

Thursday, December 7

PICKING UP THE PACE

1:00 p.m.
LUNCH WITH SAM KELLER AND BENEDIKT TASCHEN
Meet the Art Basel chief and the book publisher at the Shore Club’s Ago restaurant (1901 Collins Ave.), above. I like to sit on the terrace overlooking the pool and order the prosciutto with burrata and the tagliata di manzo.

5:00 p.m.
COCKTAILS WITH TERENCE RILEY
Terry, who left New York’s Museum of Modern Art earlier this year to take the reins at the fast-growing Miami Art Museum, has invited friends and colleagues for drinks at his home in the Design District, an amazing Mies-inspired stucco-and-glass structure he designed himself.

7:00 p.m.
PRIVATE HSBC DINNER
Host a dinner for bank executives and clients at the new headquarters of my real estate development firm, Dacra (3841 N.E. Second Ave.). The expansive skylit space has special areas for the company’s art collection.

8:30 p.m.
DESIGN MIAMI OPENING RECEPTION
After dinner, it’s a short walk to the Moore Building (4040 N.E. Second Ave.) for the preview of Design Miami. Exhibitors fill all four floors of the soaring space with masterworks ranging from midcentury clas-sics by Jean Prouvé and Serge Mouille to cutting-edge pieces by Marc Newson and Ron Arad, whose B.O.O.P coffee table was exhibited in New York dealer Barry Friedman’s booth last year, below left.

9:30 p.m.
OPENING FOR DESIGN DISTRICT EXHIBITS
Throughout the neighborhood, there are numerous displays of art and design, ranging from makeshift to museum-quality. Special shows have been organized by New York dealer Jeffrey Deitch, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, and Moss Gallery in New York. (Last year’s collaboration between sculptor Federico Uribe and the design firms Luminaire and Edra is pictured above right.)

Friday, December 8

THE BIG PUSH

9:30 a.m.
TOUR OF THE DESIGN DISTRICT
I’m back again in the morning to lead a group from the Dallas Museum of Art around the exhibits and showrooms—including those of Holly Hunt, Knoll, Ligne Roset, Luminaire, and Poltrona Frau. We’ll also slip into Design Miami before it opens to the public.

2:00 p.m.
VISIT THE NADA FAIR AND WYNWOOD
Do a quick run through the New Art Dealers Alliance Art Fair at the Ice Palace Film Studios (59 N.W. 14th St.) to check out what the best young dealers are showing. Afterward I’ll drop by the galleries of Fredric Snitzer and Emmanuel Perrotin in nearby Wynwood, the former garment district where warehouses have been converted to art spaces.

5:00 p.m.
DRINK WITH ENZO ENEA
Catch up with the Swiss landscape designer over a glass of wine in the Delano hotel’s signature Philippe Starck lobby (1685 Collins Ave.).

8:00 p.m.
DESIGNER OF THE YEAR DINNER
This private reception and dinner, at my other home, on Sunset Island, brings together 150 collectors, designers, and artists to honor the winner of Design Miami’s second annual award.

Saturday, December 9

A SECOND WIND

12:30 p.m.
LUNCH WITH ALASDHAIR WILLIS
Meet up with the founder of the British design collective Established & Sons, which has a show in the Design District. I’ll take him to one of my standby restaurants, Rosinella (525 Lincoln Rd.), where I go at least once a week for the penne arrabbiata.

7:00 p.m.
MAM BALL
Drop by one of the city’s best annual galas, at the Miami Art Museum in Bicentennial Park (1075 Biscayne Blvd.). It’s the first under the leadership of Terry Riley, who’s raising money for a planned $200 million building designed by Herzog & de Meuron. (Above: A shot of the preview for MAM’s recent James Rosenquist exhibition.)

8:30 p.m.
"ART LOVES DESIGN" TALK
Moderate a spirited (hopefully) discussion between panelists assembled by Art Basel and Design Miami, at the Design & Architecture Senior High courtyard (4001 N.E. Second Ave.).

9:30 p.m.
"ART LOVES DESIGN" BLOCK PARTY
The whole city seems to come to the Design District for this event. Several blocks along N.E. Second Avenue are closed to traffic, as throngs of visitors take in exhibits and performances, enjoying drinks and dancing to live music.

11:00 p.m.
DINNER WITH SHAREEF MALNIK
Join Shareef for a late dinner at his restaurant, the Forge (432 W. 41st St.), one of Miami’s most memorable dining rooms. I always order my favorite steak—the dry-aged bone-in fillet.

Sunday, December 10

THE FINISH LINE

10:00 a.m.
ART BASEL CONVERSATIONS
Meet artist John Baldessari for coffee and listen in on the Art Basel Conversations talk titled "Architecture for Art/Artists Who Build," which is held at the Guest Lounge inside the convention center (400 S.E. Second Ave.).

1:00 p.m.
DESIGN MIAMI
Take a last stroll through to see if that Shao Fan chair in elm and acrylic I’ve been coveting is still available on the stand of Contrasts Gallery from Shanghai.

7:30 p.m.
MUSEUMS DINNER
To round out the week, I’m hosting a dinner at my house on Sunset Island for the board members of four museums with which I have close relationships—the nearby Wolfsonian-FIU, the Hirshhorn in Washington, D.C., and the Whitney and the Cooper-Hewitt in New York.

Top Shows

Aqua Art Miami Some 40 dealers, many from the West Coast, take over the Aqua Hotel. 1530 Collins Ave.; aquaartmiami.com

Art Basel Miami Beach The country’s premier contemporary art fair boasts 200 international dealers at the Miami Beach Convention Center. 400 S.E. Second Ave.; artbasel.com

Design Miami The first of its kind, this show in the Moore Building has top modern and contemporary design from 18 galleries. 4040 N.E. Second Ave.; designmiami.com

New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) Art Fair The next generation of blue-chip dealers (80 or so) lures collectors to the Ice Palace Film Studios for the lively fourth-year fair. 59 N.W. 14th St.; newartdealers.org

Pulse Miami Art Fair This show impressed in its debut last year, with 60-odd quality dealers under a huge tent in Wynwood. 2700 N.W. Second Ave.; pulse-art.com

Scope Miami The fair ditched its original hotel format and the 90 exhibitors now set up in a pavilion in Wynwood’s Roberto Clemente Park. 101 N.W. 34th St.; scope-art.com

The opening dates for these fairs range from December 6 to 8. All close on the 10th.

Other Events Not to Miss

Dec. 5 | 7–9 p.m.
Reception at the Museum of Contemporary Art for exhibitions of works by Pablo Cano and Bruce Nauman. VIP pass or invite required. 770 N.E. 125 St.

Dec. 6 | 6–11 p.m.
Opening night at Art Positions—21 mostly young galleries set up inside shipping containers next to the beach—followed by a concert from Peaches. Collins Park between 21st and 22nd streets

Dec. 7 | 8–10 p.m.
Reception at the Miami Art Museum with works by Mark Dion and Lorna Simpson as well as the Charles Cowles collection of modern photographs. 101 W. Flagler St.

Dec. 8 | 8–11 p.m.
Reception at Wolfsonian-FIU for the Lawrence Weiner exhibition and "Modernism in American Silver." VIP pass or invite required. 1001 Washington Ave. Dec. 10 | 9 a.m .–noon Reception for public art commissions, at the new Cesar Pelli–designed Carnival Center for the Performing Arts. VIP pass or invite required. 1300 Biscayne Blvd.

Dec. 10 | 9:30 a.m.–noon
Breakfast in the park for Deborah Butterfield at the Frost Art Museum. 11200 S.W. Eighth St.