670 miles from Atlanta
What it is: Since 1970 Art Basel has staged modern and contemporary art shows each year in Basel, Switzerland; Miami Beach; and Hong Kong. Private jets clog the airport for the South Beach event, which features more than 250 of the world’s top galleries and attracts 75,000 patrons, celebrities, and hangers-on every December. The scene was chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s 2012 novel Back to Blood.
Why I go: “There’s no better place to be than Miami in December. And when the entire art world converges on the most beautiful place on earth, you’re bound to have a good time. Many of Atlanta’s best galleries take booths at the fairs. So beyond rubbing shoulders with celebs and art stars, you’ll see quite a few familiar faces, such as Whitespace owner Susan Bridges, Jackson Fine Art owner Anna Walker Skillman, and artist Radcliffe Bailey. Moreover, even when the economy was in the crapper, the Basel scene remained hot, hot, hot. The caliber of work is unmatched.” —Liz Lapidus, founder of Liz Lapidus Public Relations
Insider tip: “Venture to the smaller fairs like Aqua and Pulse. Also, Miami’s significant private collections are often open to the public for Basel. The collections of the Rubell, Cisneros, and Margulies families rival those in museums. Wynwood is a great emerging area, with murals, galleries, and restaurants,” Lapidus says.
Where to stay: The Fontainebleau (designed by Lapidus’s grandfather Morris) recently underwent a $1 billion renovation and is a see-and-be-seen locale. The Standard offers an off-the-beaten path intimacy. For a kitschy, old-school vibe, try the South Seas Hotel.
Where to eat: Joe’s Stone Crab is worth the wait—insiders know to slip the host some cash. Restaurant Michael Schwartz at the Raleigh hotel has a great al fresco scene.