Street art in the Wynwood Arts District.
Art and Design in Miami
The culturally curious are flocking across the bay to three evolving neighborhoods.

For years, art lovers have passed over Miami in favor of spending time in Miami Beach, a barrier-island city separated from Miami by Biscayne Bay. Miami Beach—and in particular, the neighborhood of South Beach—built its name as an arts enclave on a trove of Art Deco architecture and since 2001 has hosted the American edition of Art Basel. But across the bay, the arts are thriving in a set of neighborhoods within Miami, giving South Beach serious competition. Travelers don’t need to leave the city in order to check out Brickell’s stately skyscrapers, downtown’s top-notch museums or the Wynwood Arts District’s eye-catching murals. Inventive meals and designer cocktails round out the experience, promising fun long after the sun sets.

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In the early 1900s, affluent residents began setting up mansions in Brickell, earning it the nickname Millionaire’s Row. Since 2000, Brickell has cemented itself as a financial hub, and a new influx of Miami’s elite followed. Now the skyline is being reshaped with futuristic towers, and new projects regularly cut across the horizon.

Brickell City Centre’s high-tech architecture.

Brickell City Centre’s high-tech architecture.

To fuel up for a day of art and architecture, make your first stop Atelier Monnier. The bistro serves French pastries, including dense yet flaky almond croissants and macarons in seemingly every color of the rainbow. You can people-watch while eating outside under the shade of a pink umbrella and then walk off the snack at the Brickell City Centre, just a few blocks away. Arquitectonica, a high-profile experimental architecture firm steered by Peruvian Bernardo Fort-Brescia and American Laurinda Hope Spear, led the project. Sustainable design is at the heart of the $1.05 billion complex, which contains multiple mixed-use towers as well as 500,000 square feet of retail space. A thousand-foot climate ribbon made of steel, fabric and glass spans the open concourses in the retail center, collecting rainwater and channeling the breeze to cool shoppers as they browse high-end brands such as watchmaker Audemars Piguet and men’s clothier Kiton.

Lunch poolside at Edge Steak & Bar.

Lunch poolside at Edge Steak & Bar.

At lunchtime, Edge Steak & Bar, on the seventh floor of the bayside Four Seasons Hotel Miami, offers a three-course menu (one standout: wahoo fish with heirloom carrots, kale and smoked tomato broth) on a terrace overlooking a two-acre pool area. At 70 stories, the hotel is the tallest structure in the United States south of Atlanta and houses an extensive art collection featuring Latin American artists. Highlights include three oversize bronze sculptures from Colombia’s Fernando Botero, paintings by Venezuela’s Jesús Rafael Soto and photographs taken by Cuba-born Maria Martínez-Cañas. Two of Botero’s sculptures mark the building’s entrance, while his third piece can be found in the seventh-floor lobby.

At the Brickell Art Walk, on the last Tuesday of every month, contemporary galleries stay open late to welcome artists and art enthusiasts. Afterward you can get a taste of 1940s Havana at El Tucán. Thursdays through Saturdays, the glamorous supper club puts on a cabaret show, during which performers in ornate Carnival-style costumes and feather headdresses dance to Big Band melodies played by the 11-piece house orchestra. Prix fixe dinner reservations are available at showtimes (8 p.m. and 11 p.m.), but you can also opt for general admission and sit at the bar.


You’ll find a robust arts scene and a few examples of ultramodern architecture in downtown Miami, just north of Brickell. One of the most remarkable buildings in the area is on Biscayne Avenue: the One Thousand Museum, a high-rise condominium designed by the late Zaha Hadid. The Pritzker Prize–winning architect gave the 62-story tower a curvy white exoskeleton, which was shipped from Dubai in more than 4,800 pieces.

Enjoying the Pérez Art Museum Miami.

Enjoying the Pérez Art Museum Miami.

Across the street you can stroll through the 30-acre Museum Park, filled with sculptures and bordered by a waterfront promenade overlooking Biscayne Bay. The grounds wrap around the LEED-Gold-certified Pérez Art Museum Miami, a green building with innovative design features, such as recycled-cork cushions in the learning theater and outdoor hanging plants that increase energy efficiency and help ensure visitor comfort. Six galleries display contemporary works. Winter exhibitions include a career survey of the German-born film artist Dara Friedman.

The Miami Dade College Museum of Art + Design at night.

The Miami Dade College Museum of Art + Design at night.

In contrast to PAMM’s modern facilities, the Miami Dade College Museum of Art + Design (closed for renovations but set to reopen in February 2018) is housed in the Freedom Tower, a National Historic Landmark built in 1925. The museum showcases mixed-media pieces by postmodern American artists and artists of Caribbean and Cuban descent as well as works by Miami Dade College alumni. The Freedom Tower served as a haven for Cuban refugees from 1962 until 1974, and the permanent collection dedicated to the Cuban exile experience (level one) is worth a visit.

You can pick up an iced coffee at The Café at Books & Books, a half mile north, within one of Miami’s first Art Deco structures, the Carnival Tower. The café is also a convenient spot in which to dine on grass-fed burgers or pan-seared local mahi-mahi before catching a show at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2006. This season the center is putting on a varied selection of shows, such as The Color Purple. For a more classic experience, you can take in a performance by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

To wind down the evening, you can sip mixed drinks atop the former Miami National Bank at Pawn Broker, an Americana-themed bar in a 1925 Beaux-Arts building. For the full experience, order a Giggle Water. Lavender foam tops the gin-based libation, presented in a tiny porcelain bathtub in reference to Prohibition-era distilling practices.

Wynwood Arts District

The Wynwood Arts District, a zone within the neighborhood of Wynwood, has been emerging as a global hotbed of the arts since community revitalizer Tony Goldman started remodeling warehouses here in 2009. (Goldman, a key player in transforming Miami Beach and New York’s Soho, had a reputation for helping create artsy enclaves.)

Wynwood Walls, an open-air street-art museum.

Wynwood Walls, an open-air street-art museum.

There’s so much to see here that it’s well worth enlisting a guide. Consider signing up for the “Wynwood, Design District and Midtown VIP” dinner tour with The Art Experience. A private guide brings groups of at least four to visit the area’s art highlights before settling into a three-course dinner at a lively restaurant such as R House, which dishes out contemporary American cuisine with Asian, Mediterranean and Latin twists. You’ll want to have your phone switched to camera mode when you stop at Goldman’s landmark project for the neighborhood, the outdoor street-art museum Wynwood Walls. More than 40 murals by some of the world’s top street artists, such as Futura and Shepard Fairey, cover 80,000 square feet of exterior walls. Some of the murals are repainted during Art Basel each year. Within the open-air museum, Jugofresh sells smoothies and cold-pressed juices that you’re allowed to sip as you admire the cement canvases.

At the Bakehouse Art Complex.

At the Bakehouse Art Complex.

The neighborhood is also home to more than 70 galleries. Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art displays bright prints and paintings by such masters as Andy Warhol and Keith Haring as well as works by street artists with cult followings, including Banksy and KAWS. A few blocks over, Now Contemporary Art specializes in textured three-dimensional works created from repeated materials, like hundreds of colored pencils or thousands of buttons. Look out for one of Shawn Smith’s wildlife pieces constructed from tiny bits of foam and wood.

At the north end of Wynwood, budding artists work side by side at the Bakehouse Art Complex, a 1920s bakery that was converted to a nonprofit incubator for the arts in 1986. On the second Friday of the month, the artists’ studios stay open from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. to display artwork and allow visitors to clink glasses with some of the burgeoning artists helping grow Miami’s cutting-edge cultural offerings.

The Art Experience
2930 NE 41st St.; 305-767-5000; “Design District, Midtown and Wynwood VIP” dinner tours, $165 a person, includes three-course dinner

Bakehouse Art Complex
561 NW 32nd St.; 305-576-2828

Brickell Art Walk
Various locations

Brickell City Centre
701 S. Miami Ave.; 305-371-6888

Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art
2239 NW Second Ave.; 305-456-5478

Miami Dade College Museum of Art + Design
Freedom Tower, 600 Biscayne Blvd.; 305-237-7700; admission, free; scheduled to reopen in February 2018

Museum Park
1075 Biscayne Blvd.; 305-358-7550

Now Contemporary Art
337 NW 25th St.; 305-571-8181

One Thousand Museum
1000 Biscayne Blvd.

Pérez Art Museum Miami
1103 Biscayne Blvd.; 305-375-3000; admission, $16

Wynwood Walls
2520 NW Second Ave.; 305-531-4411; admission, free

Atelier Monnier
848 Brickell Ave., Suite 120; 305-456-5015; breakfast for two, $20*

The Café at Books & Books
1300 Biscayne Blvd.; 786-405-1745; dinner for two, $50

Edge Steak & Bar
Four Seasons Hotel Miami, 1435 Brickell Ave.; 305-381-3190; three-course lunch menu, $24 a person

El Tucán
1111 SW First Ave.; 305-535-0065; dinner seating, $85 a person

R House
2727 NW Second Ave.; 305-576-0201; dinner for two, $80

*Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax or tip.

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
1300 Biscayne Blvd.; 305-949-6722

222 NW 26th St.; 786-472-2552; juice for two, $20

Pawn Broker
121 SE First St.; 305-420-2200; drinks for two, $32

RCI® affiliated resorts near Miami include:
Non-RCI affiliated resorts in Miami include:


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Four Seasons Hotel Miami

A luxe property with an on-site pool and impressive art collection. 1435 Brickell Ave.
Doubles from $439 a night

The Langford Hotel

A hip restaurant and rooftop bar round out the offerings at this downtown property. 121 SE First St.
Doubles from $229 a night

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Published: Winter 2017

Opening Image: Street art in the Wynwood Arts District. Photos (from top): iStockphoto, Alamy, Four Seasons, iStockphoto (3), Bakehouse Art Complex

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