Miami Art Week 2021: a guide to Art Basel and shows in the city

It’s beginning to look a lot like Miami Art Week 2021. We celebrate the festivities with a guide to Art Basel Miami Beach and exhibitions to see around the city 

Alex Israel’s AR collaboration with Snapchat, on view at the Bass Musuem .
Alex Israel’s AR collaboration with Snapchat, on view at the Bass Musuem
(Image credit: press)

Over the last year, the art world has tentatively been refinding its footing, and at long last, ’tis the season to eat, drink and be in Miami. Explore our picks for Miami Art Week 2021. 

Art Basel Miami Beach makes a bold return for 2021

Art Basel Miami Beach 2021 (2 – 4 December) will return to the Miami Convention Center for the first time since 2019, and although spirits are high, new-normal protocols remain. A strict mask mandate minimises the potential for celebrity-spotting and people-watching, and this year’s must-have accessories include a body temperature within normal range, proof of a negative Covid-19 test, and evidence of vaccination status. 

The 2021 edition will showcase 253 galleries from 36 countries and territories, 43 of which join for the first time. The fair format remains largely the same (albeit one day shorter than usual), but the emphasis has shifted towards the elevation of underrepresented perspectives. ‘There’s enormous excitement within the art world on both sides of the Atlantic about Art Basel Miami Beach 2021,’ says Marc Spiegler, global director of Art Basel. ‘Not only because it's our first fair in two years in the Americas, but also because the show has never before featured such a diverse range of voices.’

Nicholas Galanin, The Value of Sharpness: When it Falls, 2019, 60 porcelain hatchets.

Nicholas Galanin, The Value of Sharpness: When it Falls, 2019, 60 porcelain hatchets. 

(Image credit: Courtesy of the artist and Peter Blum Gallery)

Meridians – the fair’s platform for large-scale projects – returns for its second iteration. Highlights include Yinka Shonibare’s Moving Up, an installation chronicling the vertical movement of six million African Americans from rural Southern states to cities in the North, Midwest, and West from 1916 to 1970, known today as the Great Migration. Elsewhere, Nicholas Galanin engages in the complexities of Indigenous identity, culture, and representation. His Tlingit background informs his conceptual practice, which includes the installation The Value of Sharpness: When It Falls, an arc of 60 suspended hatchets that appear in flight. 

Beyond the headliner Art Basel, this year will also see the return of satellite fairs including Untitled Art (30 November – 4 December), Design Miami (1 – 5 December), and Art Miami (30 November – 5 December).

Miami Art Week 2021: events and exhibitions to see around the city

David Shrigley and Ruinart’s virtual worms and unconventional bubbles 

Art by David Shrigley.

(Image credit: press)

In 2020, David Shrigley became Ruinart’s 12th carte blanche artist. That summer, he travelled to Maison Ruinart in Reims to experience champagne production from root to cork. The results – comprising paintings, ceramic vessels and neon works – are as much a witty commentary on champagne consumption as a tribute to Ruinart’s heritage. For Miami Art Week, David Shrigley and Ruinart will stage several activations relating to the artist’s project, ‘Unconventional Bubbles’. At The Bass museum, giant augmented-reality worms inspired by Shrigley’s painting, Worms Work Harder Than Us, come to life via the Acute Art app. Elsewhere in the virtual realm, Ruinart will present ‘The Unconventional Gallery’, a showcase of Shrigley’s carte blanche project fit for a post-pandemic world. For those in the mood for an IRL encounter, the Ruinart Lounge at Art Basel will host a curated collection featuring 42 pieces from Shrigley's project. 

Alex Israel’s self-portraits enter a new augmented reality with Snapchat

Alex Israel’s AR collaboration with Snapchat, on view at the Bass Musuem .

(Image credit: press)

For Alex Israel’s new collaboration with Snapchat you’ll need a phone, the Snapchat app, and an open mind. The LA-based artist – and 2020 Wallpaper* Design Awards judge – is known for a multidimensional practice saturated with pop culture motifs, Hollywood scenes and imagery relating to Californian millennial lifestyles. Israel’s self-portraits – almost exclusively in profile, in sunglasses, and against an LA backdrop – have become an instantly recognisable emblem of his work and a brand in their own right. For Miami Art Week 2021, in collaboration with Snapchat, Israel has created five augmented reality experiences, each linked to one of his self-portraits. On view at The Bass museum until 1 May 2022, the project integrates Snap’s AR into Israel’s physical works – taking the latter into a new, animated dimension. On the museum’s art deco façade, a sixth work makes use of Snap’s Landmarker technology and uses the museum as a canvas for the artist’s oversized avatar, which sits crossed-legged in an enchanted forest, accompanied by Disney-esque creatures.

Jorge Pardo reflects on displacement, trauma and hope at the Museum of Art and Design

Exhibition view of Jorge Pardo ’Mongrel’. A room with red chairs around the edges of a round colourful rug, wall paintings and a large chandelier.

Exhibition view of Jorge Pardo ’Mongrel’. 

(Image credit: Photography: Oriol Tarridas)

At the Museum of Art and Design (MOAD) at Miami Dade College (MDC), Cuban American artist Jorge Pardo presents ‘Mongrel’. The show features a new series of semi-abstract drawings, custom-fabricated chandeliers – one encircled by modernist chairs based on the Latin American butaque (the only part of the show not designed by Pardo) – and a carpet, all framed by MOAD’s Skylight Gallery. The exhibition conjures the artist’s personal history including his childhood memories as a refugee. The artist immigrated to the United States as a child, passing with this family through Miami’s Freedom Tower, then used as a reception centre for Cuban refugees. His memories of the welcoming architectural landmark, which now houses the Museum of Art and Design, intertwine with those of displacement, trauma, and loss caused in part by the Cuban regime’s confiscation of the emigrants’ family photographs and documents. Mongrels will be on view until 1 May 2022.


Kathia St. Hilaire’s large-scale public installation blends nature and the divine

The Pilgrimage of the Soul. A large wall painting on the side of a white building.

The Pilgrimage of the Soul. Courtesy of Kathia St. Hilaire, Fringe Projects, and Perrotin

(Image credit: Zack Balber)

Kathia St. Hilaire’s The Pilgrimage of the Soul, marks the final installation of Fringe Projects’ ‘Public Color’ exhibition, a showcase of site-specific public works by artists of Caribbean descent including April Bey, Morel Doucet, Mark Fleuridor, GeoVanna Gonzalez, Charo Oquet, Johanne Rahaman. Each artist took Miami itself as a starting point to explore themes and experiences of collective urban life as viewed through their distinctive diasporic lenses. St. Hilaire’s large-scale collage is draped across the facade of Downtown Miami’s 148 East Flagler Street. The mixed-media work – which resembles a tapestry – uses the reduction relief printing technique, which involves cutting out small sections on linoleum to create a layered composition. Thematically, The Pilgrimage of the Soul explores the artist’s Haitian heritage and the relationship between humans, nature and the divine. 

ICA Miami ends 2021 season on a high with Jadé Fadojutimi and Hugh Hayden

Jadé Fadojutimi, A Whisper of a Decadent Twilight (2021). A colourful abstract painting.

Jadé Fadojutimi, A Whisper of a Decadent Twilight (2021).

(Image credit: Courtesy the artist and Pippy Houldsworth Gallery)

In a climactic end to its 2021 programme, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami presents exhibitions dedicated to rising star artists Jadé Fadojutimi and Hugh Hayden, on view until 17 April 2022. This marks the first solo museum presentation for Fadojutimi, whose vibrant, layered abstraction has made waves in the world of painting in recent years. ‘Yet, Another Pathetic Fallacy’ features new large-scale paintings that cite and rewrite tropes of 20th-century art history. At the centre of Hayden’s show is a white carpet occupied by the monumental title work, Boogey Man (2021). Depicting a police car draped in a white cover, the stainless steel installation has an ambiguous, cartoonish and almost-spectral presence evoking the ominous silhouette of a hooded Klansman – a potent statement on the ongoing issue of police brutality in the United States. 

Superblue Miami: enter the incubator for experimental art 

Es Devlin, Forest of Us, 2021. Installation view of ’Every Wall is a Door’ Superblue Miami, 2021.

Es Devlin, Forest of Us, 2021. Installation view of ’Every Wall is a Door’ Superblue Miami, 2021.

(Image credit: Photography: Es Devlin)

In May 2021, Miami’s much-anticipated hub for experimental art opened its doors. Superblue Miami promises a new kind of art experience, one that focuses on large-scale, experiential, interactive art beyond the realm of object-based practices. Superblue Miami’s trippy inaugural exhibition, ‘Every Wall Is A Door’, features new work by the likes of Es Devlin, James Turrell, teamLab and Drift. Devlin’s performative sculptures are brought to life in Forest of Us, which explores the biological and external structures that allow us to breathe. Meanwhile, Drift’s kinetic sculpture, Meadow, turns a traditional landscape on its head, with sensors and mechanical flowers that mimic nature’s rhythms. For Miami Art Week, Superblue has commissioned Yinka Illori to create a site-specific café called Blue Rider. 

Iván Navarro charts rebellions and revolutions in Miami Design District

Iván Navarro, Fight for Your Land. ©Thelma Garcia

Iván Navarro, Fight for Your Land.

(Image credit: ©Thelma Garcia)

Iván Navarro was born in Santiago, Chile, and spent his childhood under the Pinochet dictatorship. Though he migrated to New York in 1997, this experience continues to have a profound impact on his work. Under the dazzling mirrors and lights lurk some of the darkest, and most pressing themes of the era: control, political propaganda, torture and north-south inequalities. Navarro’s public art installation during Miami Art Week, on view until 5 December, is no exception. Sited on vacant property in Miami’s Design District and commissioned by the non-profit Vitrinalab Foundation, Fight for Your Land comprises four text-based posters – reminiscent of eye charts – that evoke messages of protest. Each is encased within a vitrine, placed alongside neon palm trees and elevated above a mirrored base. The vitrines themselves are etched with text chronicling rebellions and revolutions across the Caribbean into the Americas, beginning with ‘Barbados / Slave Revolt 1633-1685’ and concluding with ‘Mexico / Zapatista Uprising 1994’.


Art Basel Miami Beach, 2–4 December 2021.

Harriet Lloyd-Smith was the Arts Editor of Wallpaper*, responsible for the art pages across digital and print, including profiles, exhibition reviews, and contemporary art collaborations. She started at Wallpaper* in 2017 and has written for leading contemporary art publications, auction houses and arts charities, and lectured on review writing and art journalism. When she’s not writing about art, she’s making her own.