Florida’s favorite party town is flanked by two neighboring cities: Aventura and Homestead, which...
text: Natasha Mekhail
The Marlin hotel boasts Art Deco style
Lincoln Road at dusk. It’s just before the lights come up on Miami’s famous strip of revitalized, Art Deco hotels. Before their hot-pink and mint-green neon signs give life to the night. Cruising down this stretch of South Beach, I gaze out a taxi window, wondering how this city fits into the U.S. landscape.
At a mere 116 years old, Miami hasn’t got the founding-father history of New York or Boston nor the grand-dame glamour of L.A. It lacks the debutante drawl of Atlanta and the grizzled features of New Orleans. In fact, if American cities were a family, Miami would be the rebellious teenager. Dressed in short-shorts and possessing a sassy Latina attitude, she plays by her own rules.
The Cirque Eloize show is extreme and fascinating
And like a teenager, the Florida hotspot is the most likely to reinvent itself depending on an ever-changing circle of friends. Just look at the last 50 years. In the 1960s, the arrival of post-revolution Cubans turned Miami into a bustling Havana outpost. In the 1970s, the city’s retirement-age appeal earned it the nickname “God’s Waiting Room.” The 1980s brought Miami Vice cool. In the 1990s, Miami’s status as a global financial heavyweight made it the unofficial “Capital of Latin America.”
One of the fresh preparations offered at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink.
Today? You could say Miami is going through its artsy stage. The whole city seems to be undergoing a cultural renaissance, a fact that becomes clearer as we pass through downtown Miami Beach. My driver points out the highlights. The convention center: since 2002, home to Art Basel Miami Beach, the most important art show in the United States. Across the Julia Tuttle Causeway, the warehouses of the SoHo-inspired Design District: once an industrial wasteland, now the hub of the city’s arts community. Off the Dolphin Expressway, Bicentennial Park: home of the future 200,000-square-foot Miami Art Museum, set on 29 acres overlooking Biscayne Bay.
Colorful Lincoln Road is popular among tourists
Tonight, I’m paying a visit to another of Miami’s foremost arts venues, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Opened in 2006, the center, designed by U.S.-Argentinean architect César Pelli, is not one but two facilities: a ballet/opera house and a concert hall, connected by a pedestrian overpass straddling Biscayne Boulevard. Guests awaiting a performance can linger outside by the travertine fountain in the central courtyard, cut from the same stone as the Trevi Fountain in Rome. Inside the opera house, visitors admire a spectacular floor-to-ceiling glass mural created by Cundo Bermúdez while the late painter was in his nineties. The walls of the venue are hung with excerpts from the Lincoln Center List Collection of silkscreen prints, including works by Chuck Close and Helen Frankenthaler.
The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, designed by architect César Pelli; The Design District: art, culture and fun
But to appreciate the center’s most monumental feature, you must climb a few flights of stairs. The spectacular gold-inlaid terrazzo floors by Cuban artist José Bedia depict a pair of outstretched hands poised symbolically in applause, one for each building, creating a poignant yin-yang effect. In the concert hall, the abstract hand mosaic is themed Night and in the ballet opera house, Day.
In the latter, I watch a sold-out production of the traveling Cirque Éloize, an edgier spin-off of Cirque de Soleil, blending break-dancing and extreme sports with the unbelievable acrobatics for which Canadian circus-theater is known. At intermission, the highly technical show continues with two, large screens broadcasting audience tweets and texts, sparking a flurry of messages from throughout the 2,400-seat hall.
Miami Art Basel
After the show, I head back to my weekend retreat, The Betsy. With its ornamental palms, heavy wood ceiling fans and 1920s-style » Lobby Bar, this boutique hotel has the feel of old Havana. At the same time, it’s modern and chic, with a BLT Steak restaurant in the lobby, a rooftop cocktail lounge and stylish rooms with a view of the courtyard pool. In keeping with the city’s art fervor, The Betsy also has its own revolving art collection. I spot a series of photographs by Hollywood photographer Robert Zuckerman that include candid images of celebrities taken on and off film sets – a final dose of culture before I slink off to sleep.
Chef Michael Schwartz at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink
The next morning begins with a late breakfast in the Design District at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink. At his flagship restaurant, James Beard-award-winning chef Michael Schwartz prepares fresh, locally sourced fare. The meal begins with a sampling of kumomoto oysters, followed by a spicy kimchi eggs Benedict and, finally, a homemade toaster pastry stuffed with mango and lychee. With a full stomach, I head out into the already-bustling district, peering in the windows of showrooms specializing in Italian lighting and Scandinavian prints, with a few luxury retailers like Marni and Christian Louboutin.
The Betsy Hotel
After a few hours of strolling the galleries and stumbling on unexpected works of outdoor art, I take a cab to the New World Center. Home to the New World Symphony, the center is a training ground for 86 young music fellows who, for three years, are put » through a rigorous professional development program. The recipients benefit from the facility’s state-of-the art studios, performance spaces and communications network, which allows them to conference with artists around the world.
Christian Louboutin’s shop in the Design District
When I arrive at the New World Center, I’m surprised to find a boxy structure that looks nothing like a typical Frank Gehry-designed building. Where are the curves of concrete? The ribbons of steel? But when I step inside the building, it all becomes clear. Inside, I find the architectural swoops and twisted metal forms for which Gehry is so famous. They encircle the training labs, rehearsal rooms and studio spaces. The auditorium itself is an acoustical and shape-shifting marvel, with tiered seating that allows for whole sections to be rolled away and stowed in the wall (if, for example, the concert demands a dance floor).
The New World Center, designed by Frank Gehry
But, most significantly, when night falls, the all-glass façade reveals Gehry’s spectacular architecture to the outside world. Every concert that plays inside the auditorium is also projected live on the outer wall, accompanied by one of the top outdoor speaker systems in the United States. Miami residents can take part in these free open-air concerts; there are no barriers to enjoying the city’s biggest cultural events. It’s a little unorthodox, but perfectly in keeping with the personality of America’s spirited little sister. In
Palm trees, sand and sea from the terrace at the The Betsy Hotel
$$$ The Betsy South Beach
$$$ SLS Hotel South Beach
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink
130 Northeast 40th Street
Art Basel Miami Beach
December 6-9, 2012
Miami Art Musem (current location)
101 West Flagler Street
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
1300 Biscayne Blvd
New World Center
500 17th Street
With new dining, hotels and activities, this Florida metropolis continues to offer new reasons to...