Sun, sand, surf and South Beach. For art lovers, those are secondary reasons to come to Miami and the beaches.
From a relatively sleepy art scene with a few small legacy museums just two decades ago, South Florida has morphed into a worldwide art powerhouse thanks to Art Basel Miami, which hit the area like a hurricane in 2002.
The sibling to the Swiss art phenomenon that attracts artists, dealers, collectors, museum staff, galleries and art lovers from around the world, Art Basel Miami attracts a similar audience to Miami Beach during the first week of December.
Outside of Art Basel Miami - whether your taste runs to Rembrandt and Monet, Jackson Pollock and Picasso or pre-Colombian and ancient Egyptian - Miami and the beaches offer something for every art aficionado. Public, outsider and street art categories are expanding exponentially along with galleries showcasing the latest works.
Start with a stroll through Miami's Wynwood Arts District. This neighborhood was once home to decaying warehouses and empty factories, but like many urban reincarnations where artists have led the way, the district has morphed into a collection of galleries, studios and one of the largest open air street installations anywhere.
Parts of three private contemporary collections -the Rubell, the Margulies and the de la Cruz -can be found behind nondescript warehouse walls in Wynwood. The collections of each family grew too big for their homes so they decided to store a portion in climate-controlled, white warehouses that are generally open to the public. Small signs on the front doors is the only hint as to what lies inside. Admission fees support local charities.
The Wynwood District is also home to Wynwood Walls and Doors, a collection of painted images on the sides of various concrete buildings. Located between 25th and 26th streets in Miami, the area showcases the latest in street art from invited artists.
Several of South Florida's older art museums were founded when collections grew too big for their owners to display. The Bass Museum, which is undergoing a significant renovation and will reopen in fall 2016, was created in 1963 when the city of Miami Beach accepted the private collection of John and Johanna Bass. Located in Collins Park in Miami Beach, this Art Deco stone edifice reflects its former life as the Miami Beach Public Library.
While the Bass usually has some of its collection of Northern European Art on display, it also hosts various contemporary shows. You can see some of the traditional Bass pieces at the Lowe Art Museum on the campus of the University of Miami in Coral Gables.
The Lowe has collections of Native American, African, pre-Colombian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander art in addition to its contemporary offerings. But it's the art glass collection that includes pieces from Wisconsin's own Dale Chihuly and Harvey Littleton as well as a variety of other glass masters that's a must-see.
The newest museum is the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). Originally the Miami Art Museum, the Perez opened in a new building in 2013 near the Port of Miami. Focusing its mission on contemporary art from around the world, the building itself is as much a work of art as are the displays inside.
Don't skip the Boca Raton Art Museum in Boca Raton and the Norton Art Museum in West Palm Beach. The Norton got its start the same way the Bass Museum did - as a place to house Chicago industrialist Ralph Hubbard Norton's collection of art. The Norton has undergone several growth spurts, and with them, their focus has expanded to include contemporary art. Look for a ceiling created by glass master Dale Chihuly in one of the first floor galleries.
The Boca has a small collection of pre-Colombian, West African tribal and Asian art, but it has added contemporary art and a small sculpture garden to the mix.
Other museums of note: the year-old Institute of Contemporary Art in Miami, The Wolfsonian in Miami Beach, the Frost Art Museum on the campus of Florida International University in Miami, the Girls Club - Contemporary Art by Women in Fort Lauderdale; the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation in Miami, and MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami.