The Art of Experiential: Our Take on Miami Art Week 2023


Miami Art Week is a wrap. The XP Land team spent a few days immersed in art — from iconic works, like Art Basel’s showing of Ai Weiwei’s massive Washington Crossing the Delaware constructed totally in Legos, to a video installation by the artist Oliver Beer, which presented two women slapping each other’s faces in a percussive beat. (ASMR, anyone?)

We were struck throughout the week by the media’s take on the events. There were party recaps, sure, and celebrity sightings, but also think pieces that baffled us. One commented that much of the art had a “foreboding” quality to it (I mean, have you read your Apple News lately?). Another lamented the lack of a viral artwork while calling out the experiential qualities of a claw machine titled Fantasy World that invited passersby to drop in a quarter and try to win a prize. Something we’ve seen at every beauty pop-up and experiential trade booth (or ’80s-nostalgia arcades, for that matter) for a while now.

For us, Art Week proved a capstone to what we at XP Land are calling 2023’s Return to Experiential. The themes that stood out point to a promising 2024 for anyone in the industry looking for what’s next.

Miami had main character energy

Always a city with swagger, Miami emerged victorious at this year’s Art Week. The convention center and Art Basel were the hub for the week and the center of gravity for the art world. And their partnership this year with the Tribeca Festival brought a festival-within-a-festival vibe (plus Robert DeNiro).

As anyone who sat in traffic could attest, the action spread far and wide across the city. There was the Cannes-like energy of the beach, with its tented brand activations and alternative art fairs like Untitled and Scope. The Design District did not disappoint, with a plethora of public art — from JR’s Chronicles of Miami mural at Superblue to XLISTER Andres Reisinger’s Take Over Miami, a gorgeous, billowing pink-hued drape over a building. There were more in-store cocktails than you can imagine, plus the annual show from Gagosian and Jeffrey Deitch.

Wynwood’s hipster, edgy vibe was on full display throughout the neighborhood. Wynwood Walls unveiled a 48-foot-long reclaimed subway car as part of its Art Week activation. The Museum of Graffiti had talks and launches throughout the week, alongside their exhibition The Art of Hip Hop. The exhibit paid tribute to 50 years of hip hop and the artists, photographers and producers who helped put the genre on the map.

As Art Basel CEO Noah Horowitz told the Miami Herald, “Culture bonds people together. Miami during Art Basel really is a unique experience.”

Museum of Graffiti. Photo courtesy Erica Boeke

The fact that Art Week is the last big event of the year often points to what’s coming next. Just as the music industry reclaimed its mojo with the summer concert season, the sports world is poised to build on the buzz it created with this fall’s Formula 1 spectacle in Las Vegas. Perhaps the most buzzed-about event at Art Week was the first Sukeban World Championship, a new female wrestling league that features Japanese performers and merges high fashion with American and Japanese cultures. In a skate park. Under an I-95 overpass. In downtown Miami.

Sports media brand Bleacher Report launched its yearlong creative collective called The Residency — described as the nexus of sports, fashion, art and culture — with an art gallery and retail collab with the NBA (over in Wynwood, natch). The pop-up gallery featured artists paying tribute to five NBA teams.

A few blocks away, artist and XLISTER CJ Hendry’s installation HOOPS challenged the public to make 34 consecutive baskets in the multi-hooped arms of her bright-blue, tree-meets-chandelier sculpture to win a prize. And not to be outdone by its neighbor, the Design District and sports booking platform Break the Love treated fans to a pickleball pop-up. The art of pickleball?

While the buzz around NFTs has cooled, there was plenty of heat around digital art last week.

Meta House returned for an encore, with its mixed-reality jam session with Grammy-nominated artist Victoria Monét. Conversations were programmed around independent artists and the blockchain, and the Gateway digital art exhibit at the gorgeous Faena Forum was one of the tentpole events of the week. Digital artist Refik Anadol (an XLISTER who recently had a piece titled Unsupervised added to the MoMA’s permanent collection) debuted a large-scale AI data sculpture called Sense of Healing. Diverse, engaged crowds moved through the space, sat in the rose marble amphitheater and heard talks centered around AI, the metaverse, and even the intersection of wellbeing and Web3 with Deepak Chopra.

Speaking of wellbeing, there were plenty of yoga, meditation and spa moments to counter the late-night parties. The Standard Spa, in partnership with Chase Sapphire, featured a two-day immersive Wellness Oasis, offering traditional spa services (plus astrology) and talks with influencers like Case Kenny and Jillian Turecki. Over at the Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel, NRVLD activated The Art of Wellness. The weeklong event brought together brands like Lululemon and Barry’s alongside talks and events designed to help participants and guests maintain balance throughout Art Week.

brands who “get it” most certainly “got it”

It wouldn’t be Art Week without brands wading into the chic Miami Beach waters. As always, these activations were hit or miss. The ones that succeeded were those that followed our firm belief in having an editorial voice and a clear sense of what would fit their audience.

American Express Platinum led the way with its PLAY pop-up at the Edition. Leaning into the nostalgia trend, Amex (in partnership with Mattel Creations and PlayLab, Inc.) reimagined classic toys — from an oversized chess board to a grown-up seesaw — creating an instant Instagram moment. Likewise, the Ikea Open House displayed all of the whimsy we’ve come to expect from the Swedish home furnishings brand.

But perhaps the most unexpected activation we encountered was the McDonald’s Frostway Experience, in partnership with NTWRK. Located in the Wynwood neighborhood, the pop-up — designed in the shape of a Happy Meal box — promoted a collab with Bronx DJ Kerwin Frost and featured a redesigned return of the McNugget Buddies. There were collectibles, digital art, merch and a massive food truck filled with Happy Meals for the cool, young crowd — exactly the consumers McDonald’s was aiming to reach.

Ikea Open House. Photo courtesy Erica Boeke
The McDonald’s Frostway Experience. Photo courtesy Erica Boeke

the end is just the beginning

There were some tried-and-true components of the week that are a hallmark of the annual event. Traffic was bananas (is it us, or does it get worse every year?). The parties didn’t disappoint. Nylon’s Friday night bash was a standout. And we can’t not mention the Flex party on Star Island, which featured a flamethrower over the water. Plus some truly gorgeous artwork. The art is ostensibly what brought us all down there, and it’s the art that brings us back to experiential. Art is a connector.

As we walked the convention center, we couldn’t help but experience collective effervescence alongside the collectors and art lovers. There is a lot of darkness in the world right now, but the act of gathering gives us hope. We felt like we were part of something bigger, taking over one of the most vibrant cities in the world. And it got us excited for what’s to come in the new year.

But first, a short winter’s nap before the XP calendar revs back up in January.

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Experiential Is Everything

XP Land is for experiential creatives and experience-makers, brand leaders, and IP-owners, space stewards and venue visionaries — all those in the business of epic gatherings and live, immersive storytelling.