MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – “The world’s biggest arty party” doesn’t officially open until Thursday but don’t tell that to the folks enjoying the opening night preview of Art Basel 2012 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Described as “the most prestigious art show in the Americas,” Art Basel opens its Miami Beach 11th edition on Thursday, December 6th.

It brings with it a swarm of satellite art fairs and parties that envelope the entire city. From Fairchild to Wynwood, the Design District, MiMo, Brickell, Downtown, Midtown, North Beach and South Beach, all of Miami-Dade is ready to host one of the largest gatherings of people from the international art world.

All these art lovers will be admiring and acquiring an impressive selection of 2,000 artists representing 260 art galleries from North America, Europe, Africa and Latin America. Only the world’s most respected art galleries are rigorously chosen every year to showcase established and museum-worthy artists as well as newcomers in Miami Beach.

“The hotels are all full, the rates are at their highest, the restaurants are impossible to get a reservation and that’s the way we like the city,” said Jeff Lehman, Director of The  Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority.

Micky and Madeline Arison are Basel regulars year after year.

“She comes to shop. I come because she drags me here,”  joked Micky Arison.

Celeb sightings are also common on VIP preview day–  P. Diddy showed up with his entourage, but didn’t stop to talk.

But Las Vegas hotelier Steve Wynn had a few things to say.

“Two years ago I bumped into Sly Stallone here and I didn’t know he was an artist and there was this great canvas he had done. It’s now in my house in Sun Valley,” said Wynn.

Dana and Eddie Slatkin from Los Angeles, bought a piece this morning.

“We bought a piece. We’re very excited! It’s NEON, so we‘ll see,” said Dana Slatkin.

Art Basel Miami Beach runs through Sunday, December 9th.

The most prestigious art show in the Americas has grown over the past decade in South Florida and it doesn’t hurt that the event is staged in paradise.

The art show isn’t just about the art featured at the Miami Beach Convention Center, there’s also plenty of excitement surrounding the satellite exhibits. There are more than ever this year; 23 in total.

Each of the satellite shows has its own special flavor. For example, Aqua Art Miami takes over an Art Deco hotel at 1530 Collins Avenue on Miami Beach, converting the individual hotel rooms into intimate booths for young dealers and galleries that showcase emerging and early mid-career artists.

DesignMiami erects a tent in the Miami Beach Convention Center’s parking lot, where participating galleries from all over the world present museum-quality exhibitions of 20th and 21st century furniture, lighting and objets d’art.

Several satellite shows occupy a cluster of tents in Midtown Miami. The main attractions are Art Miami and its own new satellite, Context Miami, in a separate tent next door.

Also in the vicinity are Red Dot Art Fair, Art Asia Miami 2012, and the inaugural mounting of Miami Project, a contemporary and modern art fair with presentations by 65 galleries from around the world.

Click here for more information about Art Basel Miami Beach 2012.

Lisa Petrillo