Guide to Art Basel 2012: The Satellite Fairs Have Sexting, James Franco, and a Candy Roller Coaster

Art Basel, the massive contemporary art extravaganza that overtakes Miami Beach every December, may be ground zero for jet setters looking to pinch a new Picasso, but for the true art fanatic, the real draw this week lies in the ever-expanding roster of satellite fairs.

Whereas Art Basel itself is a high-price-tag expo based at the Miami Beach Convention Center, the excitement is at the satellite exhibits, from North Beach to Wynwood to midtown to downtown. And there are more than ever this year: 23 in total. They're bringing sound meditation sessions, experiments in sexting, and art cops who will be armed and ready to regulate the uncouth masses.

The most eye-catching installation at any fair might be inside Art Miami, where Peter Anton has built a fully functional carnival ride dubbed Sugar and Gomorrah. The candy-coated device is lined with larger-than-life sculptures of doughnuts, candy, and cupcakes as a tribute to the innocence of youth, the temptations of the flesh, and the sugary songs of Lesley Gore.

Negative Earth (TRIANGULATED)
Amanda Ross-Ho / Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash
Negative Earth (TRIANGULATED)
Dan Colen's Whoopee Cushion, on display at OHWOW's final "It Ain't Fair" exhibition.
Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery / OHWOW
Dan Colen's Whoopee Cushion, on display at OHWOW's final "It Ain't Fair" exhibition.

"Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously in the art world; there's a sense of self-importance," Anton says. "I thought it would be great to loosen up and have some fun and be free and enjoy yourself and show people that it's OK to be a kid again and tap that part of your soul and your personality." His roller coaster anchors an outdoor sculpture pavilion with a cafe, lounge and bar, and live graffiti artists. (December 5 to 9 at 3101 NE First Ave., Miami. Admission is $20 for a one-day pass, $40 for multiday, and $10 for students and seniors. Visit art-miami.com.)

Back on the Beach, Design Miami/ highlights 20th- and 21st-century furniture, lighting, and objets d'art, with a renewed focus on American design, all in a striking home base just outside the convention center. Gone is the standard vinyl tent, replaced by a suspended, tubular landscape dubbed Drift, created by Snarkitecture. Inside, the fair features speeches by design pioneers like Diane von Furstenberg and furniture pioneer Wendell Castle. (December 5 to 9 at Meridian Avenue and 19th Street, Miami Beach. Admission is $25 for a one-day pass, $15 for students and senior citizens. Visit designmiamiblog.com.)

The nonprofit NADA Art Fair shines a spotlight on new, underexposed artists through booths like Bischoff Projects, which is presenting Night Gallery. This surrealist collaboration creates a labyrinthine fantasy world complete with subliminal images and androgynous androids. If you're having a tough time scoring a baby sitter for Basel weekend, LittleCollector offers kids tours while you get your grownup on. (December 6 to 9 at 6701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Free. Visit newartdealers.org.)

Known for its innovative bent, the experimental Verge Art Miami Beach tackles the crossover between video art and traditional filmmaking. Take an experiment by Light Assembly, which turns the deco stylings of Miami architecture into backdrops for video projections.

"Cinema has become more intimate," says the fair's founder, Michael Workman. "How we receive the media — it's not all received in movie theaters anymore; it's gotten more experimental overall."

Verge also hosts a series of screenings in titillating categories like Art Porn, Tiny Lenses, and Livecasts on internet porn performance art. (December 6 to 9 at the Essex House and Clevelander Hotels, Miami Beach. Admission is free Friday through Sunday. Visit vergeartfair.com.)

Basel newbie Miami Project showcases works from 65 galleries, including an intimate take on sexy text messages by Karen Finley in Coagula Curatorials booth. Visitors can purchase Finley's phone number, then sext her a picture of their nether regions, which she will immortalize in painting. Miami's own Jen Stark will display a colorful kaleidoscopic creation at Cooper Coles Gallery, her first return to Miami-Dade after moving to the West Coast last year. The fair also has a group therapy sound meditation session and artist Nina Katchadourian's ingenius retrospective of photos, videos, and digital images taken on airplanes, using only tissues, magazines, seat cushions, and other readily available items.

"A large percentage of guests coming to look at the show will have recently gone through the experience of sitting on an airplane, so it's kind of cool to present that body of work," says Max Fishko, cofounder of ArtMrkt Productions, which created the fair. (December 5 to 9 at NE First Avenue and NE 30th Street, Miami. $20 for a one-day pass, $35 for a multiday pass, $25 for a preview ticket, and $45 for a preview and multiday pass. Visit miami-project.com.)

Miami artists are repping at Pulse Miami this year, including LegalArt (now known as Cannonball), Dimensions Variable, and the TM Sisters, who will mix digital clips, handmade animations, and interactive videos in a live performance piece. When you've reached your breaking point of über-serious art snobs in black turtlenecks, check out Pulse Play, a curated video and tech lounge with a lineup of films by Casey Neistat. Seated in a pseudo-living room, attendees can ask Neistat questions on topics like boxing, Nintendo 64, and World War II. Pulse Projects has also hired those art cops, who will issue tickets to anyone breaking the unwritten rules of art. (Britto better owe big by the end of the weekend.) (December 6 to 9 at 1400 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Admission is $20 and $15 for students and seniors. Visit pulse-art.com.)

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