Art Basel Satellite Fairs on Mainland Miami Entice Even the South Beach Art Snobs

We all have reasons not to go to Miami Beach. Maybe your 300-inch spider heels designed by Louise Bourgeois don't do so well on the sand. Maybe you are a superstitious bicyclist who knows he won't be able to hold his breath all the way across the causeway. But this week, the returning art fairs in midtown are the most compelling reason to stay on the mainland.

"You'll see a life-size re-creation of Sputnik, installed so it looks like it crashed into our garden."

Between Art Miami and Context, you can goggle the full spectrum of what the contemporary art market has to offer, from classic works to the bloodiest of bleeding-edge emerging artists in one interconnected tent city (3103 NE First Ave., art-miami.com, contextartmiami.com).

Fair boss Nick Korniloff points out there's something else between the two fairs: "nine separate pass-throughs that lead you from one pavilion to another. All of them will be curated by our curatorial team, LaRete Art Projects." The street between the two fairs will also be shut down to create an open-air pavilion hosting a curated competition for video art and new-media pieces.

"The idea is that when you walk through Art Miami and Context, you feel the seamless transition from one to another," Korniloff says. "From the moment you arrive, you'll see very large sculptures, mostly classical and modern on the outside and more contemporary on the inside, including a George Rickey kinetic sculpture in the VIP lounge."

Next door, Red Dot Art Fair (3011 NE First Ave., reddotfair.com) keeps the number of exhibitors low around 60 in its 50,000-square-foot tent. Fair director George Bills says it concentrates on artists at all career stages, producing work "of lasting value." It's also across from PetSmart, so if you can't afford a Koons Puppy, all is not lost. Tuesday's opening reception benefits Million Trees Miami, an effort to plant a million trees in Miami by 2020.

Heap your wheelbarrow with modern and contemporary art from Miami Project (NE First Avenue and 30th Street, miami-project.com), but don't forget that hard-to-shop-for uncle who already has a James Turrell Skyspace for his Hyundai's sunroof. Nicholas Weist recommends his fair's holiday pop-up shop, offering about 50 pieces of artist-made merchandise and multiples from $10 to $1,000. The pieces, by the likes of John Baldessari, Claes Oldenburg, Richard Prince, and Tracey Emin, were commissioned by institutions — including the Walker Art Center, the New Museum, MOCA North Miami, and Creative Time — that will receive all the proceeds from the sales.

"Paul Chen designed a six-in-one screwdriver," Weist says. "The Bruce High Quality Foundation has pieces of Sheetrock that have been hand-painted to look like composition notebooks. Margaret Lee produced a small edition of hand-painted potatoes." The shop will have onsite wrapping with paper by Daniel Eatock.

Can't stand to be away from the water after all? Miami River Art Fair (Miami Convention Center, 400 SE Second Ave., miamiriverartfair.com) organ­izer Nina Torres says, "On the banks of the river, we will have 1,000 feet of monumental sculptures, including nine from Greece that no one has ever seen." In addition to the Riverwalk Sculpture Mall, large-scale street murals will be painted inside the venue throughout the week.

Pulse Miami (1400 N. Miami Ave., pulse-art.com), located inside the Ice Palace, is known for its Pulse Projects, which this year, according to director Cornell DeWitt, "range from ambitious to very ambitious. One of the first things you'll see is Brandon Vickerd's life-size re-creation of Sputnik, installed so it looks like it crashed into our garden."

There's interactive artwork as well. DeWitt explains, "Bad at Sports — from Chicago — is being brought in by Miami's Cannonball. They'll run their internet radio station in the unisex antechamber of our bathroom, conducting interviews and commentary."

"What's different about the Zones Art Fair is its intimate scale," says organizer Charo Oquet. In a more casual space than most other fairs (2850 N. Miami Ct., zonesartfair.com), Zones aims to foster discussions among visitors and the fair's emerging, often-unrepresented artists who make mostly "personal-scale" works. This year, the work gets even more person-y with the addition of Performia 1, a performance component.

 
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