Between the selfie sticks, the paparazzi, and the endless Instagram hashtags, Art Basel Miami Beach might be the most narcissistic place on Earth this week. Which is why it's appropriate that among the highlights at the fair's 14th edition is a trippy piece by Tomás Saraceno.
Titled One Module Cloud With Interior Net, the sculpture features wires and clamps creating a web that appears almost like a reflectionless mirror. Looking up into the piece, the viewer is left wondering how to fill in the gaps and find one's reflection within the netting.
The tens of thousands of visitors who flood the Miami Beach Convention Center this week will have ample opportunity to decide what the piece says about their own behavior.
As Miami Art Week has grown into an international celebrity fiesta surrounded by corporate-sponsored parties, it's become all too easy to get lost in the noise and forget about the art. Inside the convention center alone, more than 260 galleries will show off 4,000-plus works of art, from Picassos to Renoirs to hundreds of contemporary stars on the rise. The show spills into Collins Park for some installations and into SoundScape Park for nightly film screenings.
"Think of Lawrence of Arabia on steroids," Hubshman says of the 6,000-square-foot, 35-foot-tall atrium.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands more visitors will pack into 21 side fairs in Miami Beach and on the mainland, from heavy-hitters like Scope and Pulse to newcomers like Satellite and X Contemporary. (See our map on page 28.)
Organizers expect crowds at the convention center to meet or exceed last year's numbers.
"We'll see approximately 60,000 visitors, of which 15,000 or so will be traveling in from across the U.S. and abroad," says Bob Goodman, Art Basel's Florida representative.
But don't stress if you don't have a few million to drop on a Jeff Koons — or even if you can't swing the $45 ticket price to the main fair.
At Basel's Public sector in Collins Park (Collins Avenue at 22nd Street in Miami Beach), guests can wander through a free outdoor public exhibition of 27 large-scale pieces curated by Nicholas Baume, the director and chief curator of the Public Art Fund. This year's overarching theme, he says, is "metaforms," which will include pieces that reveal a more stripped-down nature of art.
Take, for instance, Swiss-born artist Olaf Breunin's piece depicting a cartoonish head with its brain carved out to reveal the phrase "I can not take it anymore." It's held up by brass rods taking the shape of a ladder, which invites spectators to climb in and ponder what everyone is thinking.
Just down the road at SoundScape Park (500 17th St., Miami Beach), 50 film screenings will show during the main fair. Art Basel | Film opens December 2 at 6 p.m. with artist Mariele Neudecker's Figure of 8. The artist's sound project places the viewer in the center of the rainforest in Ecuador. Paired with vivid graphics, Neudecker's sound piece is sure to transport viewers south.
Though only two local galleries — Michael Jon and Fredric Snitzer — snagged spaces inside the convention center, surrounding fairs showcase plenty of local talent.
Fans of avant-garde art will find plenty to enjoy at the beachside Scope International Contemporary Art Show (December 1 through 6 at 801 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach; scope-art.com), which boasts a huge cantilevered structure looming outside the fair.
"Think Lawrence of Arabia on steroids," founder Alexis Hubshman says of the 6,000-square-foot, 35-foot-tall atrium that features "hundreds of feet of glass wall."
The result, Hubshman says, is to make "the oceanside corner of the tent a mirage... Immediately, the supermarket sensibility of most other art shows is squashed. Our open plan allows the viewer to drift between aisles, to follow their eyes and gut, and not be exhausted visually by an onslaught of rabbit warrens and horse stables stuffed with art."
Just north of the sands of SoBe, Pulse Miami Beach Contemporary Art Fair (4601 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, December 1 through 5; tickets start at $25; pulse-art.com) resides near Indian Beach Park. Since taking over as director in January 2014, Helen Toomer has given the art fair a much-needed face-lift. Last year, she moved Pulse from its spot in Wynwood to its current location.
"It's the energy here — I love it," Toomer says of what drives the fair's success. "You just don't know what is going to happen, and people are so incredibly passionate here."
The director is showcasing international artists and a few locals represented by the Mindy Solomon Gallery, Emerson Dorsch, and Art Lexïng. Vibrant sculptures by ceramic artist Linda Lopez, who regularly displays at Solomon's gallery, promise to be memorable. Lopez creates kaleidoscopic coils reminiscent of the Great Barrier Reef.
A new fair this year is simply called Satellite (December 2 through 6 at the Deauville Beach Resort, 6701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; free; satellite-show.com). Founder Brian Whiteley says the goal is to take over parts of Miami Beach with events. Satellite combines sound installations with a collection of art mostly from New York-based galleries.
Also new to the scene is X Contemporary (December 2 through 6 at 240-252 NW 25th St., Miami; tickets cost $10; x-contemporary.com), which hosts events in Wynwood including live painting and a skateboard exhibition with pro skaters Eli Reed and Joel Meinholz. Under the direction of Matthew Eck, a former partner of Whitely's, the show will feature work from 30 international galleries.
South Florida artists abound at Prizm Art Fair (December 1 through 13 at 7300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; prizmartfair.com; donations accepted). "Prizm is a cultural experience that binds the Basel-goer to Miami's narrative beyond South Beach, because Miami is so much more than South Beach," founder and director Mikhaile Solomon says. "Prizm exhibits artists with enduring practices here in Miami but who have access to limited opportunities to exhibit and highlight their work during Basel."