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.
"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.)
In an ode to the blurring of lines between artistic disciplines, Scope Miami and VH1 are collaborating on an Outdoor Lounge highlighting emerging and undiscovered talent, including winners of Red Bull's Canvas Cooler project, which challenged artists to turn wrapped minifridges into colorful creations. (December 5 to 9 at 110 NE 36th St., Miami. Admission is $20, $15 for students. Visit scope-art.com.)
For five years now, the L.A.-based gallery OHWOW has put on the memorable "It Ain't Fair," which in past years has included packed exhibits by David Lynch and Dangermouse. This year will be the fair's last, but OHWOW is going out Hollywood style with exhibitions by James Franco (yes, that James Franco) and 30-odd other artists, a nightly soup kitchen to feed the masses, and a week of live programming from its pirate station, Know Wave Radio, hosted by NYC hipster extraordinaire Aaron Bondaroff. (December 7 to 11 at 743 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. Free. Visit oh-wow.com/itaintfair-2012/.)
The Seven fair brings in the best of New York's art scene, but five of the galleries featured this year were damaged during Hurricane Sandy (two severely). Seven wasn't about to let Mother Nature keep it from constructing its collaborative studio in a new location on Second Avenue, though. With, yes, seven major works as the focal point of the installation, the rest of the pieces are chosen on the spot to create a cohesive whole.
"It's all very different aesthetics and different points of view," says organizer and P.P.O.W. gallery co-owner Wendy Olsoff. "It's always come out so good." (December 4 to 9 at 2200 NW Second Ave., Miami. Free. Visit seven-miami.com.)