Art Basel Invasion!

Screw the recession. The nation's number one art fest is bigger than ever.

The Museums

Local museums are hardballing the hustling invaders who seek to turn our city into a shopping mall for art. The Miami Art Museum's "Objects of Value" tackles how contemporary artists approach dollars-and-cents issues. It features work by artists such as Cory Arcangel, Walead Beshty, Dario Escobar, Jac Leirner, Josiah McElheny, Wangechi Mutu, Seth Price, Wilfredo Prieto, Santiago Sierra, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Carey Young. Part of the show critiques the market for luxury goods (including art). Some of it highlights anxieties about the global economic meltdown. Still other aspects poke fun at the amorphous lines between luxury and decadence, and greed and good taste.

Florida International University's Frost Art Museum celebrates the moneybags' influx by inaugurating a spellbinding new 46,000-square-foot building designed by the acclaimed Yann Weymouth.

NADA 2007 fair
Courtesy of NADA
NADA 2007 fair
Dario Escobar's Untitled (2000-2007)
Courtesy of Miami Art Museum
Dario Escobar's Untitled (2000-2007)

The ritzy digs are the first stop on a national tour for "Modern Masters from the Smithsonian American Art Museum," and they represent a homecoming for five pieces donated by Miami's Patricia and Phillip Frost to the Smithsonian in 1986, including works by Hans Hofmann and Joseph Albers.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami ratchets up the intrigue with the premiere of "Anri Sala: Purchase Not by Moonlight," featuring seven of Sala's films from the late Nineties to the present. One of them is a new film titled Answer Me, in which a Berlin couple tries to communicate via drumbeat. There will also be photographs and sculptures related to space and time. The exhibit marks the first major U.S. museum show of the Albanian artist's work.

The Wolfsonian-FIU is partnering with the Cranbrook Academy of Art and Smart Car for a mobile art project titled "Smart: Thoughts on Democracy," promising to deliver a dose of whiplash to pedestrians on Miami Beach streets. It complements the Wolf's other exhibit, "Thoughts on Democracy," in which more than 60 artists and designers created original works inspired by Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms posters.

The cars will zip around during Basel, showcasing slogans such as "Democracy: There is no alternative," courtesy of architect Michael Graves; "Democracy gives us liberty, freedom, and hope," from architect Zaha Hadid; and "Freedom is like Zen. It questions everything," by James Rosenquist, among others.

But perhaps the most interesting museum-quality show isn't at an indoor venue. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (10901 Old Cutler Rd., Coral Gables) unveils Mark di Suvero's enormous steel sculptures among flowering trees and a swirling butterfly garden. The exhibition features five massive, twisting steel sculptures, including Olompali, which soars 30 feet into the sky. The three-story-tall sculpture makes its international debut at Fairchild before being shipped to China, where it will be permanently located at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

She, a 30-year-old interactive piece measuring 52 feet wide, is another striking piece. With its wooden swinging bed, it is an example of di Suvero's desire to make touchable and accessible art. He created each sculpture to engage observers via changing dimensions as they approach it and move through it. "We are thrilled to bring his work to South Florida," says Bruce Greer, Fairchild's board of trustees president. "Fairchild's unique landscape will provide the perfect backdrop to truly reveal these massive structures' complexity and scale."

In the past, Fairchild has organized major art events featuring large-scale exhibitions by artists such as Fernando Botero, Roy Lichtenstein, and Dale Chihuly during the fair. "Historically, art and nature have always been linked, and people who enjoy one generally enjoy the other," Greer adds. "Our goal is to provide visitors with a complete cultural experience in which they enjoy world-class art and one of the world's greatest living collections of tropical plants, while learning about the importance of plant conservation."


There's Art Everywhere

South Beach hotels, Wynwood's private collections, and a rash of new galleries are also bursting with provocative exhibits and a cautious optimism despite the economy. Highlights of Wynwood's private collections include the following:

• At the Margulies Collection (591 NW 27th St.), a stirring video installation by Isaac Julien accompanies a searing Holocaust-themed sculpture by Magdalena Abakanowicz.

• Inside its sprawling 45,000-square-foot space, the Rubell Family Collection (95 NW 29th St.) presents "30 Americans," a blockbuster exhibit of more than 200 works by 30 artists displayed across the space's 27 galleries.

• CiFo (1018 N. Miami Ave.) takes a knockout look at the ways artists respond to the exercise of power in contemporary life. "The Prisoner's Dilemma: Selections from the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection" confronts and examines issues of powerlessness, exclusion, subversion, escapism, transcendence, warfare, protest, and resistance in a world spiraling out of control.

Many South Beach hotels will host quirky art events that open up guest rooms for exhibits. The Bridge Art Fair at the Catalina and Maxine hotels (1732-1756 Collins Ave.) promises an indie vibe; more than 80 rooms will be decked out in the freshest offerings of the boho tribe.

Downwind at the swank Sagamore Hotel (1671 Collins Ave.), where rooms cost between $715 and $1,295 a night, there will be not only original art in every room but also a suite of photographs by local artist Lee Materazzi from her Head In series. The photos are located in the hotel's public areas, which also feature an art bar, an art lounge, and a video garden to include some of the hottest names in the contemporary art world.

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