Art Basel: Artpocalypse Now

A voyage into the art of darkness in an economy gone mad.


This sho' enuf a bizarre sight in the middle of all this shit.

This year, Basel's highly trumpeted Art Projects — curated for the first time by Guadalajara's Patrick Charpenel — will stand near the Oceanfront command post. These works will draw friendly fire on unsuspecting civilians and veteran art aficionados by interrupting foot traffic with the force of an exploding Claymore mine.


Click here for a full list of Art Basel events.

Most of the 13 works were commissioned specifically for ABMB and will include projects by Karmelo Bermejo, Gonzalo Lebrija, Marc Swanson, and Rirkrit Tiravanija, who will present a site-specific show inside the W Hotel on Friday, December 4. You can find an Art Projects info kiosk at the Oceanfront between 21st and 22nd streets at Collins Park and book a guided tour.

If you are shellacked from too much sauce, can't remember what day of the week it is, and aren't afraid of a case of the squirts, sign up for Eduardo Abaroa's Aereal Diary. It's an interactive event with parasail rides offered to daring sorts.

Each parasail has the day of the week emblazoned on it. The one reading "Friday" must be used Friday, the one reading "Saturday" must be used Saturday, and so forth. It's a nifty way not to lose track of time so your CO doesn't toss you into the stockade or assign you KP duty if you're late getting back to your post.

Karmelo Bermejo would make a great candidate for the U.S. Army Bomb Disposal School. The Madrid native has concocted The Grand Finale, a sensory-shattering project in which he ignites fireworks displaying the word recession at the end of a big bang.

By constructing the R-word in fireworks, the artist juxtaposes the ostentation of the regal spectacle with the poverty prevalent during the current worldwide economic crisis. Maybe Bermejo should leave that fuse unlit if he ever decides to enlist in the bomb squad.


Charlie didn't get much USO. His idea of R&R was cold rice and a little rat meat.

During the weeklong blowout, ancillary fairs that have sprung like mushrooms from the ABMB compost will be scattered around Miami Beach and Wynwood. Several of the larger fairs have shifted spaces and expanded programs for this year's event.

NADA is back for its seventh edition and has moved from the Ice Palace in Wynwood to the Deauville Beach Resort on Collins Avenue north of the convention center. An enduring crowd magnet because it waives a cover charge, NADA features 80 galleries from 33 cities worldwide, including an intoxicating mix of contemporary talent and provocative free daily performances.

Miami dealer David Castillo, who will exhibit at NADA this year, expects lots of foot traffic at the popular free fair. "People who are coming to Miami for Basel are looking very carefully at the work and being smart about buying," he says.

Pulse has relocated to NADA's former space at the Ice Palace and will open its fifth season with more international galleries and sterling-caliber programs. Admission costs $15, or $10 for students and seniors.

This year, Pulse has also launched an ambitious series featuring daily outdoor concerts and the debut of Pulse Performance, anchored by emerging artists such as Miami's Maria Jose Arjona, who recently collaborated with legendary performance artist Marina Abramovic. Other highlights will include music performances by Vivian Girls, the Blow, and Exene Cervenka.

During the week, Arjona will engage in a series of lengthy performances called The/Affirmation/cycle, in which she will test her body's endurance. It's reminiscent of the opening scene in Apocalypse Now, where a special forces assassin on a boozy tear trashes his Saigon hotel room and ends up a bloodied mess after he smashes a mirror into shards.

In one work, she'll use a rope dangling from the ceiling to shift her weight while she stands upon four glasses containing goldfish. In another, she'll attempt to straddle a giant ice cube containing nails and knifes that she plans to remove with her toes as she balances on the melting block.

The Scope and Art Asia fairs (each $20 general admission or $10 for students and seniors), as well as Red Dot ($10), Design Miami/ ($20), and Photo Miami ($20 general admission, $15 students and seniors), return with a vengeance, joined by a new addition to the Wynwood satellite fairs: ARTery Miami ($10). The newbie expo is a strategic alliance between Miami's Soho Studios, Florida collectors, and international art dealers seeking to push the envelope in contemporary art.

"Our concept is to show the work of artists who are making a difference in the art world," explains Adela Holmes, ARTery's chief curator. "Because a lot of galleries have closed due to the economy, artists need representation, so we are exhibiting the work of individuals from Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Sweden, and from here in America."

As a counterinsurgency to the stodgier fairs, ARTery will exhibit a painting by Victor Safonkin that depicts a titanic struggle between a single Teutonic warrior and an army of ghouls and goblins. It appears to presage an art-world cataclysm of Mayan-calendar proportions. A painting by Jeff McMillan portrays a yeti unleashing a blast of foul breath on unsuspecting viewers, while David Ho has rendered the image of a half-man/half-pig with a jet engine strapped to its hindquarters.

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