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With a $42 entry fee, Art Basel can be a daunting ticket for the casual fan. That's one reason why satellite fairs have multiplied across the causeway like mushrooms in a rainforest. Yet the fairs have grown so huge and so numerous — 22 in all this year — that planning a visit can feel like plotting an expedition to the Amazon.
Start at Select Art Fair at the Catalina Hotel in South Beach. Its organizers, New York's Matthew Eck and Brian Whiteley, set out to avoid the "shopping mall" environment of Art Basel by filling 64 of the Catalina's rooms with exhibits. Don't miss works by Gregor Turk, an Atlanta-based artist who toys with maps to question how they represent and distort reality, and Philadelphia's Melissa Maddonni Haims, who uses recycled materials, found objects, and knitting to create works that break down into smaller, scattered pieces like multiplying organisms.
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"We're featuring cutting-edge galleries," says Eck, who has also lined up a vintage double-decker bus to shuttle collectors around town. (December 6 through 9 at the Catalina Hotel, 1732 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; select-fair.com. Admission is free.)
This year's most intriguing new fair is JustMadMia, which boasts 40 contemporary galleries mostly from Spain. JustMad's design eschews the traditional stalls and presents exhibits organized around plaza-like settings where spectators can amble through open spaces and mingle with gallerists and artists.
"We will feature an innovative program including young galleries that have never participated in an art fair with more established galleries showing artists whose work is very fresh," organizer Rocio Bardin says.
Bardin is also re-creating El Mercado San Miguel, one of Spain's most famous culinary landmarks, where merchants will offer traditional hams, artisanal cheeses, and gourmet tapas. (December 6 through 9 at 2136 NW First Ave., Miami; justmadmia.es. Admission costs $15 general, $10 for students.)
The new Untitled Art Fair will appeal to art lovers who also enjoy the ocean spray and sand in their hair. This beachside affair takes place on a stretch of beach along Ocean Drive at 12th Street in a temporary tent designed by Terence Riley. Curated by New York-based Omar Lopez-Chahoud, Untitled includes 50 contemporary galleries and nonprofits. It offers visitors a "sense of discovery, diversity, and quality," Lopez-Chahoud says. (December 5 through 9 at 12th Street and Ocean Drive, Miami Beach; art-untitled.com. Admission costs $20.)
The New Times-sponsored Fountain Art Fair returns for its seventh edition. This year, check out the "Murder Lounge," where you can snag an original work by an artist you can chat up in person for just 25 bucks. Fountain houses upward of 50 galleries, with an emphasis on New York spaces. Brooklyn's Tiki Disco performs Saturday night. (December 6 through 9 at 2505 N. Miami Ave., Miami; fountainartfair.com. Admission costs $10 for a one-day pass or $15 for a weekend pass.)
For evidence that Art Miami is rivaling ABMB in sprawl and brawn, check out the inaugural edition of Context, Art Miami's new sister fair in midtown. Context features a curated group of 65 contemporary galleries in its freshly pitched, 45,000-square-foot tent next to Art Miami (which houses 125 galleries of its own). Together they boast nearly as many galleries as Basel itself.
The most anticipated presentation at the newbie fair is "Banksy Out of Context," featuring five wall reliefs — weighing six-and-a-half tons — by the legendary graffiti maverick. The iconic stencil works — which Bansky refuses to authenticate, like all his work — are not for sale. They're on exhibit, rather, to provoke dialogue about street art shown out of its original neighborhood context, a hot-button issue in the art world. The Art Newspaper recently reported that two of the murals, Stop and Search and Wet Dog, were removed from their original home in Bethlehem by Palestinians who tried to sell them on eBay for $500,000 before the hijacked works made it to Wynwood from the West Bank. (December 5 through 9 at 3201 NE First Ave., Miami. contextartmiami.com. Admission costs $20 general and $10 for seniors.)