Art Basel Satellite Fairs in Miami Beach Transform the Tourist Mecca

Fine, so the name Art Basel comes from Europe. But in Miami, saying "I'm going to Basel" doesn't imply you're headed to a city in Switzerland where you can't get a legit colada and the drivers don't know to turn on their hazard lights when it rains. No, "Basel" means Miami in December.

"There's no reason an art fair has to be like a shopping mall. Everything is conversational."

Like Kleenex, Dumpsters, and Styrofoam (or, as they are known this week, "mixed media"), the name of the main fair has come to encompass anything similar to it. Art Basel in Miami Beach is the big one, of course. But plenty of other Miami Beach events have used the megafair as a launching pad to lure even more culture to South Florida's sunny shores. (For more about ABMB, see page 14.)

Just outside the main event is the most fun you can have in a Miami Beach parking lot without posting a lookout. At its entrance pavilion, Design Miami (Meridian Avenue and 19th Street, designmiami.com) features a dramatic installation, this year designed by New York studio formlessfinder. The fair tells us: "With its dramatic aluminum roof balanced on the tip of a great pyramid of sand, Tent Pile offers shade and seating — a place to play and rest for the public."

Marina Abramovic, Places of Power, The Garden of Maitreya, 2013
Courtesy of the artist / Luciana Brito Galeria; Photography by Marco Anelli
Marina Abramovic, Places of Power, The Garden of Maitreya, 2013

But where do magazine subscription cards dream of going when they die? To Ink Miami (1850 Collins Ave., inkartfair.com), focusing exclusively on paper. Executive director Michele Senecal says, "If you enjoy prints, drawings, and works on paper, you're really in for a treat. And we've got some unexpected highlights." At Ink, the concept of "works on paper" gets stretched to its limit, incorporating sculpture and pieces that, considered alongside your legal pad doodles, will make you wish for an origami noose.

At Select Fair Miami (1732 Collins Ave., select-fair.com), Christian Detres tells us that visitors will find "more of a street art feel." Though graffiti-inspired work — like that of street-art giant Swoon — is prominent at the fair, there are also more surprising interpretations of the aesthetic, including those by the Con Artist, a collective that has staged re-creations of Yoko Ono's Cut Piece using a usually revered superhero uniform.

Aqua (1530 Collins Ave., aquaartmiami.com) presents a new, immersive project — Sound Vision — whose idea, director Jennifer Jacobs says, is to have the sounds and visuals of the fair interact with and inform one another. The clearest realization of this concept will be in the Aqua Hotel's penthouse.

"The visuals are beautiful, refined oil paintings that play with different representations of urban landscapes," Jacobs says. "They're being paired with sound artists who work with urban beats in a refined atmosphere. It will be more ambient during the day, but at night it's going to be more of a dance party."

In North Beach — the, uh, penthouse of Miami Beach — NADA Art Fair Miami once again sets up poolside at the Deauville Beach Resort (6701 Collins Ave., nadaartfair.org). Roughly half of the 70-odd galleries in New Art Dealers Alliance's fair are from New York. But the hometown heroes at Locust Projects will also be there, jackknifing off the high dive and soaking those carpetbagging hipsters' breadless sandwiches.

Speaking of damp luncheon meat, Scope Miami has tossed the cooler in the back of its station wagon and is headed to the beach. It's the fair's inaugural year on the sand (10th Street and Ocean Drive, scope-art.com) and first year with new director Katelijne De Backer. Scope's continuing collaboration with VH1 brings the band Tegan and Sara to the fair for a Friday-night concert as well.

This year's Scope-commissioned programs include a museum from Nyugen Smith that's dedicated to a fictitious history of colonization. And in what's sure to be one of the week's highlights, Einat Amir's interactive performance piece Enough About You monitors the interactions of strangers in a laboratory setting.

Also hoping to have correctly planned for high tide is Untitled. (Ocean Drive and 13th Street, art-untitled.com), which returns to the shore for its second year. "We had 49 galleries last year, 97 from 19 countries this year," says Omar Lopez-Chahoud, the fair's organizer. "But there's no reason an art fair has to be like a shopping mall. Everything is really conversational. Our roundtable discussions are participatory and in a space designed to be interactive."

This year, Lopez-Chahoud has emphasized video work and "a great number of not-for-profits," as well as magazines such as Cabinet and Esopus "that work as an art project rather than a commercial magazine." Aside from a performance by Miami's own TM Sisters — the fair's capitalization spirit animals — performance artist Marina Abramovic will, as they say, be present.

When you awake next week, the tents will be gone and the waves lapping your neck will sting the hickeys from all those guys who claimed to be Banksy. But that's next week. This week, art hard and art often.

 
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