With more than 50,000 international visitors pouring into the Big Mango for the Art Basel blitz, our cultural calendar has hit critical mass. Everywhere across the 305 the top shelf swill is flowing, B-listers are rubbing elbows with Euro-trash; people you haven't seen since middle school are contacting you to see if you can score them tix to a VIP Vernissage.
Art Basel turns our already dysfunctional town into a Babylonian echo chamber. But despite plenty of claims to the contrary, you will find many exhibits at the fairs and in local galleries and museums worth visiting -- even if it means enduring (or, in the best case scenario, embracing) the chaos.
Our top ten picks include a visit to ABMB's free public outdoor sculpture park and nighttime video projections, satellite fairs both new and old, a pop-up gun store and more. Here's what not to miss this weekend.
Art Basel Miami Beach
Held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, ABMB, now in its 11th edition, features 260 top-shelf galleries from countries representing North and Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia, which will exhibit 20th- and 21st-century artworks by more than 2,000 artists. In the Art Positions area, 16 upstart galleries each feature a major installation created by one artist. Look for Miami's own Spinello Projects, where Agustina Woodgate's Basel debut, New Landscapes, includes filed-down world maps reshaped into surreal displays. Special sections will also feature performance art, video art, public projects.
December 6-9 at various Miami locations. Visit artbasel.com.
ABMB Art Public
Basel's sculpture park at Collins Park was organized for the second consecutive year by Christine Y. Kim, a curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Her lineup corrals works that explore language and speech. Crane your head skyward at 11:45 each morning to see Dave McKenzie's Declaration -- a plane flying a banner offering artistic marriage proposals.
After catching Pierre Ardouvin's melting-snowman sculptures, titled Bonhomme de Neige, amble over to Basel's oceanfront installation between 20th and 21st streets, where Cuban collective Los Carpinteros whips up frosty cocktails inside Guiro. Open from 5 p.m. to midnight every evening through December 8, the bar takes the form of a traditional Caribbean percussion instrument made from a gourd. Visitors enjoy a curated program of live music and performances by Mallorcan composer Joan Valent along with their beverages.
ABMB Art Video
Bring a lawn chair or a blanket to SoundScape Park to watch video works on the 7,000-square-foot outdoor projection wall of the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center. ABMB's Art Video Nights will spool 60 video and film works by top contemporary names, including Julieta Aranda, Daniel Arsham, Theaster Gates, and Robin Rhode.
December 8 and 9 from 6 p.m. Admission is free.
Peter Anton 's fully functional carnival ride titled Sugar and Gomorrah delivers a sugar rush and alone merits a visit to this fair. His installation is lined with giant sculptures of doughnuts, cupcakes and candies and confected with a nod to youthful innocence, our addiction to vices and Lesley Gore's sweet, warbling tonsils. Anton's sensory-addling roller coaster anchors an outdoor sculpture pavilion housing a café, lounge, and bar and live graffiti artists.
December 4 through 9 at the Art Miami Pavilion, 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.
For evidence that Art Miami is rivaling ABMB in sprawl and brawn, check out the inaugural edition of 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. 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.
Today through Dec. 9 at 3101 NE First Ave., Miami. Admission costs $20 general and $10 for seniors. Visit contextartmiami.com.
This year's most intriguing new fair 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 promises. 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. Admission costs $15 general, $10 students. Visit justmadmia.es.
Fountain Art Fair
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. Admission costs $10 or $15 for a weekend pass. Visit fountainartfair.com.
Bill Viola: Liber Insularum
For his first U.S. museum survey since 2003, video pioneer Bill Viola brings his singular vision of the human condition to North Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art where his solo features 11 screen works and projections. Viola's sensory-engulfing opuses typically explore the concepts of birth, death, and conscious awakening, with a nod to both Eastern and Western art, as well as mystical, spiritual traditions. Viola is known for employing state-of-the-art technologies to explore the phenomena of sense perception as an avenue to self-knowledge. His highly anticipated exhibit was inspired by a 15th century Florentine cleric's tome recording the six lonely years he spent wandering the Aegean, which Viola uses as a compass point to illustrate our lives today in a transforming global landscape.
Today through March 3, 2013 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 770 NE 125th Street, North Miami. Call 305-893-6211 or visit mocanomi.org.
Soul Manufacturing Corporation
Theaster Gates comes to Locust Projects with his "Soul Manufacturing Corporation," a project two years in the making and on view for the first time ever at the pioneer local art venue celebrating its 15th season. Gates has created a fully functioning "factory" with four pavilions where "skilled makers" will produce found-art objects and pottery. A yoga instructor, DJ, and reader on hand will "care for" the workers and audience, a nod to the lectors who read news and literature to illiterate workers during the industrial era. In the gallery's Project Room, meanwhile, Miami's Jacin Giordano will present "Wound, Bound, Tied and Knotted," for which he employs tree branches as the stretchers for his paintings. Their organic nature dramatizes the web of rainbow-hued yarn wrapped around the stems to create the painting surface.
Locust Projects, 3852 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Call 305-576-8570 or visit locustprojects.org.
Raneytown and Asif's Guns
No exhibit drew more headlines last December than Primary Projects' "I Like Pigs and Pigs Like Me," in which artist Miru Kim got naked and wallowed in a muddy space with live pigs. The edgy gallery's two new shows this year aren't likely to become as notorious, but are worthy of attention in their own right.
For "Raneytown," Miami native Rebeca Raney brings 250 ink-and-gouache drawings depicting a wild menagerie of hybrid creatures, plants, and characters, plus a phalanx of sculptures including a soaring, ten-foot "Plant Person."
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The gallery is also staging "Asif's Guns," a pop-up "gun store" where Miami's Asif Farooq will sell more than 300 firearms -- from a snub-nosed Saturday-night special to an M16 -- all fashioned from cardboard.
Primary Projects, 4141 NE Second Ave., Ste. 104, Miami; 954-296-1675; primaryflight.com/projects. The pop-up is located at 167 NW 25th St., Miami