For Art Basel 2015, Miami Museums and Galleries Put on a Spectacle

TJ & Leah, as photographed for the Scar Project. On exhibit at “Red!... and Other Stories” in Wynwood.
TJ & Leah, as photographed for the Scar Project. On exhibit at “Red!... and Other Stories” in Wynwood.
David Jay

Devonté Hynes has a fraught relationship with Miami. The last time the London-born singer, better known as Blood Orange, was in town in 2013, he was outside the Electric Pickle when police raided the club over a liquor license issue. When he tried to retrieve his equipment inside, an officer — who ignored white clubgoers headed back into the club — handcuffed Hynes, who is black, and threw him in jail. The very next day, he was horrified to hear a group of white tourists casually dropping an N-bomb in Wynwood.

So it’s anyone’s guess what vision of the city Hynes will present in Dimensions, a mystery-shrouded art piece he’ll debut this week on the bayfront terrace of Pérez Art Museum Miami. His collaboration with Brooklyn-based choreographer Ryan McNamara promises to blend dance, sculpture, and sound while exploring some of the weirdest history in town, from Coral Castle to Opa-locka to Vizcaya.

“These are two artists whose layered work emerges from a multiplicity of information and influences,” PAMM curator Emily Mello says of the project.

Blood Orange’s upcoming performance highlights a rich vein of Miami Art Week shows at a growing roster of museums and art galleries, which are bringing world-class talent to town to compete with pop-up fairs for the hordes of art-hungry visitors and buyers descending on South Florida. The installations range from trippy video art set in a traveling van to a guerrilla performance artist who tries to sell work on the sly to audiences.

But few shows are as likely to be talked about as Blood Orange and McNamara’s project, which the pair conceived as part of PAMM’s researcher-in-residence program. McNamara is known for haunting and opaque pieces that pack intellectual punch along with a social message. As Basel’s ties between art and entertainment grow ever stronger — think of Miley Cyrus’ starring role last year — the Hynes-McNamara collabo is sure to tweak that trend.

How, exactly, will the pair turn Miami’s oddball architectural history into a stage performance? PAMM isn’t saying, but the show promises to be fascinating.

“You won’t see a literal reinterpretation of European or Moorish revival architecture or high-rises at the water’s edge,” Mello says, “but rather the longing for an imagined mythic past and speculative future experienced in fragments of music and choreography.”

(Pérez Art Museum Miami, 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Dimensions will be performed at 9 p.m. December 3. The show is open only to PAMM Sustaining and above level members as well as Art Basel Miami Beach, Design Miami, and Art Miami VIP cardholders.)

Rachel in the Garden, John Currin.
Rachel in the Garden, John Currin.
John Currin (copyright). Photography by Rob McKeever. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Just up the road in the Design District, the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami (ICA) has something to prove this year. With a new director — Ellen Salpeter, formerly of the Jewish Museum in New York — and a new permanent home under construction just around the corner, the museum will try to turn international art heads with Alex Bag’s “The Van (Redux*),” the first major U.S. presentation of her work since 2009.

Working primarily in video, Bag has created a show that harks back to her 2001 exhibit “The Van.” Installed in an actual van with a leather-and-pink-faux-fur-lined interior, the new video presents her as three fictitious artists as they’re driven to a gallery by its owner. As they discuss their work and aspirations, the piece paints a sardonic picture of the commercial art market. Along with presenting Bag’s work, ICA’s opening reception December 1 will feature a performance by Las Vegas-based crooner Shamir and Miami’s own booty-shaking mystery, Poorgrrrl.

(ICA, 4040 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-901-5272; “The Van (Redux*),” on view December 1 through January 31. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is free.)

Though its building is closed for renovations, the Bass Museum of Art is still presenting “Public,” its yearly exhibit of outdoor sculptures and performance art from 26 international artists, in Collins Park. UK-based James Capper will star with his inanimate objects transformed into whirling machines remotely operated by a control panel, while Jacob Kassay will bring onlookers together in conversation about his paintings. Performance artist Ryan Gander, meanwhile, will blend into the crowd as a struggling artist, making a statement on Basel’s rampant commercialism.

“He goes around on opening night, talking to the attendees and trying to sell them his art,” says José Carlos Diaz, the museum’s curator of exhibitions.

(Bass Museum of Art, 2100 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; The opening night of “Public” is December 2 from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission is free. “Public” is on view through December 6. Tours will be offered daily at 2 p.m.)

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is open, but in other ways it’s in a greater state of flux than the Bass. Early this year, MOCA board members walked out with the curatorial team and part of the collection to found ICA, leaving one of South Florida’s landmark institutions staggering. Yet MOCA is steamrolling forward. During Basel, it’s exhibiting the work of Colombian artist Carlos Salas in the show “Latin America and the Global Imagination.” The exhibition features 60 monumental abstract paintings by the artist.

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(MOCA, 770 NE 125th St., North Miami; 305-893-6211; “Latin America and the Global Imagination” will be on display December 2 through February 2. Admission is $30; MOCA members, North Miami residents, and Art Basel VIPs get in free.)

Museums aren’t the only venues going all-out to attract eyeballs during Basel. Miami’s galleries are also bringing top talent to town. And one of the most buzzed-about shows all week is the Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian collaboration for “Unrealism,” a show inside the Moore Building. The two famed gallerists have spent decades embroiled in fierce competition over artists, press, and attention. Now, for the first time, they’re working together, presenting a mix of works from undiscovered artists such as Tala Madani and Jamian Juliano-Villani and more established figures like John Currin and David Salle.

“He’s one of the most imaginative, innovative curators out there,” Gagosian told the New York Times of Deitch and the upcoming project.

(The Moore Building, 3841 NE Second Ave., #400, Miami; 305-531-8700; “Unrealism” is on view December 6 through 9. Admission is free.)

The Unknown Soldier, Cpt. Nicholas Vogt as photographed by DavidJay for the Scar Project.
The Unknown Soldier, Cpt. Nicholas Vogt as photographed by DavidJay for the Scar Project.
David Jay

Fredric Snitzer Gallery has brought in art-world bad boy Kenny Scharf for an exhibit aptly titled “Schow.” Known for his frequent collaborations outside the scene, Scharf knows how to draw attention. His graffiti-inspired creations have adorned the galleries and edifices of the East Village since the late ’80s. Created with a pop sensibility, his pieces have a sense of distance and irony that’s refreshing, especially amid Basel’s self-seriousness.

(Fredric Snitzer Gallery, 1540 NE Miami Ct., Miami. “Schow” runs December 5 through January 2. Scharf will lead a salon from 4:20 to 4:50 p.m. December 3. Admission is free. Regular gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.)

New York photographer David Jay makes his debut on the Basel scene with the solo exhibition “Red!... and Other Stories” in Wynwood. Jay cut his teeth working the high-pressure world of fashion and editorial photography but has more recently aimed his lens at more overlooked subject matter. The show will also premiere the photographer’s newest series: Red!... and Naked Ladies. The series takes a lighthearted approach toward marginalized subjects and displaced individuals. Though stark and minimalist, each piece is imbued with an inviting warmth that begs the viewer to look deeper.

(48 NW 25th St., Miami. “Red!... and Other Stories” is on view through December 30. Admission is free.)

Gregg Shienbaum, the owner of Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art, knew months ago he wanted to concentrate his Basel showing on New York visionary Keith Haring. “I started buying Keith Haring paintings this summer, with the plan to show them during the season,” Shienbaum said the opening night of his show, “Keith Haring Narrated.” Haring’s work has been increasingly sought after in recent years, perhaps because it’s so accessible.

(Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art, 2239 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-456-5478; “Keith Haring Narrated” is on display through December 14. Admission is free. Regular gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.)

In other offbeat collaborations, Spanish fashion house Loewe will transform into a gallery during Miami Art Week with the show “Chance Encounters.” The already museum-like store, complete with all-white merchandise and an 18th-century Spanish granary, will feature pieces by four artists: potter Lucie Rie, sculptor Anthea Hamilton, photographer Paul Nash, and painter Rose Wylie.

(Loewe, 3841 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-576-7601; “Chance Encounters” is on display December 2 through January 17. Admission is free. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.) 

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