Some Art Baselites strive for 24/7 consciousness, relying on chemical aids to cram in every possible exhibit. Others limit themselves to the fresh rash of graffiti murals erupting around town. More, like me, seek out the immersive experiences where you can not only see world-class art but also engage with the artists — and sometimes even lend a hand in the creative act.
Regardless of your approach, the sad truth is it's impossible to catch every piece of art worth experiencing during Basel week. With 250 exhibitors at the Miami Beach Convention Center, not to mention hundreds of others operating at the more than a dozen satellite fairs, this year's tenth edition is a cut above, making any victory over the schedule even more pyrrhic. And don't forget our own homegrown dealers and artists eager to prove we measure up against the best in the world.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't try. From levitating platforms to 3-D graffiti to naked hog-wrasslin', here are New Times' picks for this year's can't-miss moments.
Guide to 2011 Art Basel Miami Beach Fairs
While you work up your Basel game face, don't miss the retrospective on ten years of Basel madness on page 15. If you need a guide-on-the-go, check out bit.ly/baselevents.
"American Exuberance": Want a primer on contemporary art from the past three decades? This blockbuster show at the Rubell Family Collection is your one-stop shop, with nearly 200 works — nearly a quarter of them created just for the exhibit — by 64 artists, from blue-chip talent such as Jeff Koons, Mike Kelley, and Barbara Kruger to rising comets such as Ryan Trecartin and Sterling Ruby. And don't miss Jennifer Rubell's breakfast installation Incubation, where the public can watch her make yogurt — and then eat the results. (Through July 27, 2012, at the Rubell Family Collection, 95 NW 29th St., Miami. Free to the public during Art Basel, Thursday through Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 305-573-6090 or visit rfc.museum.)
"Before They Were Famous: Behind the Lens of William John Kennedy": Those suffering from a sweet tooth for the golden oldies should check Scope Miami's iconic images of legends such as Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana shot during the early '60s by Kennedy, a longtime Miami shutterbug.
"People are going to experience the notion of entering a time warp," explains Kennedy, who adds he is also "wallpapering the entire room" at Kiwi Project Space in Wynwood and screening a documentary revisiting the era at O Cinema as part of his Basel breakout.
"The image of Andy Warhol holding the Marilyn Monroe acetate will certainly become one of the most iconic images ever produced," says Michael Huter, publisher of the Kiwi Arts Group, who organized this year's show. "The early documentation of these works from some of contemporary art's most instrumental figures gives the viewer a glimpse into the past and of the earliest parts of the American pop art movement." (December 1 through 4 at Scope Miami, NE First Avenue and 30th Street, Miami; Kiwi Project Space, 48 NW 29th St., Miami. Scope's admission is $20, and it's open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit scope-art.com and kiwiartsgroup.com.)
Fab Five Freddy: After setting Wynwood ablaze with wild pyrotechnics in 2010, Fountain Art Fair returns with more works that the average-wage slave can afford. A pass to Fountain runs just $15 for the weekend and features late-night musical performances — none more incredible than a set by Fred Brathwaite, better known as hip-hop and graffiti founding father Fab Five Freddy. In the early '80s, Freddy's cartoonish versions of Warhol's soup cans helped move tagging from subways to galleries. He went on to host Yo! MTV Raps.
"I am really excited about Fab Five Freddy," says Fountain cofounder David Kesting. "Miami and Brooklyn have a shared experience that overlaps in music and art. The murals you see in your neighborhood and the music you listen to here, they have a common thread with shows we have been doing." (December 1 through 4 at Fountain Art Fair, 2505 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Public hours are noon to 7 p.m., with performances running until midnight Friday and Saturday. Admission is $10 for one night or $15 for the weekend. Visit fountainartfair.com.)
"Graffiti Gone Global": Wynwood has earned well-deserved street cred for building-swallowing murals painted during Primary Flight and at Wynwood Walls, but this year's edition of "Graffiti Gone Global" promises to completely blow up the art form. Creatives including Marc Fornes, Volkan Alkanoglu, Billi Kid, and other urban mavericks will present cerebral 3-D graffiti projects you'll be able to walk through. Look for everything from a mammoth, 30-by-16-foot installation created from hundreds of thousands of interlocking nodes, evoking a fractal universe, to a reinvented NBA All-Star Game basketball court. (11 a.m. to 8 p.m. December 2 and 3, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. December 4 at the Rotunda Space, 3252 NE First Ave., Ste, 101, Miami. Admission is free. Visit gggexhibit.com.)
Born Under a Bad Sign: In 2009, serial disturber of the peace NeckFace debuted a Halloween solo show at OHWOW that left spectators' eye sockets crushed into creamed corn. It featured drawings of blood-puking babies hung over full-color, tractor-trailer-size vinyl murals of brutal crime scene photos. The precocious virtuoso of the putrid is back to haunt us with his new horror film, Born Under a Bad Sign, helmed by cult filmmaker Isaiah Seret and featuring the tale of "Satan's lonely soldier who hunts for the heads of those who wronged him." Venom-spitting, "witch-house" band Salem will provide the musical interlude. (10:30 p.m. December 1 at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, 174 E. Flagler St., Miami. Admission is free with RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit onfwd.com.)
(Slow Room)at Seven: During its first session last year, indie satellite fair Seven made an impression with an expansive look at the programs of seven New York and London spaces in a sprawling Wynwood warehouse. Unlike the other piggyback fairs where dealers shop wares in cramped booths, Seven offered a chill and immersive viewing experience. This year, check out Pierogi Gallery presenting Jonathan Schipper's kinetic installation Slow Room, in which the artist will yank a roomful of furniture through a tiny hole in a corner in slow motion over a course of several days. (November 29 through December 4 at Seven, 2637 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Visit seven-miami.com.)
"Pop-Up Pianos Miami": Ten Steinway pianos will be festooned with art ranging from graffiti to 3-D sculptures to acrylic paints, some customized by local talent such as Lebo, Reinier Gamboa, and Alouishous San Gomma, AKA street artist Ahol Sniffs Glue, known for his gigantic blinking eye murals across town. The tricked-out instruments will make appearances from South Beach to Wynwood and Brickell. Anyone who finds a baby grand can stroke the ivories before they are donated to local public schools at the end of the weekend. "I'm trying to get mine donated to my old high school, Miami South Ridge," Ahol says. (December 1 through 4 at various locations around Miami. Admission is free. Visit popuppianomia.com.)
("Levitating the Fair"): Arguably this weekend's most ambitious interactive project is Glenn Kaino's stunning interactive performance piece, part of ABMB's Public Art segment,which will feature 24 monumental installations by other artists at the sprawling outdoor event in South Beach's Collins Park. The Los Angeles-based Kaino has created a minimalist, 20-by-20-foot sculptural platform that invokes iconic attractions at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Spectators all weekend can help Kaino "levitate" the structure, holding it aloft like crowd surfers at Burning Man.
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Kaino says the project began after he left Basel's 2008 fair crestfallen because of the focus on that year's economic collapse. "People were freaking out about money, and that's not why I got into art," says Kaino, who closed his studio after the fair to study magic instead. "I'm looking for volunteers to help me hold [this project] up in the air as long as possible. It's an act of faith and deals with belief and suspension of disbelief at the same time. When it comes down, it's over." (December 1 through 4 at Collins Park, 21st Street and Collins Avenue, Miami Beach. Admission is free. Visit artbaselmiamibeach.com.)
Art Video: Public Screenings in SoundScape Park: Taking advantage of the skull-staving, 7,000-square-foot outdoor projection wall on the façade of the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center in SoBe, this video program selected by David Gryn, director of London's Artprojx, boasts feature film and video by top-drawer talent. Friday at 8 p.m., Americania will offer a selection of shorts showing the United States through the eyes of various artists from contrasting backgrounds. Saturday at 8 p.m., you can catch Painterly, a 55-minute work that explores new digital technology by combining film, animation, sculpture, and painting in unexpected ways. (December 1 through 4 at New World Center's SoundScape Park, 500 17th St., Miami Beach. Admission is free. Visit artbaselmiamibeach.com.)
"Here Lies Georges Wildenstein": If we had to predict what will become the most trumpeted work during this year's circus, look no further than our own homegrown Primary Projects. The rogue troika of Books IIII Bischof, Chris Oh, and Typoe's new show with edgy works by 15 artists takes its name from an influential Parisian art dealer of Jewish descent who was stripped of his French nationality in 1940 and later accused of trafficking art with the Nazis. Among the highlights are Miru Kim's Basel opus The Pig That Therefore I Am, where the artist will wallow nude in a glass enclosure full of live hogs. Her performance promises to leave local tongues wagging well into Noche Buena, the traditional Cuban roast-pork dinner that locals slaver over for Christmas Eve. (December 1 through 4 at Primary Projects, 4141 NE Second Ave., Ste. 104, Miami. Opening reception Thursday from 7 to 10 p.m. Visit primaryflight.com/projects.)