Two Miami Beach Fairs Mark a Decade in Business

Jonathan Muecke Design/Miami
Jonathan Muecke Design/Miami
Photography by Gesi Schilling

In 2011, Miami celebrated ten years of Art Basel Miami Beach with Picassos, parties galore, and one pigpen featuring a naked artist that was decidedly NSFW. Three years later, a pair of its satellite fairs is entering the double digits, bringing work and programming that's just as exciting (and probably less smelly).

Design Miami, Art Basel's sophisticated little sister, will enter its second decade in almost exactly the same way it entered its first: with 11 of the original 15 galleries that exhibited in 2004, the fair's inaugural year. "It's pretty fantastic for us to acknowledge these people after ten years," says Rodman Primack, the fair's director.

The fair has also gone back to basics with the design of its entrance, which is one of the most anticipated public spectacles of Miami Art Week each year. Last year, for instance, the front door was obscured in a huge pile of sand. Of all the proposals this year, Primack says, Jonathan Muecke's colorful circular structure was "by far the simplest in many ways. We kept being drawn to its simplicity. A lot of the [other proposals] were really great but really complicated and complex and had lots of bells and whistles. It felt overly elaborate. But we all felt that there was something very pure and restrained about Jonathan's proposal."

See also: Art Basel Miami Beach Just Keeps Getting Bigger and Better

Upcoming Events

There's plenty new at Design Miami this year too. A new section called Design Curio expands the definition of design with installations by unorthodox designers from all industries and walks of life, including a submission by Miami-based marine biologists and artists Coral Morphologic. Architect Peter Marino and artist Theaster Gates are among the names on the talks list so far -- the busiest in fair history. And 2014 marks the first Miami gallery represented at Design Miami, Gallery Diet, which will showcase the work of Miami designer Emmett Moore. As Primack says, "It's a double whammy!" (Design Miami, December 3 to 7 at Meridian Avenue and 19th Street, Miami Beach. Admission costs $20 to $25. Visit miami2014.designmiami.com.)

Aqua, which annually transforms South Beach's Aqua Hotel into an unorthodox art fair, turns 10 this year with an emphasis on audience participation. Among the highlights: an artist who'll create "psychic portraits" of fairgoers; a combination psychology office/information booth where audiences can share their experiences of art in Miami; and an apt reimagining of the 12-step program titled Artists Anonymous.

Artist Karen Finley has created a series of meetings where "people can meet and discuss their problems with art and consider and reflect on the challenges that we encounter as artists, arts professionals, and art lovers," explains Jennifer Jacobs, director. "It's very tongue-in-cheek." (Aqua Art Fair, December 3 to 7 at the Aqua Hotel, 1530 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Admission costs $10 to $15. Visit aquaartmiami.com.)

Scope may not be celebrating a milestone birthday this year, but it's still bringing a party-worthy lineup of exhibitors and events back to the sands of South Beach after moving away from its Midtown location last year. In its new, relatively uncrowded home base, the fair is better able to stand out from the pack, says Vice President Daria Brit Greene: "It brought us to a place where we were better able to separate our brand identity from all the other satellite fairs," she says.

Scope's music-heavy, street-friendly style is back in 2014, including its signature concert in partnership with VH1. This year brings Danish singer-songwriter Nabiha, while past years have brought Tegan & Sara, Metric, and Scissors Sisters to the fair. Greene is also committed to working with brand sponsors to create more unique exhibits, including a Fiat-fueled contest that'll have the winning artist wrapping a Fiat in art and a 30-foot-tall "Heineken House" where street artists will paint live throughout the fair. (Scope, December 3 to 7 at the Scope Pavilion, 910 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. Admission costs $20 to $130. Visit scope-art.com.)

Untitled has been around for only three years, but the fair is already undergoing a transformation. "For the third year, we wanted to bring a new perspective to Untitled -- a curatorial perspective," explains Omar Lopez-Chahoud, the fair's artistic director and curator.

The fair's new approach has led to a broadened vision in terms of both geography and genre. "We wanted to strengthen the European presence at Untitled," Lopez-Chahoud says, noting that previous years were heavier on Latin American art. Untitled also included publishing for the first time with the art imprint Kristoff, which is creating custom artist books for the fair. Attendees can also snag original posters created by ten artists, including Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Mathieu Mercier, and Lawrence Weiner. They'll be free to take (so you better get there early if you want one).

The fair also got a face-lift in the form of a newly designed tent by architect group K/R. "It's a complete redesign from the last two years," says Un-titled cofounder Jeff Lawson. "We wanted to loosely base the new design on deconstruction. So there's a large portion of the tent deconstructed, which is the entrance, a welcoming, open void of the tent that leads you into the space." (Untitled, December 3 to 7 at Ocean Drive and 12th Street. Admission costs $15 to $25. Visit art-untitled.com.)

Big changes are also in store at Select, which has left its 2013 location at the Catalina Hotel to set up a tent on the 7200 block of Collins Ave. But the fair hasn't lost its South Beach swag. This year's offerings include a VIP area sponsored by Mercedes-Benz and Lufthansa First Class as well as one very-high-profile performer: Solange Knowles, little sister to Queen Bey and an impressive talent in her own right.

Knowles will headline a six-night series of shows on the Select stage, curating the remainder of performances from artists on her Saint Records label. And she's just one of several female artists to make a splash at Select. Feminist art collective Milk and Night will bring performance and visual art; artist Rachel Mason will present her installation "Starseeds," featuring an army of dolls; and New York photographer/artist Ventiko will stage live photo ops in tableaux vivants style, incorporating both professional performers and Select attendees into the work. (Select, December 2 to 7 in the 7200-7300 blocks of Collins Avenue, Miami Beach. Admission is free. Visit select-fair.com.)

Just a few blocks away, at the Deauville, is NADA, the original North Beach fair with a hip, experimental vibe. This is where you'll find Miami gallery Locust Projects presenting a selection of furniture, objects, and installations as well as more work by Daniel Arsham and Simon Vega, who have taken over the gallery's Design District space during Basel. (See page 22.) NADA's ongoing partnership with the website Artsy will bring the Wallpapers artist collective to the fair to create two installations, one at the Artsy booth and another, video-heavy piece inside a Deauville guest room.

NADA has also historically offered the best art-fair souvenirs in Miami, and this year doesn't disappoint: a clothing line featuring the works of Sarah Braman, Jose Ler-ma, and Amy Yao, created in partnership with the clothing company Print All Over Me. (NADA, December 4 to 7 at the Deauville Beach Resort, 6701 Collins Ave. Admission is free. Visit newartdealers.org.)

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