Art Basel Invasion!

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For many culture vultures on a green-stamp budget, NADA (1400 N. Miami Ave.) is a perennial crowd favorite because it waives a cover charge. The fair, known for a heady mix of contemporary art talent and free daily performances, will house 88 emerging galleries from 19 countries. It's an inviting oasis in the midst of the unrelenting Basel hoopla. "I would say that NADA is a great option as we are free and open to the public during the fair hours," director Heather Hubbs says. "We have a beautiful outdoor garden area with hammocks to relax in and a great café restaurant that also offers seated table service. "

Basel will also have more eco-friendly work. The Design Miami Fair (NE 39th Street and First Court) includes an eco-friendly project exploring the theme of the natural world, titled "Beyond Organic: Design in the State of Nature." And a new arrival is the Green Art Fair (3100 NW Midtown Blvd.), introducing environmentally sensitive artists, curators, designers, and galleries to local audiences while presenting artworks and designs that bring new ideas for green living. "It's for artists who use recycled materials in their work," explains Miami artist Pablo Cano, known for his eye-popping conceptual puppets created from trash. "I will be performing a musical marionette piece and exhibiting three canvases created with debris from Hurricane Floyd. This year, it's definitely all about art as entertainment and hoping the market won't have too large an impact. I guess some artists will end up pounding the pavement and looking for jobs," Cano rues.

The Museums

Local museums are hardballing the hustling invaders who seek to turn our city into a shopping mall for art. The Miami Art Museum's "Objects of Value" tackles how contemporary artists approach dollars-and-cents issues. It features work by artists such as Cory Arcangel, Walead Beshty, Dario Escobar, Jac Leirner, Josiah McElheny, Wangechi Mutu, Seth Price, Wilfredo Prieto, Santiago Sierra, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Carey Young. Part of the show critiques the market for luxury goods (including art). Some of it highlights anxieties about the global economic meltdown. Still other aspects poke fun at the amorphous lines between luxury and decadence, and greed and good taste.

Florida International University's Frost Art Museum celebrates the moneybags' influx by inaugurating a spellbinding new 46,000-square-foot building designed by the acclaimed Yann Weymouth.

The ritzy digs are the first stop on a national tour for "Modern Masters from the Smithsonian American Art Museum," and they represent a homecoming for five pieces donated by Miami's Patricia and Phillip Frost to the Smithsonian in 1986, including works by Hans Hofmann and Joseph Albers.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami ratchets up the intrigue with the premiere of "Anri Sala: Purchase Not by Moonlight," featuring seven of Sala's films from the late Nineties to the present. One of them is a new film titled Answer Me, in which a Berlin couple tries to communicate via drumbeat. There will also be photographs and sculptures related to space and time. The exhibit marks the first major U.S. museum show of the Albanian artist's work.

The Wolfsonian-FIU is partnering with the Cranbrook Academy of Art and Smart Car for a mobile art project titled "Smart: Thoughts on Democracy," promising to deliver a dose of whiplash to pedestrians on Miami Beach streets. It complements the Wolf's other exhibit, "Thoughts on Democracy," in which more than 60 artists and designers created original works inspired by Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms posters.

The cars will zip around during Basel, showcasing slogans such as "Democracy: There is no alternative," courtesy of architect Michael Graves; "Democracy gives us liberty, freedom, and hope," from architect Zaha Hadid; and "Freedom is like Zen. It questions everything," by James Rosenquist, among others.

But perhaps the most interesting museum-quality show isn't at an indoor venue. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (10901 Old Cutler Rd., Coral Gables) unveils Mark di Suvero's enormous steel sculptures among flowering trees and a swirling butterfly garden. The exhibition features five massive, twisting steel sculptures, including Olompali, which soars 30 feet into the sky. The three-story-tall sculpture makes its international debut at Fairchild before being shipped to China, where it will be permanently located at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

She, a 30-year-old interactive piece measuring 52 feet wide, is another striking piece. With its wooden swinging bed, it is an example of di Suvero's desire to make touchable and accessible art. He created each sculpture to engage observers via changing dimensions as they approach it and move through it. "We are thrilled to bring his work to South Florida," says Bruce Greer, Fairchild's board of trustees president. "Fairchild's unique landscape will provide the perfect backdrop to truly reveal these massive structures' complexity and scale."

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Carlos Suarez De Jesus