Longform

Art Basel Invasion!

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In the past, Fairchild has organized major art events featuring large-scale exhibitions by artists such as Fernando Botero, Roy Lichtenstein, and Dale Chihuly during the fair. "Historically, art and nature have always been linked, and people who enjoy one generally enjoy the other," Greer adds. "Our goal is to provide visitors with a complete cultural experience in which they enjoy world-class art and one of the world's greatest living collections of tropical plants, while learning about the importance of plant conservation."


There's Art Everywhere

South Beach hotels, Wynwood's private collections, and a rash of new galleries are also bursting with provocative exhibits and a cautious optimism despite the economy. Highlights of Wynwood's private collections include the following:

• At the Margulies Collection (591 NW 27th St.), a stirring video installation by Isaac Julien accompanies a searing Holocaust-themed sculpture by Magdalena Abakanowicz.

• Inside its sprawling 45,000-square-foot space, the Rubell Family Collection (95 NW 29th St.) presents "30 Americans," a blockbuster exhibit of more than 200 works by 30 artists displayed across the space's 27 galleries.

• CiFo (1018 N. Miami Ave.) takes a knockout look at the ways artists respond to the exercise of power in contemporary life. "The Prisoner's Dilemma: Selections from the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection" confronts and examines issues of powerlessness, exclusion, subversion, escapism, transcendence, warfare, protest, and resistance in a world spiraling out of control.

Many South Beach hotels will host quirky art events that open up guest rooms for exhibits. The Bridge Art Fair at the Catalina and Maxine hotels (1732-1756 Collins Ave.) promises an indie vibe; more than 80 rooms will be decked out in the freshest offerings of the boho tribe.

Downwind at the swank Sagamore Hotel (1671 Collins Ave.), where rooms cost between $715 and $1,295 a night, there will be not only original art in every room but also a suite of photographs by local artist Lee Materazzi from her Head In series. The photos are located in the hotel's public areas, which also feature an art bar, an art lounge, and a video garden to include some of the hottest names in the contemporary art world.

One of Materazzi's shots depicts a woman with her noggin stuck in her purse. It is the perfect metaphor for the thousands of dealers swooping into town to chase big bucks.

For her part, Materazzi says that in the past she has found Basel to be overwhelming and the artwork difficult to appreciate. It will be different this time around. "I think for artists and viewers, a less chaotic affair will be more enjoyable," she says.

In a new project by Swiss artist Olaf Breuning, the Sagamore will offer a contemporary take on Miami Beach sand sculpture. A 150-ton sphinx looms over a stretch of beach directly behind the hotel. The artist is also transforming the lobby using an absurdist wall mural.

Back on the mainland, Eric Charest-Weinberg is among many new dealers planting their flags in Wynwood during Basel. The 24-year-old hopes to defy economic gravity by featuring a stable of edgy artists that he's banking collectors will take a risk on.

He is popping the cork on his eponymous gallery (250 NW 23rd St., #408) with a sprawling solo show by Canadian provocateur Marc Seguin. The artist's fierce paintings fuse images of human beings with taxidermied roadkill to convey a sense of existential anomie.

"I think the works speak for themselves," Charest-Weinberg muses. "This is a very interesting time. To me it's all about wholeheartedly supporting these artists."

Basel spokesman Bob Goodman dismisses notions that attendance will fall off this year. "We have discount prices for groups of 10 and seniors and students," he says. "We are also having free film events, lectures, and public art projects people can look up on our website. We are expecting major celebrities like Steve Martin and Tony Bennett to return this year, and we will be featuring more than 200 of the world's finest galleries again.

"All the museums from Miami to Palm Beach are putting up special shows. I haven't seen any indication of a letdown or that the goose won't lay a golden egg."


ART BASEL EVENT LISTINGS

Aqua Art Miami: 44 galleries with a strong representation of West Coast dealers. Dec. 4-7. 206-399-5506. Aqua Hotel, 1530 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, 305-538-4361. In Wynwood, 50 more galleries will exhibit contemporary art Dec. 3-7. 42 NE 25th St., Miami, 206-245-8598.

Art Asia: Miami's first international Asian contemporary art fair will make its debut, bringing together more than 60 leading international galleries. Dec. 3-7, noon-6 p.m. Art Asia Pavilion, 3000 NE 1st Ave, Miami, 212-268-6148.

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Carlos Suarez De Jesus