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MIAMI MADNESS
Dec. 2, 2008 

The sun might be setting on the art market, but it’s still shining in Miami, where the whole art world concentrates its attention for the first week of December, with a stampede of fairs, parties and roving art craziness. Despite having lost a few minor players from 2007 -- the Flow hotel fair in South Beach, and the Miami incarnation of the AIPAD photo show in Wynwood -- this year’s fair week is more overgrown with events than ever.

The big fish in the middle of it all is, of course, the immense Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB), Dec. 4-7, 2008, at the Miami Beach Convention Center, "the most important art show in the United States," if it does say so itself. And indeed, a staggering 266 galleries take part in the event’s various and sundry parts, including the main fair featuring heavy-hitting international galleries ranging from Acquavella, Aizpuru and Arndt & Partner to Washburn, White Cube and Zwirner & Wirth.

As usual, the extras are juicy. In the park across from the convention center is "Diamonds, Gold and Dreams," an installation of gold fabric, gold-trimmed furniture and a seven-minute-long film by Hollywood weirdo David Lynch, all housed in the "Cartier Dome," a geodesic VIP longue sponsored by the luxury goods maker. Titled Floating Diamond, Lynch’s film shares the space with the Patiala necklace, an Art Deco bib crafted by Cartier for the Maharaja of Patiala in 1928.

Other special installations accompanying ABMB include ambitious displays of outdoor art. Among these are a sand castle in the shape of "a huge bikini girl with a Klee-inspired face" by Olaf Breuning on the beach, and Bubble, a sprawling installation by Chinese art star Ai Weiwei that includes 100 blue ceramic orbs, sited in the new Island Gardens development on the MacArthur Causeway.

Special attention should be paid this year to "Art Positions," ABMB’s notorious satellite exhibition featuring 20 newer galleries modestly housed in shipping containers at the beach. Highlights include Teresa Margolles’ jewelry made from broken glass taken from the sites of drug-war killings; Drew Hitzler’s diseased, fungi-infested palm tree transplanted from L.A.; and Raul de Nieves’ "ice cream party" in a container shaped like a large banana split

As part of the "Art Perform" program of events for ABMB, artist Yoshua Okon is staging arm-wrestling matches where visitors can win artworks from the "Art Positions" exhibitors. "Transform your muscle power to acquisition power," reads the flyer.

Meanwhile, in Miami. . .
However sun-specked Miami Beach might be, the funkier environs across the causeways in Miami proper continue to be a powerful attraction, with a slew of art fairs in addition to the galleries, museums and shops in the Design District and the Wynwood Art District.

First stop, by popular consensus, is the NADA Art Fair, Dec. 3-7, 2008, at the Ice Palace at 1400 North Miami Avenue. This year NADA presents 88 avant-garde dealers, including Guild & Greyshkul (New York), Kim Light/Light Box (Los Angeles), Museum 52 (London) and Western Exhibitions (Chicago). Also drawing the crowds is an extensive roster of free performances by Brendan Fowler/BARR, Dynasty Handbag, Peggy Honeywell (Clare Rojas) and other groups. For this performance program, NADA has employed the artist collective Simparch to create a special bandshell on the premises.

NADA’s opening night party on Dec. 2 -- tonight! -- features a performance by the Chicago-based electronic music act Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Proceeds benefit the New Museum. Tickets can still be purchased online -- at a discount $100 -- at www.newmuseumstore.org

Even larger is the venerable Art Miami, which only last year ditched its normal January slot to join the ABMB arms race. This year, Art Miami brings 95 galleries (down slightly from 99 last year) to a special "Art Miami Pavilion" in the city proper, sited on Midtown Boulevard between northeast 32nd and NE 31st streets.

In addition to exhibitors like Bodhi Art, Barry Friedman Ltd., Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects and Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, Art Miami woos visitors with the promise of a 4,000-square-foot "Art Video -- New Media" lounge. Selected by New York’s Asher Remy Toledo gallery, the program is drawn from many high-profile collections, including Miami’s own Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, as well as the Iberia Center for Contemporary Art and the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, both from Beijing. The "Art Video -- New Media" lounge is sponsored by asset manager BlackRock, which has otherwise been making the news for laying off staff in the current downturn.

Banding Together
Stalwart ABMB satellites Scope and Pulse also come on strong, boasting some 91 and 102 exhibitors, respectively, at their sites in the Wynwood Art District, Dec. 3-7, 2008. Both are touting high-profile collaborations with smaller, specialized art fairs to help pull in the crowds.

As has become its habit, Scope presents several outdoor commissions on the grounds of its custom-designed pavilion at 2951 NE 1st Ave. Fernando Mastrangelo has installed a large "sun stone" sculpture at the pavilion entrance, while the Miami collective FriendsWithYou contributes an interactive "bounce house." The Scope video lounge features works by emerging Latin-American artists from the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation collection. Galleries on hand include Curator’s Office (Washington, D.C.), Licht Feld (Basel), Praxis (Miami) and The Proposition (New York).

For 2008’s edition, however, Scope has allied itself with Tribeca art dealer Ethan Cohen’s newly minted Art Asia fair, which abuts Scope in its own "Art Asia Pavilion" at 3000 NE 1st Ave., offering a program of 50 dealers specializing in art from the East, including New York’s Sundaram Tagore Gallery, London’s Goedhuis Contemporary and frequent Scope participant Chinese Contemporary. Art Asia throws itself a swanky vernissage at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Dec. 3, 2008, where a show curated by a French art investment entity known as MoonStar Fine Arts Advisors centers around Trinidad-born artist Kiran Shiva Akal’s monumental sculpture Hidden Flower ("the object of a major media plan together with the organization of upscale events in presence of the artist," according to MoonStar’s website).

Pulse, meanwhile, is not to be outdone when it returns this year to Soho Studios at 2136 NW 1st Ave. Among the dealers showing at Pulse are Arario (Seoul and New York), Max Protetch (New York), Locust Projects (Miami) and Shoshana Wayne Gallery (Santa Monica). Highlights from the event program include the awarding of the Financial Times-sponsored, $2,500 "Pulse Prize" on Dec. 4 to the best artist with a gallery in Pulse’s "Impulse" section of newer spaces, and "a massive video installation" by Lincoln Schatz, featuring 3D video portraits of the likes of LeBron James, George Clooney and Danger Mouse (Schatz’s high-tech project was originally commissioned for the 75th anniversary of Esquire magazine).

At the same time, Pulse renews its fair-within-a-fair presentation of Geisai Miami, the artist-driven fairlet founded by Takashi Murakami in Tokyo, which lends some undeniable cachet to the proceedings. Judges Bonnie Clearwater, Matthew Higgs, Shamim Momin and Joao Ribas have selected 20 artists, ranging from the Englewood, N.J.-born Gregg Evans, whose photography explores artifacts of gay male desire, to California sculptor Alice Spinella, who creates "artificial organisms and hand-crafted nature." In this edition of Geisai, several previous winners of the Japanese version have been invited to show in Miami as well: Mayu Daigen, Kyoko Nakamura, Keita Sugiura, Toshihiko Wakasugi and the artist known as unit.Maker.

Split Focus
Still another popular strategy for the competing fairs, apparently, is to split into two parts, amoeba-like, covering both centers of attention. The hotel fair Aqua pioneered this idea last year, maintaining its focus in South Beach at the Aqua Hotel at 1530 Collins Ave., and separately opening in a more polished semi-permanent space at NE 25th St. in the Wynwood art district, where it offered a separate affair dubbed Aqua Wynwood. Aqua’s organizers do the same again in 2008, with 44 galleries at the hotel, and another 52 at its Wynwood space.

Aqua’s special events program is accordingly split between the two locations. In Wynwood, look for a special show curated by John Spiak featuring Mounira Al Solh, Charlotte Ginsborg and Johnna MacArthur, as well as the presence of "shadow drawings" by whimsical post-graffiti artist Ellis Gallagher (he traces shadows in chalk). In South Beach, Aqua hosts the Dec. 5 launch party for the newest issue of artist Scott Hug’s K48 magazine.

This year, the Bridge Art Fair, another former hotel fair, also doubles its pleasure. Maintaining a presence with 48 galleries at the Catalina and Maxine Hotels on Collins Ave., Dec. 4-7, 2008, Bridge also expands with its very own Wynwood branch, dubbed Bridge Miami Wynwood, Dec. 2-7, 2008, with 32 galleries located at NE 1st Ave. and NW 34th St. in a "modular, museum-grade exhibition space, built on a 60,000 square foot development." The hotel version features a performance by Anni Holm, who offers to knit with viewers -- a metaphor about human connectedness -- while Bridge Miami Wynwood promises a work by Spanish artist David Miguel, who, we are told, "will arm himself with a giant cotton swab as a means of protecting himself against an excess of information."

Getting Specific
Not all fairs endeavor to do it all, however. Some are more specialized propositions. The largest of these, with 55 galleries, is Art Fairs Inc.’s Photo Miami, Dec. 3-7, 2008, which as the title indicates keeps its interest squarely on photo-based work. It goes down in Wynwood at NW 31st Street and North Miami Avenue. Special commissions include a collaboration between French plastic-surgery artist Orlan and designer Davidelfin. Also promised for Photo Miami is an exhibition titled "Wall Street 1968-2008," organized by something called the Arte Foundation. The exhibition touts work by five Latin-American artists summing up the "visual and moral relationships between corporate greed, power, sex and the recent massive federal bailout by the U.S. government to save the epicenter of American Capitalism." That we have got to see.

Easily the most glamorous of the specialists, of course, is Design Miami, Dec. 3-6, 2008. This year, that fair (which is owned by Art Basel), is setting up shop in its own custom-made pavilion in the Design District, at NE 39th Street and 1st Court. Twenty-three design galleries take part, including Albion (London, New York), Contrasts (Shanghai, Beijing), Galerie Downtown -- François Laffanour (Paris) and Sebastian + Barquet (New York, London). Notably, New York heavy-hitter Matthew Marks makes an appearance here as well as at ABMB, showcasing a selection of furniture by Roy McMakin.

Ancillary events at Design Miami are notably lavish. Satellite shows to this satellite show include a selection of tapestries by artists including Kara Walker, Grayson Perry and Gary Hume; a design store from Takashi Murakami which features Murakami-themed carpet, jewelry and knickknacks; a stand-alone show of editions from Meta, a new company launched this year by the antiques house Mallett; and much, much more.

And speaking of editioned works, Ink Miami, Dec. 4-7, 2008, the small fair sponsored by the International Fine Print Dealers Association, sets up over in South Beach at the Suites of Dorchester hotel at 1850 Collins Avenue at 19th Street. Thirteen exhibitors take part.

New York in Miami
Beyond the fairs, a few ambitious types also strike out on their own. Most notable this year is something called the It Ain’t Fair, located at Our House West of Wynwood (OHWOW), a space run by Aaron Bondaroff and Al Moran at 3100 NW 7th Ave. in the city of Miami. The organizers have assembled an impressive list of participating dealers for the do, including perennial scene-makers Deitch Projects and Peres Projects.

For ABMB week, curators from the various spaces have brought together their crews to offer an interesting selection of art with "a focus on downtown Manhattan." Among the participants at OHWOW are name-brand hipsters like Tauba Auerbach, Dearraindrop, Ara Peterson, Shinique Smith, Agathe Snow and Dash Snow. An actual nightclub set up on the premises for the It Ain’t Fair features performances by The Gossip, TV Baby and JD Samson (aka Jocelyn Samson from Le Tigre) throughout the weekend.

Meanwhile, returning to the Wynwood Art District at 2010 North Miami Ave. is the power team of New Yorkers Pierogi and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, along with London’s Hales Gallery, Dec. 2-7, 2008. This gang has made a habit in recent years of opening a special side presentation during the fair. With room to stretch out, taste and class to spare, and good stuff by Tony Fitzpatrick, Kim Jones and Bob and Roberta Smith promised, it’s worth popping in (it’s located right across from Pulse).

Smaller Players
Rounding out the calendar are a rash of scrappier art fairs jockeying for attention. In this category fall:

* Red Dot, which ditches the South Seas Hotel, where it set up last year, for a temporary structure in Wynwood, at the corner of 36th Street and NE 1st Avenue/Midtown Blvd., Dec. 3-7, 2008. Thirty-six exhibitors are featured, including Art Nouveau Galleria from Maracaibo, Venezuela, LewAllen Galleries from Santa Fe, the McNeill Art Group from New York and Andrea Schwartz Gallery from San Francisco.

* The Art Now Fair, Dec. 4-7, 2008, which takes up where Red Dot leaves off at the South Seas Hotel, at 1751 Collins Ave., with 20 galleries. Exhibitors include New York’s 798 Avant Gallery, G-77 Gallery from St. Petersburg, Russia, Thomas Masters Gallery from Chicago and Tarsila Art Gallery from the Principality of Andorra.

* The PooL Art Fair, Dec. 5-7, 2008, at the Cavalier Hotel, 1320 Ocean Dr. in Miami Beach, a showcase for unrepresented artists set up by the French nonprofit Frere Independent (also the sponsor of the DiVA video art fair, which, it seems, does not return this year to Miami). More than 60 artists are promised, ranging from the Matisse-meets-Alex Katz acrylics of Debra Drexler to the enigmatic graphite drawings of Japan-based artist Thocky Kook. The whole thing has the theme of "Full House," a handle that sounds ominously. . . crowded for a hotel fair. The suggested donation of $10 comes with two free drinks.

* Along similar lines to PooL is the so-called Artist Fair, billed as a "resource for artists to exhibit during the prime Art Basel Miami Beach week," Dec. 4-7, 2008, at the Shelborne Hotel, 1801 Collins Ave. in Miami Beach. Twenty-two exhibitors are promised.

* After bowing out of Armory Show week earlier this year, Fountain, the miniature "alternative" art fair spearheaded by a handful of Williamsburg galleries, returns to the Wynwood Art District, Dec. 3-7, 2008. Located at a 16,000-square-foot warehouse at 2505 North Miami Ave., Fountain features Glowlab, Leo Kesting, Open Ground, Radau, Jonathan Shorr Gallery and The YUM YUM Factory.

* More curious still is the Gen Art Vanguard New Contemporary Art Fair, held Dec. 4-7, 2008, at the Charcoal Studios, at 2135 NW 1st Avenue in Wynwood. Eight galleries are involved in the event, which promises to focus on a genre that the organizers describe as "New Contemporary" (which consists of "Pop Surrealism" and graffiti, it seems). The fair comes notably freighted with sponsors, including Bombay Sapphire. Look for a display of Revelation, a jewel-encrusted decanter from designer Karim Rashid, sponsored by the gin maker and Baccarat.

Ahoy There
And already at the dock at the Fontainebleau Hotel Marina in South Beach is David and LeeAnn Lester’s SeaFair, the $40-million floating art boat that was launched last year and is slowly refining its model. Open Nov. 29-Dec. 7, 2008, SeaFair’s theme this year is "Rock the Boat," a title which upon investigation turns out to be a pun on "rock" and "jewel" -- the 23 listed exhibitors focus notably on jewelry, including London’s Graff Diamonds and the LVMH-affiliated Chaumet.

Meanwhile, for SeaFair vistors who are more interested in the visual arts, Paris-based gallery Martin du Louvre is offering a rare mural by George Braque.

Plus More, More, More
And it goes on, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.

On the possibly sublime side, Whitney power-curator Shamim Momin and artist Nate Lowman organize "The Station," a show organized in a 12,000-square-foot, still incomplete building at 3250 NE 1st Avenue/Midtown Blvd. The very impressive list of artists brought in to respond to the space includes Rita Ackermann, Diana Al-Hadid, Jedediah Caesar, Peter Coffin, Sylvie Fleury, Justin Lowe, Adam McEwen, Ryan McGinley, Rob Pruitt, Amanda Ross-Ho, Sterling Ruby, Gary Simmons and Haim Steinbach.

Opening Dec. 4 at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach is "Russian Dreams," a show developed in partnership with Moscow’s culture ministry. The exhibition presents artworks dating from before the fall of Communism to the more lunatic trends of today. Curated by Olga Sviblova, director of Moscow’s Multimedia Art Museum, "Russian Dreams" includes highlights like AES+F’s video of corpses clad in designer dresses floating over a catwalk, and a motorized, feather-covered cannon by Alexei Kostroma.

Nudging towards the ridiculous side is Art Photo Expo Miami, a show launched last year and dedicated to commercial fashion photography, this time taking place in the Design District at Municipal Parking Lot #54, between NE 2nd Avenue and NE 1st Court, Dec. 2-7, 2008. With six exhibitors showing work by fashion photogs, Art Photo Expo Miami also promises to center around a "Naomi Campbell Retrospective" -- that is, a vast selection of images capturing the notoriously difficult supermodel’s "elegance and cutting-edge glamour."

And if you like that, stick around for "The Inspirations of Oz Fine Art Collection," the brainchild of the Warner Bros. Consumer Products division, brought to the Miami Children’s Museum on Watson Island at 980 MacArthur Causeway, specifically for ABMB week, Dec. 9-23, 2008. Along with artworks inspired by the 70th anniversary of the classic film The Wizard of Oz, the show spotlights "The Ruby Slipper Collection," Swarovski crystal-studded "re-interpretations" of Dorothy’s red slippers by the likes of Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Oscar de la Renta, Diane von Furstenberg and pop star Gwen Stefani. If it all becomes too overwhelming, just click your heels together and, well, you know what to say.


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