World Class Art Rolls Down to Miami with Art Basel
Art Miami entrance / Photo by Brett Hufziger Photography

The art world is gearing up for the biggest Art Week in Miami happening from December 5 – 9, as the world class art circus that is Art Basel Miami rolls into the big top Miami Beach Convention Center. Yes the main fair is a stunner, unrivaled for the quality and quantity of art and artists that pack the gilded aisles, but beyond that, dozens of satellite fairs, outdoor sculpture exhibits, fair tents on the beach, parties and new shows in the museums are more of the things that draw art loving jet setting hordes here. 

Going to Art Basel Miami is a full day in itself with a new fair layout by Amsterdam-based firm Tom Postma Design that now has more exhibition space, larger booths and wider aisles — along with four entrances to the halls. There are hundreds of booths with the best art the world has to offer, special sections like Nova, Editions, Position, Kabinett, Survey – all specially curated booths to expand art exhibits. An emphasis is on Latin American perspectives, Afro-Caribbean spirituality, and experimental painting that mark this year’s Galleries sector. Panels, conversations, film screenings on the wall of the nearby Soundscape Park along with people watching fill in the rest. Fair goers can expect better food options and more places to relax this year as the Convention Center has installed a rooftop lounge and plaza area.  

Multiple fairs dot the actual beach and along Collins Avenue – Design MiamiAqua Art FairInk Miami Art FairMUSEPulse ContemporaryScopeSuperfine and Untitled. At the elegant Deco Hotel SagamoreJason Newsted former bassist of Metallica and now a full time painter, has a special curated exhibit and will be performing concerts with his Chophouse Band.

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A few must see exhibits include the sculpture installation in Collins Park in front of the Bass Museum – this year finds Sam Falls and Paola Pivi with new commissioned works. Across the street is the classy W Hotel, whose free to see lobby hangs work from Warhol, Kenny Scharf, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mike Kelley, and Christopher Wool.

World Class Art Rolls Down to Miami with Art Basel
Sam Falls Install

The Faena complex on Collins Avenue in the mid-30s blocks has the most beautiful mosaic lobby in Miami and a gold-leafed full size mastodon skeleton by Damien Hirst out by the pool. More free to see mind blowing art this year with their new Faena Festival: This is not America, an annual multidisciplinary event to explore ideas in contemporary culture that fosters engagement with the issues that defines us individually and collectively. Zoe Lukov, curator of Faena Art has invited artists and performers to explore the concept of America as a myth and narrative to fill the entire Faena District: Faena Forum, Faena Hotel, Faena Theater, and public areas of the street, sidewalk and beach December 3 – 9, free and open to the public.

A full day (or two or three) can be spent on the mainland. The downtown Arts & Entertainment District has Art MiamiContextNADA and the Satellite Art Show 

NADA hosts a must see booth by cutting edge New York artists Scooter La Forge and Brett de Palma who work with Howl! Happening: An Arturo Vega Project in New York City. “Through the Looking Glass”, is an installation of fearless and masterful paintings that mashes up two important painters’ vivid interpretations of this current upside down and bewildering world.

World Class Art Rolls Down to Miami with Art Basel
Scooter La Forge at NADA

De Palma’s large painted tarp propels a visual narrative overlaid with La Forge’s metaphors. DePalma is a beloved NY based artist who was good friends with Jean Michel Basquiat in the 70s and 80s. La Forge has been to Miami before, exhibiting with Emmy winning costume designer Patricia Field and her ArtFashion gang. At NADA Miami, Booth 1026. 

Carlos Betancourt, a longtime Miami based artist who has found international success – museum exhibitions, a lavish coffee table art book, Ted talks, awards – is having his first Miami exhibit in almost 10 years at hot Design District gallery Primary Projects.  ”Process Ritual Future Eternal”, is a mind blowing show that draws on memory that connects to the cosmos though art made from thousands of string lights and classic vintage holiday tree toppers. A massive new sculpture of hanging light strings is surrounded by new 3D electrified works and vibrant prints of line drawings and starlight collages. 

World Class Art Rolls Down to Miami with Art Basel
Carlos Betancourt installs new show.

“I work organically,” Betancourt said while installing the new show. “It has to come naturally and these holiday lights are vivid triggers for me of the time my family moved away from Puerto Rico when I was a teenager and we left all our Christmas ornaments behind. I was traumatized and have spent decades getting that imagery back. But the new work also celebrates life and stars in the universe. I have collected thousands of these over the years and with the loss of my father it seemed the right time to create a whole series that touches on that.” 

The 3D works are extra magical as viewers can use a star topped wand to turn them on and off. The actual warmth of the artwork from the lights feels like a fireplace and the whirling stars are mesmerizing. Show opens December 5 and runs through January 12th at Primary Projects, 15 NE 39th Street. 

For some art music relief, it doesn’t get much artier or weirder than Die Antwoord, the South African duo appearing in concert Wednesday, December 5 at Soho Studios in Wynwood. “We wanted to have a broader spectrum than one specific genre,” concert promoter Fuller says. “Die Antwoord has the alternative hip-hop, EDM sounds.” The group is composed of rappers Ninja and Yolandi Visser, a male/female duo, and producer god (formerly DJ Hi-Tek). Their image revolves around the South African counterculturemovement known as zef. Their unique style shows in their music videos and involves the intricate interplay between Yolandi’s rhymes and Ninja’s swagger. They appeared in the cult classic movie “Chappie” available online.

Art Miami has a huge beautiful tent right on the scenic Biscayne Bay where the Miami Herald newspaper offices stood for decades. In terms of quality and cutting edge work, after Basel Miami this is the fair to see as the organizers also do the circuit in New York, the Hamptons and West Palm Beach. The tent connects to Context right next door so you can see two fairs in the same location. Further west is the Fridge Art FairMiami River Art Fair and Prizm. Overtown now boasts Art Africa Fair.

Another full day tour is well spent in ever changing Wynwood where blocks and blocks of outdoor murals are a colorful multi-story show in itself. In addition to the well curated murals at the official Wynwood Walls Garden and Gallery there is the creative word art gallery of Peter Tunney, and Wynwood Kitchen where street artist turned global activist art star Shepard Fairey has designed the walls and the server uniforms. Fairs in Wynwood include PintaRed Dot and Spectrum.

Daniel Chimowitz, has a one-man art fashion installation museum show at The Jewish Museum on Miami Beach through February. The Rubell Family Collection is well worth a visit, as this art-centric mega collector family is mainly responsible for bringing Art Basel Miami here to begin with and they refresh their mammoth collection annually.

World Class Art Rolls Down to Miami with Art Basel
Chimowitz at Jewish Museum

For world class fashion and art head to the Design District, newly completed with additional plazas and public art from the collection of District owner Craig Robins. Large outdoor sculptures, murals, art infested architecture and a selfie favorite Flys Eye Dome by Buckminster Fuller populate this gorgeous district. Over at the Moore Building, an annual one-week exhibit by the powerhouse dealer team of Larry Gagosian and Jeffrey Deitch occupies all four floors with “Pop Minimalism | Minimalist Pop,” opening Dec. 4. “It’s a big commitment for us,” Deitch told the press, as the exhibition will feature works by “great artists of the 1960s generation right up to the present,” including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Donald Judd and Dan Flavin.

A new gallery row on 39th Street finds Miami artists Magnus Sodamin and Typoe Gran in new spaces, while their dealer’s gallery Primary Projects holds down the corner location on N. Miami Avenue. Many of the luxury stores collaborate with top artists for window displays i.e. Jeff Koons sculptures at Louis Vuitton. Miami bred superstar Gloria Estefan has a restaurant here, Etsefan Kitchen, with art on the gleaming Mediterranean blue walls by award winning international artist Carlos Betancourt who started out in the 1980s with a studio he lived in on Lincoln Road. 

A note on transportation – traffic and parking are truly challenging but salvation has come in the form of the Brightline (soon to be Virgin Trains USA) train running from downtown West Palm to downtown Miami in about an hour with a stop in Fort Lauderdale. As a bonus the Brightline train cruises through Wynwood Art District allowing a secret view of the murals and sculptural art installed on the railroad track back side. 

Things to bring – the most comfortable shoes in your closet, a light jacket for hyper AC venues, some cash, credit cards and ID, a charged phone, an open mind and most importantly, some patience. The art world can’t be seen in a day.

World Class Art Rolls Down to Miami with Art Basel