Art Basel Miami Beach: All the town’s a canvas


For South Floridians, the best thing about Art Basel Miami Beach and the events that surround it is that it is all right here. We need go no farther that a few miles to experience every aspect of the contemporary art world. In fact, no other art event worldwide offers such a plethora of opportunities to see the good, and yes the bad, the ugly and the simply bizarre.

Along with the insanity, we also get a yearly glimpse into the trends swirling around the contemporary art world and market. Although the galleries represented in the main convention center fair and the major satellites have some of the top-notch — and biggest selling — works, it’s when you get off the main path to take in the pop-up shops, the one-time only affairs, the local galleries, the outdoor installations, that you can get a feel for what is really happening.

This year, for instance, aside from the ubiquitous street art happenings that you will surely stumble over, two groups are putting on eco-friendly awareness “campaigns” involving a bunch of fake animals, made from recycled plastic and re-used metal and other recycled materials. A number of outlets are going retro, featuring classic photography from the 20 th century. And light works are making a big return, showing up both outdoors and in.

There is so much out there, however, you can likely pick up your own trends. That’s what makes this week great.

Pop-Up Piano Miami 2012

There’s a reason this city-wide public art happening is returning for a second year – it’s popular and cool. A handful of pianos (donated by Steinway & Sons) will “pop-up” in Wynwood, Midtown and the Design District. Each of the pianos will be coated with the work of artists, and professional musicians will take to the keyboards at times shot out on social media during the art week. When the pros aren’t on the ivories, locals are encouraged to explore their musical souls. The pianos are then all donated to worthy charities. For more information and to get texts and tweets, go to


The Wet Heat Project, made up of the duo Grela Orihuela and Bill Bilowit, has been making video documentaries of local artists for several years. They also founded HOTBED to showcase emerging and student artists (who are helping to make this a hot house of culture) during Art Basel. This year, they bring HOTBED to the NADA art fair, where they will feature four BFA New World School of the Arts seniors, who have been asked to make site-specific videos that will show 24/7 at the prestigious satellite fair, as well as in all the rooms of the Deauville Hotel in which it is held. It’s a high-profile events to promote local and young art, along with being refreshingly unpredictable. It runs from Dec. 6-9 at NADA, 6701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; and on channel 8 in the guest rooms.

“Lui Hui: Void and Substance”

The Zadok Gallery in Wynwood is a relative newcomer to the art scene here and for its first Art Basel show (and with its new curator, former gallerist Bernice Steinbaum), it will deliver a dramatic light show. Bejing-based Lui Hui will employ laser and LED lights, fog, cracked glass and crimson coloring to make these light sculptures – making full use of the high ceilings to create a trippy environment through which the visitor tries to navigate. It’s super high-tech and Zen at the same time. From Dec. 6 through Feb. 18 at the Zadok Gallery, 2534 N. Miami Ave., Miami.

“Helmut Newton” A Liberating Focus”

The path of the World Erotic Art Museum (yes we have one) has been a little erratic, but lately it has produced some serious shows, such as the one of original photographs of Marilyn Monroe. Now, in association with the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg, Austria, the quirky museum will present the first Miami solo show of the works of Helmut Newton. It will feature major works from 1982 to 2000 of the Berlin-born, internationally famous fashion photographer known for his erotic black-and-white images. From Dec. 3-9 at the World Erotic Art Museum, 1205 Washington Ave., Miami Beach;

"Asif’s Guns"

Primary Projects is at the forefront in bringing street and mural art to Miami, and its pop-up show for Art Basel is a great example. Asif Farooq has created a “gun store” in Wynwood, with 300 hand-crafted firearms made from cardboard – from revolvers to M16s. Our gun-culture, in movies saturated with violence, in children’s toys, in real life tragedies, in a pride in ownership, is a unique American phenomenon which the Miami-born artist who grew up in a gun-friendly family, explores. From Dec. 6-9 at Primary Projects’ pop-up space, 167 N.W. 25th St., Miami;

“Miami Says ‘Art’”

Say cheese, er, Art! The JW Marriott Hotel Miami Presents: “Miami Says ART by Martin Kreloff," the photographer and artist who first snapped some of the people who would become art movers and shakers here in Miami, back in 1976. Over 30 digital prints of the originals will be on display, photographs of people who first sat down to say “art” back when there was very little here to even much talk about. People such as collectors Ruth Shack and Marty Margulies; early gallerists such as Virginia Miller; artists such as Lynn Golob Gelfman; musical presenter Judy Drucker. Thirty five years later, these early pioneers have been joined by myriad of others, and the cultural landscape is unrecognizable. This photographic trip down memory lane is part of our history, but for the most part the original “cast” is still all here. Through Dec. 9 at the JW Marriott Hotel, 1109 Brickell Ave., Miami.

“Willy Ronis: Paris”

Although the Dina Mitrani Gallery focuses mostly on contemporary photography (one of the few in Miami to do so), it is taking a break by exhibiting much older works from famed French photographer Willy Ronis, who shot life in Paris from the 1930s through the 1950s. While these were turbulent times, including World War II, Ronis is known for the simple pleasures he pictured; Paris in love, laughing, enjoying life. He would become known to an American public as the first French photographer for Life magazine. The exhibit is a collaboration with the Peter Fetterman Gallery, the long-time photography gallery in Santa Monica. Through Jan. 11 at the Dina Mitrani Gallery, 2620 N.W. Second Ave., Miami;

“The Black Lords by Desi Santiago”

This is some public art that may draw real gasps. The inflatable installation will transform a building on Collins Avenue in South Beach into a giant, menacing black devil-dog. New York artist Santiago will create a creature whose floating head looms over the courtyard, whose paws flank the entrance, mostly all black with some pink claws. Its name is Gypsy, and through smoke and panting, it may respond to your questions. Santiago is indeed a performance artist as well. From Dec. 3-9 at the Lords South Beach Hotel, 1120 Collins Ave., Miami Beach;

“LaserFusion from Ultra Violet”

Ultra Violet was the famous Warhol “Superstar,” while the Tower of Light was the once spectacular structure in Bayfront Park from Isamu Noguchi, until it was shamelessly neglected and went dark. To help bring it and the park (which he designed) back to life, Ultra Violet will project a massive, single-beam laser from the park to Miami Beach, creating a light bridge visible from a long distance. It will be part of the inaugural UR1 Music & Art Festival, also in the park. Yes to light and life downtown. From Dec. 5- 9 at Bayfront Park, Miami;

“The Lost Beatles and the Lost Rolling Stones Photographs”

Photography, and in particular historical photography, seems to be stealing the shows. This one, at the Betsy Hotel, is what it says it is – previously unseen photos of the two great band of the 1960s, both black-and-white and in color, about 200 in all, from the years 1964-1966. They come from the archive of the U.S. tour manager of both groups, Bob Bonis. Opens on Dec. 3 at the Betsy Hotel, 1440 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach;

“Bus Shelter Project”

As part of a continuing public art series, Locust Projects will unveil its latest in the art of bus benches, this time from New York painter Nicole Eisenman. Her bench interventions are called “Intensions,” a black-and-white portrait resembling a Calder wire drawing, surrounded by colorful figures collaged out of pop-culture imagery. On city bus benches throughout December;

“Gator in the Bay”

There are gators all around, but usually not ones inspired by the artist Christo, over 200-feet long, man-made with a metal head and tiles with photos of the Everglades composing the body. Usually not ones coming over from the West Coast of Florida, the creation of an artist and historian, to raise awareness about our fragile eco-system while it floats around Biscayne Bay during Art Basel. What’s the Christo connection? Back when he wrapped our islands in pink fabric in 1983, it brought attention to the bay – but there were concerns about its effect on the environment. This gator is an antidote – not only are all the materials used to build it eco-friendly, but it is meant to make us think of our interventions. Hard not to, when this awesome creature is swimming around our bay, a completely fabricated creation and alien inhabitant. From Dec. 6-9;


For two months, weird animals will crawl all over the Freedom Tower downtown. The 300 or so species, ranging from gators to frogs to turtles, won’t actually move, as they are made from resin, recycled plastic and aluminum. They are participants in an environmental awareness campaign, presented by Galleria Ca d’Oro (they brought us some giant pink snails) and Miami-Dade College, with support from a bunch of European consulates. The artists are European as well, and did intense research into local animal life. Environmental programs will accompany the temporary resin residents. Through Jan. 26, the Freedom Tower, 600 Biscayne Blvd., Miami;

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