When the new edition of the Art Basel Miami Beach fair opens in early December at the city’s totally overhauled convention center, one of its perennially popular highlights will be missing: the free and visually arresting outdoor exhibits of the Art Public program, which has been scratched.
In its stead, fair organizers say, will be something different, still free of charge — and indoors.
Twice a day during the fair, which runs Dec. 6 to 9, the non-paying public will be welcomed into a vast new convention center ballroom for a live performance of a piece by noted Mexican conceptual artist Abraham Cruzvillegas.
But Art Public’s elaborate exhibit of sculptures and installations at Collins Park outside the Bass museum is no more. The same goes for its program of films projected on the New World Symphony’s building at Miami Beach SoundScape Park.
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Art Basel officials say the opening of the revamped and expanded convention center after three years of construction presented an opportunity to try something new — live performance. Previously, the fair had no proper venue for performance.
“We’re obviously thrilled the renovation is behind us after several years working through that,” said Noah Horowitz, Americas director for Swiss-based Art Basel. “That’s what’s driving a lot of this. We looked at this as an extraordinary opportunity. We’ve never had anything to play with that’s connected to the (main exhibition) floor and that offers such a vast expanse of space.”
Now in its 17th year, the Art Basel fair has provided a free public outdoor element since its inception, ranging from art pieces in cargo containers on the beach to a beachfront concert by Iggy Pop and the Stooges. The public piece has been a draw for Basel devotees looking to escape the confines of the convention center and enjoy art and performance outside in balmy South Florida weather. It has also been a highlight for casual visitors who wish to partake in the hoopla but aren’t going to the indoor fair, which requires a pricey admission ticket.
The fair has also offered free art performances, including last year’s presentation of prog-rock opera “The Rinse Cycle” by artist Jim Shaw and the band D’red D’warf in SoundScape Park as part of Art Public.
But until the construction of the new 60,000-square-foot grand ballroom, the fair did not have dedicated space suitable for large-scale performances, Horowitz said. Organizers decided to seize the chance while consolidating the fair’s programming within the convention center, he said.
“We’ve never been able to do something at this scale. It helps play to the strength of the new building,” he said. “We’re really excited about it.”
The debut performance piece, Cruzvillegas’ “Autorreconstrucción: To insist, to Insist, to Insist,” is a reworking of a presentation earlier this year at New York’s legendary venue The Kitchen. At its center is a hanging assemblage constructed of scrap materials that, like the artist’s sculptures, recall the improvised dwellings in Mexico City’s poor neighborhoods. (One of Cruzvillegas’ sculptures was in last year’s Art Public exhibit at Collins Park.)
During the 20-minute performance, dancer and choreographer Bárbara Foulkes is attached by a strap to the assemblage and is accompanied by musicians led by Andrés García Nestitla. The presentation is a partnership between The Kitchen and Swiss curator Philipp Kaiser, brought in last year by Art Basel Miami Beach to organize Art Public. Like Art Public, the performances are supported by MGM Resorts Art & Culture.
In future years, Horowitz noted, a planned new city park at the convention center will offer the chance to bring back outdoor exhibitions or performances to Art Basel.
“There’s a lot of exciting possibilities,” he said.