Art Basel Miami Beach—together with its products-and-interiors counterpart Design Miami, as well as a regular bonanza of collateral events and programs unfolding in early December—is the weapons-grade, chrome-plated money-mobile of the global art world. In a city that’s configured more or less as one long vertical strip, the movements of the thousands of visitors who flock here every year for the fair comes to seem a little pinball-like, with everyone bouncing up and down Collins Avenue and striking hotel lounges and roof-deck parties along the way. If you’re headed down this week, or if you’ve decided simply to look on from a safe distance, here’s a quick cheat sheet on the best stuff on both sides of Biscayne Bay.
Patrick Parrish at Design Miami
In the big tent across from the main art fair in the Convention Center, there’s a lot of furniture, but whether good or bad or indifferent it’s usually pretty easy to classify it and walk on. Not Parrish: for a few Basels now, the New York-based design gallery has been pushing forward into a stylistic gray area mingling PoMo and high Modernism, sculptural eccentricity and functionalist practicality. This year continues that push with new work by Bec Brittain, Brian Thoreen, and others.
Argentine mega-developer Alan Faena built a whole self-named, mixed-use district in his native Buenos Aires, and has now set about doing the same again in Mid Beach with the help of big-name architects like Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas. The multi-building complex of residences, hotel and cultural space is (partially) open for its first Basel this year, with a couple tours on offer; to judge from a Tuesday night party for champagne brand Perrier-Jouët in the hotel’s penthouse, it’s a deluxe doozy.
Alex Bag at the Institute of Contemporary Art
An elusive video specialist and committed prankster of the art world, Bag’s no-budget shaggy-dog stories take their cues from the lower tiers of popular culture and then run their own crooked course across the contemporary landscape. In The Van (Redux), a fictional gallerist launches a cockeyed scheme to bilk young artists for cash and art-world cred. The joke, of course, is on Basel itself.
No Man’s Land: Women Artists from the Rubell Collection
Open through May 28th, 2016, the show sprawls across the 45,000-square-foot museum in Wynwood, just enough space for the 100-plus painters, sculptors and installations-ists featured in the show. Abstract and figurative, poetic and plainspoken, the exhibition is so varied and entertaining you almost forget the keen gender polemic behind it—until, wham! It reminds you. And it only seems the better for it.
In a three-tiered-layer cake of a space of a space, in the heart of the Miami Design District, super-curator Jeffrey Deitch has done yeoman work with the collaboration of gallerist Larry Gagosian: an impressive roster of major figurative artists (John Currin, David Salle, Lisa Yuskavage) affords a panoramic peek at the state of ol’ fashioned, oh-I-see-what-that-is! art in the 21st century. There’s also a weird thrill to seeing so many famous names casually piled up like an undergrad conservatory show.
Devonté Hynes and Ryan McNamara at PAMM
Pop-smash songwriter, occasional social activist, and shredder of guitars in small venues from Silver Lake to Bushwick, Hynes plays on the 3rd at the Perez Museum along with a choreographed ballet by performance artist and Basel staple McNamara. Hynes was spotted early in the week at a dinner for art-and-design misfits Snarkitecture, and seemed rested and ready to go—hopefully no one will steal his laptop as happened right before his Miami show last year.
Having a promotional party in Miami is like steeping your brand in hot wet cash: only some of it might stick, but it feels good, and big-name companies seem to enjoy it. Saturday’s glitzy evening at the Setai promises to be a classic of the genre, with Italian automaker Ducati showing off its new motorbike.
Harvard GSD Design Miami Pavilion
Fun is fun, but why not add a little seriousness to your Basel diet? The brainiacs at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design won the competition for this year’s pavilion outside the Design Miami tent, creating more than 200 foam core models of fictional structures and setting them on a massive overhead matrix-trellis. Fun fact: foam core models are pink to start with, but the team had to paint more pink over that. Mostly it was to cover up the seams, but the lurid pink-on-pink seems pure Miami.