Art Basel, satellite events gear up to take over Miami-Dade

Pop Up Piano was one of the highlights of Art Basel 2011, with painted pianos stationed throughout the city where performers gave impromptu shows. Photo: Tomas Loewy

In less than a month, a mammoth alligator head will appear in Biscayne Bay. A laser beam will shoot from downtown to Miami Beach. And a stretch of sand will become a doomed lunar landscape.

Don’t call the authorities. It’s all art.

The worldwide draw known as Art Basel Miami Beach — plus more than 20 satellite fairs, a brand new music and art festival and untold numbers of private exhibits, events, parties and large-scale installations — arrive for a packed week in early December.

In its 11th year, the main event, which runs from Dec. 6-9, will continue to expand beyond the Miami Beach Convention Center. Art Basel director Marc Spiegler said the outdoor activities known as “Art Public” in Collins Park will include more projects and performances.

“One of the things we really wanted to do was recapture the outdoor aspect,” he said. In addition to the happenings in the park, the fair will show a film from sundown on Dec. 8 through sunrise the next day on the outside wall of the New World Center.

Another outdoor project — with details still sketchy — comes from artist duo Kolkoz, which will recreate the landing area of the Apollo 11 mission that first brought man to the moon. The site will then, according to Spiegler, be destroyed by beach soccer games.

“These are the exciting things we think are going to extend the show beyond the halls,” he said.

The activities timed to coincide with Art Basel will extend even farther beyond the halls.

Brand new, the two-day UR1 Music & Art Festival will move into Bayfront Park Dec. 8 and 9 with performances from a range of musical genres (think Kanye West, Jane’s Addiction and Keane) and an art section featuring 40 installations and exhibits — including from 20 local artists.

“I think Miami’s kind of unique where it’s really prepared to offer an acculturated version of such a festival with a strong legitimate art component,” said David Glass, the festival’s art production director.

UR1 co-founder Alex Omes, who is also a co-founder of Ultra Music Festival, said he is not concerned that all the other events in town at the same time will detract from the festival.

“When things like this happen, that’s when the big shows are most successful,” he said.

Tickets for two-day admission cost $99 or $149, depending on what time you want to arrive, and are required to see the art and music at the festival. But one installation will be free and unavoidable to anyone in the surrounding area.

In a collaboration, KIWI Arts Group, LaserNet and Andy Warhol contemporary Ultra Violet will send a continuous laser beam from Bayfront Park to Miami Beach every night Dec. 5-9.

“If you’re in downtown, going over the causeway bridge, in certain areas of South Beach, you’ll be able to see that laser,” Glass said.

Also visible at various points around Biscayne Bay: a 90-foot long, 30-foot wide alligator head made of steel and floating on a barge. Floating Tile Art: Gator in the Bay is scheduled to appear in Miami waters by Dec. 5.

“It’s going to look like this magical gator literally just popping its head up out of the water,” said project coordinator Cesar A. Becerra, a Miami native and South Florida historian.

Lead artist Lloyd Goradesky is at work on the project now in West Broward. The steel structure will be covered in fabric and resin and crafted to look like real skin.

“We’re creating something that will look like a real alligator,” he said. “The eyes will glow orange at night like a real alligator’s eyes do. There’s a lot of teeth too just to make it look exciting.”

The head will take a land-and-water tour leading up to the week of Art Basel, when it will travel the waters of Biscayne Bay. (In May, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Christo wrapping barrier islands in Biscayne Bay, the gator will gets its body with the help of a kayaking club. At that point, the gator will be about 275 feet long.)

The people behind the project, which has been supported with cash and in-kind donations, are trying to spread the word about the plight of the Everglades and raise money for the nonprofit TREEmendous Miami.

“This is an art venue, and the best way to educate people is when they least expect it,” Goradesky said.

Art venues will be abundant throughout the region this year.

Pop-Up Piano Miami will return with eight pianos painted by different artists placed throughout Wynwood, Midtown Miami, the Design District and downtown Miami from Dec. 6-9.

At the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami, the environment-focused public art exhibition FOREVERGLADES will showcase 300 animals made of recyclable plastic, resin, and aluminum “literally crawling up, down and around” the building. The installation by William Sweetlove and artists collective Cracking Art Group is presented by Galleria Ca’ d’Oro. The gallery, with locations in Rome and Coral Gables, is famed for bringing slow-moving giant pink snails to Miami Beach in 2010. (You can now find them in Coral Gables.)

In addition to returning satellite fairs, new art fairs include CONTEXT Art Miami in Midtown; UNTITLED on the sand at Ocean Drive and 12th Avenue in Miami Beach; SELECT Fair at the Catalina Hotel, 1732 Collins Ave.; JustMad Mia and Miami Street Photography Festival in Wynwood and the Miami River Art Fair at the Downtown Miami Convention Center.

While entering a crowded field, the new shows are offering different ways to stand out.

The “Banksy out of CONTEXT” exhibit will feature five partial walls – four cinderblock, one wood – displaying work by the elusive street artist that will be scattered throughout the Art Miami and CONTEXT pavilions.

The pieces are top secret until the fair’s launch, a fitting move given an artist whose aura of mystery is so well-cultivated his actual identity has never been publicly disclosed.

The UNTITLED fair will be tightly curated – and hopefully offer art lovers some respite from the hurly burly of art week. Architects John Keenan and Terence Riley, the former director of Miami Art Museum, designed the structure, intended to wash the artwork with a suffused natural light and offer patrons a chance to enjoy the waterfront view.

At SELECT Fair at the Catalina Hotel, co-directors Matthew Eck and Brian Whiteley are looking to introduce more than 60 cutting-edge, boundary-pushing artists to collectors. Both artists and curators in New York, they said they plan to make the fair a recurring event in Miami Beach.

For New York artists and galleries that were hit by Superstorm Sandy last month, especially those that suffered flooding in Chelsea, Miami’s December fairs could be a lifesaver.

Spiegler, the Art Basel director, said no New York galleries participating in the fair have pulled out, but some have reported damage and the full impact is not yet known. He said the fair could be more important to galleries than ever this year.

“Basically for a lot of people, this will be their last chance to make money this year,” Spiegler said.

Cornell DeWitt, director of Pulse Art Fair in Miami, said the storm has caused problems for some of the galleries coming to his show. Some had works that were damaged or destroyed and have to find new works to bring.

DeWitt points out that galleries have also taken a hit because business has been slow — or non-existent – in the a
ftermath of the storm. And, he said, the fair already has a large percentage of galleries coming from European countries, such as Spain, that are relying on Miami to offset lagging business at home.

“At a time like this, we’re glad to be able to help out galleries that have been hit by Sandy and European galleries that are having a hard time economically,” he said.