Art Basel Miami Beach Descends from Art Heaven
Ryan McGuinness

An almost unreal art week is descending on Miami and it’s pure art nirvana. During the Art Basel Miami Beach, the quality and quantity of shows, promotions, screenings, talks, public art and fairs ready to land on the billion dollar sandbar is unparalleled in America and perhaps the globe. Add to that Miami’s heady tropical weirdness and heavy multi-cultural audience for another layer of sensory art overload.

The main big top event of the Art Basel Miami Beach of course is the official fair at the Miami Beach Convention Center. This year featuring 267 leading galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa will show significant work from the masters of Modern and contemporary art, as well a new generation of emerging stars. The fair is notoriously competitive to get into – not to mention extremely expensive – but several South Florida galleries make it in regularly including Palm Beach’s Gavlak Gallery.

Paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, films, and editioned works of the highest quality are on display in the main exhibition hall – you can find Salvador Dali next to Vermeer and Georgia O’Keeffe next to Cindy Sherman. Works that sell in the millions are in every aisle ( and they sell), it’s a remarkable glut of museum worthy art sold in essentially high class pop up booths. In the week of Art Basel Miami Beach, celebrities cruise the aisles with their art advisors, picking the ripest fruit, last year saw Leo DiCaprio, John McEnroe, designer Cynthia Rowley and model Elle McPherson in the house.

While the Art Basel Miami Beach is the main attraction, some of the best events are the ones outside that take advantage of the unique beachfront location as large‐scale artworks, films and performances become part of the city’s lush outdoor landscape at nearby Collins Park and SoundScape Park and over in Wynwood. For those escaping northern winters, the art of great weather is the main attraction.

And it’s still growing – last year the fair attracted 73,000 visitors to the Miami Beach Convention Center and this year’s 14th edition looks to be even bigger, plus the former head of NYC’s Armory Show, Noah Horowitz, is now running the fair so expect some new twists New York style. Long overdue work on the now undersized convention center is starting at a cost of $615 is slated to begin as soon as the fair week ends, so look for bigger changes next year. The $20 million re-do of Lincoln Road is also on the slate with NYC’s James Corner Field Operations, the firm that did The High Line, winning the contract to update the original Morris Lapidus design from the 1950s. We hope they keep many of the zany, charming elements  – fountains, decorative arches – that have made the Road so endearing all these decades.

Then there are the side-sectors, a series of booths that show more focused work – SURVEY has 14 booths showing “historically informed” works; NOVA, where you’ll find 34 younger galleries showing new works; and 16 POSITIONS galleries focusing on emerging artists, including an intriguing one from Villa Design Group‘s installation of 10 doorways derived from the scene of the 1997 murder of Gianni Versace on Ocean Drive. I lived a few blocks away when he was murdered and remember the chaos that ensued in the aftermath, and they found the killer in a houseboat across from the Fountainbleu Hotel.

PUBLIC is always a must see as 26 artists create site-specific installations and performances all week in Collins Park in front of The Bass Museum at 21st Street and Collins Avenue. The theme is Metaforms, Nicholas Baume’s curatorial premise considers how art making is, at its core, a process of transformation; highlights this year include a gemstone-encrusted “Healing Pavilion” infused with “metaphysical properties” by Sam Falls; a group of tall chairs from the original production Robert Wilson’s “Einstein on the Beach;” a giant set of luscious red lips by Sterling Ruby; and a monumental deer lawn ornament by Tony Tasset. Opening night for PUBLIC is Wednesday, December 2nd, 7 to 9 p.m., and will feature a female tai chi master, male bodybuilders, men on skateboards, a dandy hobo and an evening performance by Yan Xing. Very circus Miami.

Art Basel Miami Beach - The Story of Land Art

The film program at Art Basel Miami Beach is another winner. Movies screen on the giant projection wall outside of the New World Center (500 17th Street, South Beach). Over 80 more can be accessed in the convention center film library. “Our Hidden Futures” is the overall theme for this year’s film program. Over 50 films and videos will also be screened at The Colony Theater on 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach. Some highlights include director James Crump’s Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art on Friday, December 4, 8:30 p.m. There will also be a panel discussion with Crump and Basel film curator Marian Masone. The evening screenings in SoundScape Park jolt with short films with program themes ranging from “Speak Easy” to “Vanishing Point.”

Art Basel Miami Beach show days are Thursday, December 3, 2015, 3pm to 8pm; Friday, December 4, 2015, 12 noon to 8pm; Saturday, December 5, 2015, 12 noon to 8pm

Sunday, December 6, 2015, 12 noon to 6pm during Art Basel Miami Beach…

Magnus Sodamin paints Wynwood
Magnus Sodamin paints Wynwood

The world outside the main fair continues to orbit as there are now 18 and counting satellite fairs. Miami Project and Art on Paper move into the Deauville Beach Resort (6701 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach), the former site of the NADA fair; meanwhile the 13th edition of NADA heads down the street to the grand dame deco Fontainebleau (4441 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach). PULSE Miami Beach hones in on Indian Beach Park (4601 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach) starting with a big “Opening Celebration” at 4 p.m. on December 1st featuring a panel discussion by Hyperallergic, an interactive piece that mashes Hello Kitty with self obsession by Kate Durbin called “Hello, Selfie!”. On December 5th, PULSE celebrates the City of Miami via a talk at 5 p.m. on “Future Visions of Miami” and a “Sunset Celebration” from 5 to 7 p.m. Fair visitors can see the big box take off “TARGET TOO,” an installation referencing items sold at the Target stores, originally on view in NYC last March. Art Miami, run by Palm Beach County resident Nick Korniloff, returns to its former location in the Design District.

Wynwood Walls (2520 NW 2nd Avenue, Miami) a victim of it’s own mural encrusted success, has blocks of events planned this year including “Walls of Change” with 14 new murals and installations and the debut of a new adjacent space called “The Wynwood Walls Garden.” The walls are by Case, Crash, Cryptik, el Seed, Erenest Zacharevic, Fafi, Hueman, INTI, The London Police, Logan Hicks and Ryan McGinness. Over in the new”garden, Miami’s own Magnus Sodamin will be painting the floors and walls in his unique floral rainbow explosions. The VIP opening is on December 1st in the early evening, but then it’s open to the public from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Walter Robinson CoverArt world heavys Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian, together again for the first time, are co-presenting an exhibition of figurative painting and sculpture in the Moore Building (3841 NE 2nd Avenue, Miami). The opening is on Tuesday, December 1st, but it will be on view all week. Artists featured in the group show will include Walter Robinson, Elizabeth Peyton, John Currin and David Salle.

Spiritual America by Sandra Schulman
Spiritual America by Sandra Schulman

In a related event, Walter Robinson will be hosting a book signing December 3rd from 10 a.m to noon at 100 Degrees in the Shade, 3900 N. Miami Avenue of both his new retrospective catalog and a book he wrote the Foreword to on the history of Spiritual America Gallery, an experimental space from 1983 that first exhibited Richard Prince’s controversial Spiritual America photo of an underage nude Brooke Shields as well as early work from Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman and Robinson himself. I was the co-director of that gallery and have finally told the behind the scenes story 30 years later. I’ll also be the gallery director of the 3900 space during the Art Basel Miami Beach fair and through January so drop by, say hola and see the best of Miami art and artists.

Sandra-Schulman Sandra Schulman is an arts writer, music and film producer. Born in Miami, her work has appeared in Billboard, Variety, Rolling Stone, Ocean Drive, Country Music Magazine, The New York Daily News, News From Indian Country, and Entertainment Weekly. She was an entertainment columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for 8 years. She has authored three books on pop culture. She currently lives in West Palm Beach with her blue eyed whippet. Sandra Schulman’s column appears weekly. Contact her at