Friday, December 08, 2006

Art fairs

This week is one of the best in South Florida for a getaway at home -- to Art Basel Miami Beach.

A little background: Art Basel Miami Beach is in its fifth year. Though it started primarily as one art fair -- the American cousin of the world's most important fair, Art Basel, held each June in Basel, Switzerland -- nearly 100 alternative art fairs have sprung up. Add the private and public museums that go all out during this period, and there's a ton of art to see. (Tons of people, too.) Find out more at The Miami Herald's Art Basel website.

If this all sounds stuffy or even intimidating, don't worry. Gallery owners are generally quite happy to explain the more obscure artworks. Even if you're from the school that argues "If I need it explained, is it art?'' there's value here, because the very idea of many contemporary works is to get people to think, question and stretch their minds.

OK, I agree, sometimes the emporer really isn't wearing any clothes. But sometimes the ideas are captivating. One example: Artist Mark Koven's Going to Jerusalem installation at TheYard@CasaLin.

His work is a riff on musical chairs as a metaphor for the displacement caused by real estate developement. The point: Someone is always left out. (If you live in Miami and you've seen the nonstop construction and spiraling home prices, this is an idea that resonates.)

Too far out for you? Head for Design Miami, a free event combining furniture, design and music in the Design District.

Don't miss the main Art Basel Miami Beach fair, at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Along with experimental works, the fair boasts plenty of blue chips from 20th Century masters including Picasso, Dubuffet, Magritte, Bonnard, Klee and dozens of other top artists. You may even spot artists ... attending this year are James Rosenquist, Robert Rauschenberg, John Baldissari and others.

All the Art Basel Miami Beach artworks are for sale -- some at truly astronomical prices. But the price of an entry ticket to see them is $24, half that if you're a student or senior. The show runs through 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10.

If that isn't enough, in June you can head off to Basel, Switzerland, for the parent fair. Dates are June 13-17, 2007.

Whatever fair you choose, I've got one crucial bit of advice: Wear comfy shoes. Nobody cares if they're ugly.

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