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November 26, 2008

Art Basel Miami Beach

Art Basel Miami Beach is upon us once again, and in full force, despite reports from The Miami Herald and many others of an art-market crash. While the economic draught is destined to take its toll on this year's transactions, let us not forget the ability of Miami's powerhouse art fair to spark conversation, dissolve inhibitions, and cast the spotlight on young talent.

Included in this year's Art Kabinett — an array of small, curated exhibitions — is Miami-bred, Peruvian-born artist William Cordova. In addition to several large-scale gold-leaf drawings, Cordova salvages a chopped-up car from an impound lot to create a makeshift living room, courtesy of Arndt & Partner. Also in Art Kabinett, a kinetic installation by the late Op artist Jesús Rafael Soto incorporates more than 1,500 vibrating metal elements, and Galerie Lelong presents the third installment of Yoko Ono's touch me series, in which a silicone woman instructs viewers to dip their fingers in water and touch any part they choose.

Among the highlights in the galleries section of the fair, Lehmann Maupin's Mickalene Thomas seduces with her new film and series of paintings, while, in a departure from his embroidered works, Angelo Filomeno exhibits black, hand-fired, and hand-polished glass skeletons and skulls. Brussels' Xavier Hufkens shows several new Thomas Houseago sculptures, in addition to the artist's outdoor sculpture in Lummus Park, where viewers find public works comprising this year's Art Projects series. Among these, Miami's Fredric Snitzer Gallery presents COOPER's Dark Fountain, offering thirsty joggers "toxic" water that runs black and oily: a clear indication of public contamination.

Down on the beach, Art Positions joins the recent trend of converting giant shipping containers into art spaces or, in some cases, into sculptures themselves. Renwick Gallery's Jose Davila spent the last week with his arsenal of power tools, evenly vivisecting his container in the vein of Donald Judd's stack sculptures. Quisqueya Henriquez from David Castillo Gallery offers a site-specific collage, while artist collective My Barbarian presents Hysteria-Theater, a red-velvet womb of masked, musical performers, courtesy of Steve Turner Contemporary. Mexican artist Teresa Margolles transforms Galeria Salvador Diaz's container into a mausoleum-like jewelry store; the space takes on an even graver tone as viewers learn that the wares are fashioned from windshield fragments, taken from the scenes of revenge killings in Mexico.

Younger artists get their chance to strike the right chord in the Art Nova section. Sies + Hoke Galerie's Kris Martin, whose 20-foot-tall bronze bell swings silently by a magnetic motor, serving as a solemn reminder of the passage of time. Alexander Gray Associates presents text-based works by Luis Camnitzer, who provides insight into the final thoughts of death-row inmates. Nathalie Djurberg and Jules de Balincourt share Zach Feuer's booth, and Salon 94 debuts Aida Ruilova's five-channel video installation, accompanied by a series of 26 relief posters of the Latin alphabet.

Meanwhile, just across the bay from ABMB, galleries in Wynwood and the Design District are the official annual home to satellite fairs Scope and Art Asia, which share a monster-sized tent this year, featuring site-specific installations by artist collective Friends With You. Additionally, NADA's hammocks are still swaying at the Ice Palace, with Photo Miami, Pulse, and Art Miami just minutes away.

-Daria Brit Shapiro

Art Basel Miami Beach is on view December 4-7; and Scope, Art Asia, Nada, Photo Miami, Pulse, and Art Miami run December 3-7.

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