Proving Ground: Miami’s Satellite Art Show

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A Visit to the Youthful and Experimental Art Fair of Art Basel Miami Beach Week by Rowan Fulton

I’m not sure Satellite Art Show contained the best work that Miami Art Week 2017 had to offer, but I will admit that it was, by far, my favorite fair to visit. Maintaining the youthful and experimental tone visitors have come to expect, Satellite once again served as a satisfying departure from the hectic, heavily commercial vibe of Art Week.

One significant feature of the Satellite Art Show this year (its third) was the decision to relocate to Ocean Terrace, an abandoned hotel in North Beach and the location of its inaugural show. Last year, Satellite had moved to the Parisian Hotel in South Beach, which enabled the show to retain the hotel hallway layout while increasing proximity to the larger fairs and foot traffic. However, it forced the fair to raise exhibitors’ entry fees. (Also, the Parisian also remained partially open, which I imagine must have been a headache for guests.)

While the North Beach location is undeniably sleepier, I don’t mind the decision on the part of the fair, if it was indeed motivated by a desire to lower costs and maintain Satellite as an affordable option for artist-run spaces to participate in Miami Art Week. Had NADA retained its original plan to locate at The Deauville Hotel, which fell through after hurricane damages to the hotel, there would have been a lot more foot traffic cross-pollination.

Maya Martinez in Borscht Corp’s room

I’ve repeatedly heard this fair described as “gritty”, but I have to say, what foremost came to my mind this year was “gross”. This, of course, had to do largely with the application of abandoned hotel rooms as makeshift booths, and the fact that most galleries chose also to include artwork and installations taking place in the connected bathrooms. These site-specific interactions are one of the most entertaining elements of the show, and some highlights were shower wall hair-drawings and Spectra’s plasticky, gloop-filled sink.

Refreshingly, most of the galleries involved in Satellite seem to embrace the inherent dirtiness of Ocean Terrace, rather than hiding it in white paint and gallery lighting. Exhibitors tend towards black lights or colorful, dim lighting, and a lot of the artwork leans towards the pornographic. Such extravagant choices serve to heighten the sense of sex and seediness hanging around this old Miami hotel.

It’s also worth mentioning that Satellite is purely a fun experience. Because of the hotel setting, there is an undeniable vibe of some kind of Spring Break art party, complete with hip twenty-something artists roaming the narrow hallways in glittery outfits, cheap beer in hand. One also feels at ease at Satellite because of the friendliness and unpretentiousness of its exhibitors. Everyone is welcoming and enthusiastic to help the viewer engage with the work, and it’s easy to get caught in interesting conversations with the artists milling about.

Tanga: Hair styling as performance art

This friendly atmosphere also makes interactive work particularly successful at Satellite. Both the viewer and the exhibitor have to be engaged in order for certain interactions to work, like say, a hair stylist offering her services to visitors, or an installation mimicking the setting of an exclusive beachy nightclub, which only three people may enter at a time. Satellite is a great chance to take a break from the exclusive, hands-off art fairs dotting the Miami Art Week landscape and engage with some unique and accessible work.

Here are some highlights from this year’s show:

The Haunt: An interactive installation which transforms the hotel room into an exclusive night club (complete with VIP stanchions at the entrance), which the viewer can explore at an additional level by way of an iPad with an augmented-reality program. (also pictured at top)

Teddy Bear Hide Rug by Ben Quesnel in SVA Art Practice Room curated by Jacqui Strycker

Secret Project Robot: Vibrant and eclectic pop-up shop/ installation

Chasm.NYC: This shimmery, hand-cut, hanging sculpture by Julia Sinelnikova (a.k.a. Oracle)

This highly-instagrammable aquarium by Lounge Corp (Kaja Andersen and Racnheidur Karadottir)

All in all, Satellite serves as a testing ground for young artists to explore new ideas, including VR art, pop up shops, and immersive installation art. Using the dilapidated setting and (relatively) low pricetag as a jumping off point, exhibitors this year provided work which was definitely experimental, if not innovative.

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