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Satellite: The Best Art Fair You Might Have Missed

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Art Basel Miami Beach and the whole Miami Art Week leading in to it are pretty overwhelming. Usually by the time the actual weekend rolls around I am sick of art fairs. Last week, my colleague Suzy Kopf did an excellent job of summing up how daunting it is to try to see it all—as well as how futile it is to pretend, just for a few days, that any of us can afford it. 

Thankfully, since its inception in 2015, the Satellite Art Show has become a vital battery-recharge I always look forward to. It is one of the few art fairs that wasn’t intended exclusively for the uber-rich. It’s the kind of art fair where you can pay dive-bar prices for a stiff drink, see art that actually feels fresh, eat from a reasonably priced taco truck, and even get a tattoo. The curatorial mandate to do something transformative with the space⁠—in this case, a suite of storefront-like offices in a stalled coworking space conversion⁠—makes every presentation feel like an immersive experience. It’s probably one of the few venues in Miami this year where the majority of the work on view was either immediately lovable or, better yet, interesting. 

View of this year’s Satellite Art Show from the mezzanine of its temporary Wynwood home

Unfortunately though, a lot of people I know didn’t catch this year’s iteration in the traffic/corny nightlife hell that is Wynwood. (In the past, the fair has been on Miami Beach and last year it occupied shipping containers in a vacant lot next to NADA’s new mainland home, making it much easier to cram a visit or two into a jam-packed itinerary). That’s a bummer, and why I am sharing some of the dozens of photos I took of highlights after the fact for people who missed it. Satellite remains an inspiring, artist-centric fair and I hope it emboldens others to take weird risks during the seemingly saturated annual art fair gauntlet. 

The new location didn’t mean the fair didn’t have an audience, though. Several artists and gallerists reported strong sales. And when I spoke to Brian Andrew Whiteley, Satellite’s founder and director, he found it fulfilling to be in a neighborhood now known for bro-centric tourist clubs and the opportunity to expose a different public to a broader range of art. “It’s weird having a fair that’s curated and concept-based in Wynwood, because this neighborhood is all about the superficial,” he said. “But at the same time it’s nice being able to have an audience of people who come for ‘Wynwood’ and then discover that art can be something more than just vapid street art.” 

The new, smaller space also allowed Whiteley to make the fair both more affordable to participants and more selective curatorially. Compared to an average art fair, a booth at Satellite is substantially more affordable to young, non-commercial galleries, solo artists or curators, nonprofits, or collectives. The first edition of the fair was even chock-full of many of our favorite Baltimore artist-run spaces. (Full disclosure: I have twice co-curated a booth in past editions of Satellite with Art F City.) That sometimes equates to good artwork being offered at prices accessible to a general public, which is fantastic and all too rare this week. There were also plenty of non-commodity-based experiences to take in, from music and performance art to an ethereal intervention by Mark Ramos comprising a series of WiFi routers visitors could connect to and experience curated exhibitions of digital art on their phones. 

Below, a sampling of what made me fall in love with Satellite all over again: 

Emily Klass

In the loft above the main “storefront” strip, Ashley Epps’ neon and garment assemblages share a visual language with retail but have been modified with drippy resins and other “icky” materials. They speak to a kind of deferred dream of consumption—like a defunct American Apparel outlet or abandoned ‘80s mall—that makes perfect sense for this context. I’d love to see these permanently installed in Mana Contemporary’s 777 Mall (a really weird, really retro dead mall repurposed as artist studios and DIY spaces in Downtown Miami). 

Nearby, Colleen Terrell Comer’s giant hand with glittery nails occasionally inflated and deflated. Her paintings on plastic include a Matisse-like blue nude shaving her legs in the shower. 

Juan Bravos Studios’ “booth” comprises camouflage netting and a flat screen with hypnotic aerial footage of Brooklyn. But the real artwork is a VR experience that must be viewed one at a time. It leads the viewer through a series of dystopian landscapes that are evocative of video games. In one, we pass through a series of monumental portals. In another, we fly over an industrial wasteland of pipelines. Finally, we enter an abstract space warp and arrive at what appears to be an off-world colony, where voices greet us in a multitude of languages and say, “Welcome to the United States!” I’m not sure if this is supposed to imply a narrative of the U.S. colonizing nearby planets after the Earth has been rendered uninhabitable by resource extraction and over-development, but that’s how I read it. 

We Are Nice’N Easy LLC

Tori Swanson 

Emily Klass

Emily Klass 

Portal is a collective of artists who decided to rent a booth together rather than seek traditional gallery representation. 

Jacinta Kaiser in Portal’s booth

Jacinta Kaiser at Portal

A haunting lithograph on paper by Nita Miller at Portal 

Moisturizer Gallery/One End Studio of Gainesville, Florida 

This booth is a collaboration between Moisturizer Gallery and One End Studio, which is the curatorial project of Amanda Gaye—better known as the craft cocktail maven barkeep of college town Gainesville. This whole booth represents Florida artists, who address a spectrum of concerns from feminist aesthetics to environmentalism and school shootings, as in the very creepy digital animation of Mila Gajić and John Walker.  

Michelle Koehlmoos collected trash from Florida’s Daytona coastline over the course of just one day and cast it in acrylic to make a giant tissue box for those collectively mourning the death of the oceans. It’s sad when you know that backstory, but because so much of the detritus ended up being tumbleweave, it’s also kinda glam? At any rate, I’m definitely happy this synthetic hair ended up in a DIY art fair (and sold to a collector!) than in a dolphin’s digestive system. 

AnnaLiisa Benson

Shout out to AnnaLiisa Benson and her installation at the Famous on Mars booth, which fully captured the zeitgeist of the fair—neon, garments, lounge environments, and an accessible feminist sensibility. Think glittery inflatable furniture oriented towards a graffitied monitor showing Disney princesses and gym towels that read “100% Activist Sweat.” 

Carla Maldonado’s “Amazon Inferno” installation is definitely the Debbie-downer of the optimistic fair with its necessary but depressing messaging. A grid of newspaper reports and video testimonials discuss the corporate, mafia, and complicit governmental abuses committed against the rainforest and its populace, as well as documenting a handful of activists in Brazil trying to resist. 

Julia Sinelnikova might be the biggest workaholic of any artist I know. Her immersive installations of lace-like cut mylar, video, mirrors, and lights pop up so frequently that I imagine a casual observer wouldn’t appreciate the huge number of hours that go into each of these. (Full disclosure: I’ve shown Sinelnikova’s work as a curator and have seen her absurdly driven work ethic firsthand.) I’d love for a museum or foundation to commission a project from Sinelnikova that’s budgeted with enough time and money for both install and display to allow/justify a super polished level of finish. Knowing what she’s able to pull off with shoestring resources and a couple of days of install time ahead of a short lifespan for temporary projects like these, I can only imagine what she could accomplish with a proper week+ of install time and funding for an exhibition lasting at least a few months. 

Brooklyn collective Secret Project Robot shared a stand-out-strong booth with the Dominican Republic’s El Cuarto Elástico. One whole wall was given over to SPR’s incredibly affordable, charming paintings of quotidian objects on framed cardboard. At the entrance to the booth, El Cuarto Elástico hung digitally printed pennants comprising a 50/50 mix of symbolism-heavy collages and what they described as their “Daddies” series. The latter had a retro-homoerotic-but-not-conventionally-hot kind of vibe that reminded me of the unsolicited selfies and dick pics that nearly everyone I know with a WhatsApp number has received from a random international number at one point in time or another. The fact that a lowly art critic liked and could actually afford most of the work in this booth makes a convincing case for an art fair model with low booth rental rates and no dealers or middlemen. If this booth were in one of Basel’s curated special sections, every item likely would’ve cost literally at least 100x more and still sold out.

El Cuarto Elástico

Secret Project Robot

I feel like this companion piece in the fair’s main walkway could be the set for some seriously weird DIY porn. I like that the dancing anthropomorphic hammer and sickle has the least threatening googly eyes of anything in their installation. 

Holly Danger

Basically every time I passed Holly Danger’s storefront installation composed of a three-channel video projection it was full of viewers lounging on the cushions on the floor. It also always looked like a completely different yet hypnotic piece. 

Kyle Heinly is a painter who was born with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, and global epilepsy. Depending on the level of fine motor dexterity he has at the time he’s working, the level of detail in his work varies. A recurring theme in his figurative paintings seems to be the awkwardness inherent in all human bodies—in some scenes, lovers appear to fumble into embraces. In this painting on the left, a woman sits on a toilet. I overheard someone saying, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a painting of someone on a toilet that actually made me smile.”


Featured image: Colleen Terrell Comer Inflatibles

Images by the author

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