The first time my college painting professor asked me what I thought of a Mark Rothko I said, “I don’t know—what’s the caption?” So even though my training was in the fine arts, I eventually gravitated toward cartooning, which I now do regularly. But I still like to keep-up on what is happening in the art world. So this year I made my first trip to Art Basel Miami Beach, the annual event where the world’s top galleries showcase their works for collectors, curators, museum directors, and anybody else who can afford a hotel room in Miami during those four days.
There are plenty of other worthwhile activities going on during Basel. The street art scene has fully exploded, which I wrote about briefly here, and there are other smaller art fairs which are pretty terrific. But I wanted to see the epicenter of all the hype, the main spectacle at the Miami Beach Convention Center, where the beautiful people browsed among the big ticket art items: the Warhols and the Koonses and the Murakamis.
Officially, you’re not supposed to take photographs at the convention center, at least not with your high-powered 35MM. Of course, nobody objects to a little hashtaggy, Instagrammy buzziness, so smartphone pictures are allowed to proceed unchallenged. However, in deference to the artists and the galleries who represent them, I decided to do a photo review of the Basel exhibit by only taking poor or extremely cropped iPhone pictures.
This is the carpet inside the main entrance of the convention center. It’s a great way to draw visitors inside the exhibition hall, because you’re pretty eager to get past this:
This untitled Jackson Pollock drawing from the 1950s, looking like a notebook page full of alien hieroglyphics, was unrecognizable as a Pollock, and especially from this angle, right?
Kevin Appel’s paintings at the Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe gallery were gauzy representations of rebar, overlaid with patterns of line and Benday dots, but which were almost entirely obscured by huge blocks of dark blue paint. If you could see the whole image, you’d be able to see that you couldn’t see it.
Fortunately, I cropped this Jack Pierson piece so that you would have no idea what it said.
This gorgeous Kohei Nawa sculpture, PixCell Maria #11 at SCAI, appeared to be glass bubbles which assumed the form of the iconic standing Virgin Mary pose. Whereas people often see apparitions of the Virgin Mary in caves and in danish, I can imagine somebody seeing an apparition of this Virgin Mary in a bubble bath.
There were two separate paintings which were nearly identical. Upon close inspection they were differently textured, but from a normal distance they were both large canvases covered completely in a single grayish powder-blue hue. One was by the American John Zurier, another by Italian painter Ettore Spaletti. One of them brought the viewer into a heightened awareness of bliss, and the other one kinda sucked. I can’t remember which was which.
This interactive video installation was quite popular. There was a line to use it. Then I realized why: it was spitting out money! Then i realized it was an ATM.
You can tell there are a lot of Europeans there because: yellow pants! Only Europeans can pull off yellow pants.
On the other side of this Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe wall was an appealingly bold abstract work by Monique van Genderen, which out of respect for the artist, I can’t show here.
It’s exhausting looking at art all day, even for non-humans.
Selfie with Lichtenstein!
Juan Genoves’ “Trayecto” was a fun work, an enormously tall panel of thick paint globs which represent hundreds of people running across a crosswalk. Evidently they all figured out where Lady Gaga was making her appearance.
Finally, Basel is not just about art, but about the parties. This one really got out of control with all the zombies and Nazis!
(editor’s correction: this is actually a work of art exhibited at Art Basel, Jake and Dinos Chapman’s “In Our Dreams We Have Seen Another World” (White Cube) and not a party pic.)