Art Basel 2016 Features Both Dark and Whimsical Works in Miami

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For the 15th year, art world cognoscenti, collectors and hangers-on descended on Miami’s South Beach for Art Basel, the largest and most high profile U.S. art fair. Nearly 270 galleries were on hand to display works from some of today’s most significant modern and contemporary artists, as well as emerging art stars. Aside from the high-spirited big ring of the Miami Convention Center, several satellite fairs have spun off of Basel, including NADA, Scope and Faena—not to mention site-specific art and nightlife spectacles from the Juxtapoz Clubhouse to a Madonna benefit concert with tickets starting at $5,000. The RANGE team was on-hand to check out the art, get some sun, and as always, seek, spread and distill the cultural stories and visual inspo circulating through fine art’s big event.

This year, the usual Basel buzz about sex, drugs and Botox was tempered by the fraught sociopolitical climate. This was the first post-presidential election art fair, and many gallerists chose to display timely reactionary works. Greeting fair-goers at the entrance—and setting an overall tone—was Sam Durant’s bright red electric sign scrawled with “End White Supremacy.” Around the corner, Blum & Poe gallery also featured Durant’s smaller work, “Landscape Art Sign (Emory Douglas),” named after the Black Panther’s minister of culture and featuring his quote, “Landscape art is good only when it shows the oppressor hanging from a tree by his motherf**ing neck.” While admittedly dark, crowds swarmed the booth all weekend.

If the masses of amateur photographers indicate cultural resonance, another crowd favorite was Jonathan Horowitz’s photograph “Does she have a good body? No. Does she have a fat ass? Absolutely,” which depicts “The Donald” mid-golf stride with a hellish red sky blazing overhead. The work sold on opening day for $12,000, according to The Art Newspaper. Environmental warnings were on display via Doug Aitken’s LED light boxes, including “EDGE” with the word depicted in red mountains, and “END” against an ocean setting.

The counter to these rather grim and confrontational pieces were bright, whimsical and weird works that provided an escape from reality, if not a reason to post to the ‘gram. Probably the most Instagrammed booth of the fair was “Maze of Quotes,” a bizarro installation by artist duo Toilet Paper, which transformed the booth into an apartment made of luxe furnishings, hyper-color prints and a sink overflowing with real spaghetti. Escaping the convention center throngs, the outdoor exhibition space was a visual refresh, the fluorescent stacked rocks of Ugo Rondinone’s “Miami Mountain” rising brilliant and bold against the blue Miami sky.

Images by Bayla Metzger.

xx Bayla

Bayla Metzger is a freelance writer focused on social shifts and cultural movements. She recently moved from Brooklyn, NY to Marfa, TX, where desert sunsets and Stripes big gulps are her biggest inspiration.