A banana…duct taped to a white wall. That was the piece artist Maurizio Cattelan had proudly put on display at this year’s Art Basel. And he had the audacity to list the selling price for the banana, which was real and browning up more every passing day of the art fair, for a $120,000!
It was ridiculous. It was absurd. It went viral on social media. It was the talk of Basel. Not since Marcel Duchamp turned out his seminal Dadaist work – a urinal turned upside down – in 1917, has anything so mundanely humdrum caused such a stir. And to think, all the talk of the piece happened even before another artist named David Datuna walked up, proclaimed to be “a hungry” performance artist and ate the freaking banana. He wasn’t arrested, by the way, but he was escorted out by security. …And the banana was replace.
Welcome to Art Basel.
I’ve had the opportunity to attend Art Basel, the largest and most significant art fair in the Western Hemisphere, since its first year, and the thing that sticks out this year is how huge it’s become. Not only did over 100,000 international visitors descend on Miami for the week-long affair, but so did every medium to major size corporate brand aiming to connect with the young, hip, and jet-set.
The over-arching corporate feel to so much of the goings on was a mixed bag. But the positive end is that the seemingly endless amount of investment into the center piece of the week, Art Basel, and also a growing number of overlapping, competing art fairs like Art Miami and Design Miami, meant more art from all over the world on display in one setting than ever before. And among the many bright spots, were Latin American artists.
At the main convention, the minimal masterpieces from Venezuelan artist Jesus Rafael Soto were getting six-figure bids. That happens when your pieces are a showcase of near digital quality lines done old school, by hand, with acrylic, fabrics, metal, and sometimes cardboard. Doesn’t hurt he passed away a few years ago. While I hate to be morbid, art is morbid. And when the artist dies, the morbidity of the backstory of the art increases. So does the price.
Scope Miami was an art gallery popped up right on the beach. Inside two artists had plenty of eyes fixated on their Mexican icon-inspired pieces. Virginie Schroeder’s “Viva La Vida Frida” was a hot one. Meanwhile Diego Rodarte‘s pop art pieces depicting Emiliano Zapata had some people offended by its cheeky, tangy presentation of a such a strong Mexican historical figure. FYI, the artist himself is Mexican and his Zapata-inspired pieces are titled “Apropiaciones.”
Over in Wynwood street art legends were front and center. The Wynwood Arts District is an expansive (and heavily gentrified) neighborhood north of downtown Miami, where the city doubled down on the street art culture and allowed all private and public properties to be covered in murals. It was there that I got a chance to see some of the biggest names in graffiti, calligraphy, pop surrealism and lowbrow. Some of the popular pieces were by Tats Cru (Wilfredo Feliciano and Hector Nazario), Shepard Fairy, Retna, Ron English, Dasic Fernandez, Kobra, and (my favorite pieces) by Okuda.
Overall Art Basel was bigger than ever. But it remains accessible to both art fans and artists. Until next year, peep some of the pieces that caught my eye. And hit us up with your own pics on Insta @LATVnetwork.