Art Basel: Politics and Portraits

Perhaps the most striking piece immediately visible as you enter Art Basel from the convention center's East entrance is Obama by Yan Pei-Ming at David Zwriner. Perhaps an Obama portrait should say "Welcome to Art Basel. We know, we know. The economy is in the tank, but look at this President. Don't worry, change is on the way! So please send cash our way!" Too bad Pei-Ming's grey scaled portrait doesn't inspire the same confidence as, say, Shepard Fairey's.

Dietch Projects is showing a more optimistic portrait of Obama, Barack, amazingly painted in 2005 by Kurt Kauper.

Obama had some competition for political superstar of the fair, mainly from a man who provides a tempting historical analogy. Though Honest Abe isn't shown in the most flattering light.

Folker De Jong, The Dancing Ape (The Bachelor), 2008, James Cohan Gallery

Daneil Richter, 50 Cent, 2008

Ever sense he was immortalized by Warhol, Mao has remained a popular portrait subject.

Claire Fontaine, Untitled (Capitalism is not working) #1 & #2, 2007

Hyag Yab, Mao Landscarpe - Crane, 2008, OMG

Francesco Vezzoli, Laura & Miss Beasley Bush, 2007

As of yet, I haven't spotted any thing of W. So sad that all the artists forgot him during his last year as emperor of Earth, but here's a flattering picture of his wifey.

--Kyle Munzenrieder

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