Art Basel Miami Beach

The Art Cops on Art Basel 2012's Worst Offenders and Attempting to Bust Banksy for Crimes Against Art

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Last week marked the first time the Art Cops agreed to police a fair at the request of organizers. As an official PULSE project, they were duty-bound to venture out of their Jonathan Ferrera Gallery booth, into streets creeping with smartphone hunchbacks and sex-crazed perverts who'd had their brains scrambled on Peter Anton's roller coaster.

"Lots of tickets this year," Officer Vis told us during our ride-along. When reflecting on the worst of the violators, one name came immediately to mind:

"Damien Hirst. He has a ticket from about five years ago that he never paid. And his titles are too pretentious, so there's that, too.

"Cindy Sherman. We've been looking for her. The titles are unimaginative," Vis said. "Really, though, 'Untitled' was one of the biggest violations this year and was all over the place. What's worse is when it's 'Untitled' and then parenthetically '(blue dog)' or something. What?"

But their most elusive quarry is that great white, stenciled whale, Banksy. And with Stephan Kezsler's controversial display of site-removed Bansky wall pieces at CONTEXT, this seemed like the perfect time for the Art Cops to make a bust. The offending work? Banksy's Kissing Coppers, depicting two English constables smooching. The problem? No one knows who Banksy is.

"We ran into Nick Korniloff, the director of Art Miami," Vis said. "He likes us so asked him who we could give the ticket to. He directed us to Stephan Kezsler."

Most reactions the Art Cops get are positive but occasionally, they hear criticism that they do little more than get their pictures taken.

"There's that, to some degree," Officer Vis confessed. "But we provide a legitimate service. It started as performance art but now it's more than that."

And so the Art Cops found Kezsler amidst his Banksys. Officers Vis and Campbell had already filled out the ticket and handed it directly to Kezsler.

"We have an infraction for one of your Banksys, the Kissing Coppers," Vis said.

Kezsler clearly felt secure in his fortress of reclaimed walls.

"Wait, wait," he snapped at Vis and Campbell. "What is this bullshit?"

So Vis tried to explain what the Art Cops do but, Vis said, this only proceeded to make Kezsler more angry.

"So what's this ticket for?" Kezsler asked.

Officer Campbell leaned forward and snarled, "We're cops and we don't think it's funny."

Kezsler snapped back, "Well, you're not funny."

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B. Caplan