Art Basel teaches you that rich people are exceedingly weird. They're the people you see walking around San Francisco or Manhattan in Balenciaga shoes, the folks who seem really normal and put together and content to be driving their steel-gray Mercedes sedans from venture-capital pitch to venture-capital pitch. They fly to Miami once a year to invest in paintings of cartoon characters with erections. There's something almost pathological about Baselites
Don't get us wrong — Art Basel is incredible. We wouldn't trade it for the world. But it's also a place where grandmothers in $12,000 fur coats buy paintings of Ronald Reagan projectile-vomiting. This year was no different. Behold the weirdest stuff we saw at Basel and other fairs during Miami Art Week 2017.
Many of these pieces are not safe for work.
1. The "Best Physical Representation of an Alex Jones Rant" Award: Whatever is happening here:
2. The "Best Trump Reference" Award
Images of Donald Trump didn't show up at this year's Art Basel as much as we had expected. But he did show up: This one comes to us from the well-known surrealist/pop artist Peter Saul, who brought us last year's all-time-great artwork, Duck Rembrandt. Honestly, we sort of love this one:
3. The "Obligatory Use of Disney as a Comment on the American Dream" Award
In the year 2177, America has separated into two social classes: wealthy tyrants and the fat, immobile peasant caste whom the oligarchs have beaten into submission. The lower orders remain trapped at home in dark rooms and are able to make money only by selling their bodies for sex on the internet. Life is a bleak existence where the desire to connect with someone through video chat is subsumed by the necessity to pleasure oneself in front of as many people as possible in a given day, just to collect enough KochTokens to keep your child's breathing apparatus running for another few days. But on a brisk fall morning, a rumbling shakes the room, the northern wall of your apartment crumbles, and a ray of pure, true sunshine — the first you've seen in 30 years — bursts through the cracks like a call from the gods. The Resistance has broken you free! You all rejoice, grab your double-ended dildos, and make for the town square, where you beat the statue of Grumpy the Dwarf into dust using the sexual implements the Robber Barons formerly used to subjugate you. You hug your neighbors and feel the soft touch of a stranger for the first time in your small, mortal life.
OK, maybe this statue actually makes sense:
4. The "Thing That Smelled Really Fucking Weird" Award
This thing smelled really fucking weird. The folks who ran the main Art Basel fair at the Miami Beach Convention Center decided to cloister this apparatus in a tiny, three-walled room in order to, we guess, trap the weird stench into as tight a corner as possible. The pepperoni-and-skin-looking thing was made from kombucha leather, which comes from the fungus left over after you finish drinking that weird hippie tea. The fungus then gets flattened and reeks like a taxidermist's office. While we were standing here, two groups of people walked up to it, wrinkled their noses in disgust, and immediately left.
5. The "I Didn't Know Breitbart News Had a Basel Exhibition" Award
There is no way Sebastian Gorka doesn't sleep under this painting every night. It's a man in a fucking turban sawing a blond white lady in half while a black man painted to look like a minstrel carries away an image of the United States. Remember that time Steve Bannon mysteriously poured a vat of acid into a hot tub in an apartment he owned in Miami in order to cook meth and/or dissolve a body? Pretty sure this painting hung over the tub to help him get in the mood.
6. The "Best Piece of Possible Murder Evidence" Award: Did Ryan Seacrest Kill Brian Dunkleman?
Remember Brian Dunkleman? One of the two co-hosts from season one of American Idol? The guy who vanished without a trace before season two? Well, did you know he's dead now? (Don't Google that.) Dunkleman's body washed up in the Hollywood Reservoir — headless — with defensive wounds on his hands and forearms, consistent with an attack from a piping-hot hair straightener. (Don't fact-check that. We got it from YouTube.) Look at the painting below — see how the crowd stares in awe at Ryan? Look at how nice his tuxedo fits him. There's our American hero Ryan! Who's Brian Dunkleman? We must erase Brian Dunkleman. Want to know something extra-chilling? Ryan Seacrest painted this.
7. The "Worst Advice of 2017 by Encouraging Rich People to Remain Terrible" Award
Basel art fairs are notoriously full of hackneyed, clichéd signs offering largely useless advice like "Start yesterday" or "Dream even bigger" or "It's not fair for your ex-wife to blame you for your alcoholism." Art like this serves no real purpose except helping wine-drunk Silicon Valley venture capitalists feel better about the apps they own that, say, let tourists edit homeless people out of their selfies. Art like this is essential at Basel
So it's with this in mind that we present the single worst piece of advice we've ever seen: "Prefer crying in a limo to laughing on a bus." Yes, darling: It was worth cutting off your Aéropostale-wearing best friend from Duluth so you could move to Bushwick and become an Instagram influencer hawking laxative teas. The misery will all be worth it. The art says so.
8. The "Absolutely Shameless Ripoff of One of the Most Famous Art Pieces Ever" Award
In 1917, legendary French artist Marcel Duchamp basically created the modern-art movement when he took a men's urinal, turned it on its side, named it Fountain, and forced people to contemplate whether it was a work of art. His idea is still being ripped off 100 years later:
9. The "Art for the Most Expensive Dorm in America" Award
Don't they already sell this at Bed Bath & Beyond for like $12?
10. The "Art for Horny Old People Who Don't Know What Tumblr Is Yet" Award:
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These drawings come from erotic art legend and filmmaker Mike Kuchar, a compatriot of famous cartoonists R. Crumb and Art Spiegelman. His work is wonderful. But this collection also includes a dinosaur ogling a virile man's butt, a sketching of Satan with a gigantic erection, and one massive fuck-cyclops, so we're including them: