Art Basel 2012

The Haight Street Banksy rat is looking for a good home


Kerfuffle attended the publication of my Street Seen column on the reappropriated Banksy street art that popped up at Context art fair during Art Basel week in Miami last month.

Hamptons gallerist Stephen Keszler wrote to tell me that my account of him taking two of the pieces from Palestine and affixing $400,000 price tags to the them was so boring that it made him fall asleep in the bathtub (probably just part of growing old, darling.)

But I also received an interesting communique from a man who claimed responsibility for getting the Banksy rat originally painted on Haight Street’s Red Victorian hotel and cafe to Miami. He says it needs a home.

Brian Greif wanted to clarify that the San Francisco rat was not under control of Keszler or Robin Barton of London’s Bankrobber gallery, Keszler’s partner in the Banksy scheme (Keszler and his staff had neglected to mention this fact in our back-and-forths.) Greif actually wants to donate the rat to a museum, but the process is proving a little complicated.

“I hate to see something important, beautfiul, something I think should be preserved painted over a day later, a month later, a year later,” Greif told me in a phone interview. Greif, who is general manager at KRON and self-described artist active in the SF creative community, had been considering making a documentary on street art when Banksy came to town in April 2010 for his spree of SF stencil art. (Now largely removed by thieving art merchants or painted over, the trip’s sole remaining piece is the bird and tree design on Public Works. The nightclub’s integrated the design into a multi-artist collage mural.)

Greif decided that the process of saving a Banksy piece from obliteration would make for the perfect documentary plot. But it took months to get clearance to remove the rat from the Red Vic. Owner Sami Sunchild was incensed when Banksy “vandalised” her building, as she described it to me when I contacted her to find out how the rat wound up in Miami. (She declined to comment about the rat’s fate.) Greif says the rat was scheduled to be painted over when he finally got permission to remove it intact in December 2010.

But then he couldn’t figure out what to do with the thing. Museums, you see, require authentication from the artist or estate to display a work, and Banksy won’t authenticate street pieces past sporadically putting them on his website for as long as they exist IRL.

A deal with SFMOMA fell through, Greif says. Enter Keszler, who Greif and his documentary team originally interviewed in the role of “bad guy” after the gallerist relocated pieces that the artist had completed on his trip to the West Bank. When Keszler found out about Greif’s rat, he asked to show it alongside his own Banksys at Context. 

“At first I wasn’t sure about that,” says Greif. Banksy’s representative agency Pest Control has condemned Keszler for his reappropriation of the Bethlehem murals. “My partner in the documentary and I discussed. We thought it could be a good part for the documentary.” He consulted street artist friends about the morality of the situation and they told him to go for it as long as he intended the piece to wind up in a museum and not a private collection. Last month, the rat was reassembled for the first time since being removed from its original wall in Miami. Conde Nast named the rat one of the hottest draws of the Art Basel season.

Though he hoped to find a museum interested in displaying the piece through the Miami exposure, Greif was instead deluged with private buyers untroubled by the lack of authentication. The highest offer he received, he says, was $500,000.

But financial gain from once-public art wasn’t the goal when he fought to safely remove the rat. “I think street art is one of the most important movements ever,” Greif told me. He wants the piece to be seen. And now he’s saddled with an incredibly valuable piece of wall. 

Anyone know of a worthy venue for the rodent? Contact Greif at 

Art Basel diary: Why some people never enter a gallery


“My favorite part about Basel is that I haven’t seen a single piece of art,” the 20-something gentleman said through giggles, pleased with himself. His statement was indicative of a simple fact regarding the last week in Miami: a lot of people came during Art Basel not to cruise the 20-plus art fairs, but to party.


His quote was delivered on Sunday, the last day of the madness, and though countless individuals were trying to squeeze in one last look at a Mapplethorpe, Moore, or Kahlo, the two of us had found ourselves poolside at the Standard Hotel, sipping chilled white wine with new-found aquaintances who like me, preferred the works of art not found on canvas. They were more into the moments when the art fair doors were closed, when the Internet celebrities, socialites, and party-goers strapped on their heels to attend the high fashion soirees South Beach.  

Here’s the highlights of my Art Basel nightlife experience: 

Thursday, December 6: I landed in the evening with just enough time to put down my bags and hop in a cab to Lords South Beach Hotel. The building had been transformed by artist Desi Santiago into “The Black Lords.” A giant inflatable black dog engulfed the hotel with glowing, hovering eyes. To celebrate Desi’s creation the Lords threw a private party. 

Once you made it passed the several girls blocking the entrance with iPads containing the evening’s guest list (Miami’s accessory of the season, apparently), you were welcomed into a night with free designer water and an open bar hosted by a tequila brand. In attendance was the coolest of the cool, including San Francisco’s very own drag celebrity, performer, and chef Juanita More and New York-based model Shaun Ross.

Friday, December 7th: After a very long day of attending some of the biggest art fairs in South Beach, I managed to put together a cute look and head to a private party being hosted by DJ Mike Q and artist Matthew Stone. My RSVP included details of where to be picked up by yacht, but since I was running a bit behind, I decided to forgo the boat and zip straight to the party. 

I arrived in front of large gates framed by equally large manicured shrubs. Once the gates opened and I was greeted by a man holding yet another iPad. Once cleared, I was led into an extravagant Moroccan-style riad which included another open bar followed by an amazing Paris is Burning-style ballroom performance by MC Gregg Evisu and dancers Ricco Allure, Kassandra Ebony, and Tamara Prodigy. 

In attendance was San Francisco’s very own performance artists boychild and Dia Dear. I also ran into Shaun Ross again and snapped a quick photograph of him living for the evening’s ball.

Saturday, December 8: My nightlife highlights actually occurred during the day at the NADA Friends and Family pool party, hosted by New York-via-San Francisco performer Alexis Blair Penney of the House of Chez Deep. 

The afternoon started with a spectacular lip sync and performance of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” by Sam Banks, another New York-via-San-Francisco-based drag persona from the House of Chez Deep.

The day’s artists were absolutely captivating and led the audience on a visual journey that occupied the entire of the Deauville Beach Resort‘s majestic outdoor pool area. The day ended with a stunning performance from San Francisco-based performance artist Dia Dear, who had stripped nude and spray-painted herself a very Miami pastel pink. 

Sunday, December 9th: Dehydrated, heat-struck, and exhausted, I found myself cabbing it to the Standard Hotel’s end-of-Basel pool party where this story began. I was determined to take the day easy and nourish myself back to health, but first I had to check out this last event. 

In attendance was San Francisco’s very own drag performer Ben Woozy, LA-based Internet celebrity and fashion icon Niki Takesh, and photographer-model Angela Pham, from the reality TV show Gallery Girls.

I left the pool party early that evening in need of some serious rest and relaxation. I returned to my hotel and had a burger at the local tiki bar and grill by the pool, and spent my last evening at the Russian Turkish Baths’ Amythyst Room. I’m pretty sure though, you’ll never sweat the party out of this boy. 

Art Basel diary: SCOPE-ing, Context-ualizing, and a quick dip in Fountain


Last week, Miami was swept up in Hurricane Art Basel and goddammit if we weren’t there to cover the thing. Check out Caitlin Donohue’s past posts on the scene in South Beach, and the rundown on Wynwood and Art Asia. Here’s her take on SCOPE, Context, and Fountain

SCOPE: This fair focuses on contemporary art, and always has some mind-blowing, large-scale stand-outs (check out my run-down from last year.) I even ran into my old friend, rhinestone hamburger — who was joined by his friends this time around, rhinestone can of Spam, rhinestone bagel sandwich, and more. America!

In terms of artists I actually wrote the info down for, Galerie Art Felicia from Liechtenstein had a glorious, one-woman show of Anke Eilergerhard’s cake freaks, made of highly-pigmented piped silicon. You need to see these vaguely threatening odes to domesiticity. They were a great counterpoint to Oakland artist Scott Hove‘s fanged cakes, pastries menacing on totally different levels. 

Other winners: Edgartista Gonzalez‘s mega ink drawing, Ferris Plock’s banquet paintings at the White Walls’ booth, Carlos Aires’ “La Vie En Rose” collection of pink record singles cut into skulls, geckos, triumphant figures, and soldiers — and the turbans that the boys from London’s fledgling gallery Ivory and Black were wearing. Madeleine Berkhemer‘s electric blue “Fruitbasket” (a statue of some stunning gams, stilletos, fringe-y underwear, sans torso) fit in perfectly with my current love of stripper homage. “Art that has no sexual connotation has no reason to exist,” says the Netherlands artist on her website. Here, here. 

Context: We braved the crushing crowds of Sunday afternoon for this fair with one goal alone in mind: to see the Banksy walls. I’ll write more about them in my Street Seen column next week, but here’s the basic rundown: Banksy did his soul-crushingly popular stencil art on five public walls around the world (two in Bethlehem), and those five walls found their way to Miami this week, presented by Context and a new photosharing platform called I PXL U. Who actually owns these walls? Did Banksy approve their relocation? And, why

I’m hoping to track down someone from Context to explain the finer points of all this, but for now I’ll just say it was really something to see all those walls behind red velvet ropes, each with their own oddly-attired (what was up with those pointy hats?) security guards, for all the world like some kind of performance art… hmmm… well anyway, more on that later. 

Besides Banksy, Context and the attached Art Miami (Context was another one of them fair-in-fair thingys) were too crushed with people to really enjoy by the way-too-late hour we got to them on Sunday afternoon. I did, however, manage to appreciate Cuban multimedia artist and woodworker Alexandre Arrechea’s looping skyscrapers and Eva Bertram’s photo series capturing the maturation of her daughter Herveva. 

Fountain: This was my first time at this seven-year-old Wynwood fair, and it provided a much needed counterpoint to the flash and fade of the rest of the mega-expos on our voyage, even if there was no complimentary St. Germaine spritzers at Fountain art fair. What it did have was tons of community-oriented art, at price points that were actually, actually thinkable for your average alternative culture journalist (unlike the others. Sample sign at NADA Art Fair: “signed, numbered edition of 100. $1,000 for all six prints. Bargain!” And maybe it was?)

You enter Fountain through a grassy lot rendered dusty and tired by our late-in-the-game arrival. There was Ryan Cronin’s giant inflatable pink bunny in one corner by the stage where New York’s Tiki Disco played earlier in the weekend, and a geometric, angled sculpture equipped with battery charging stations for the fest-goer on the move. The lot’s wooden walls were covered with murals coordinated by Atlanta’s Living Walls street art conference. 

Inside, it was a creative hothouse. Really, like sweaty. But the art was a lot fresher than at some of the other fairs: spray paint canvases by Los Angeles’ Annie Treece, Amy Winehouse prayer candles by Miami heirloom conjurer Evo Love (Amy Winehouse occult, it seems, is big this year — read my post on the Untitled art fair for news of Winehouse tarot readings), and of course, not-poop.

“I just want you to know, it’s not poop.” I had been examining New York artist Virginie Sommet’s walls of small glass boxes, decoratively arranged in an ornate frame and filled with the results of three colonics she did in one week, when the artist herself popped up at my elbow.

“It’s undigested food, stuck in the colon due to fear and stress,” she continued. If a child sees a scary dog while eating a piece of bread, Sommet explained, that bread doesn’t make it to the toilet, instead staying in the colon until one does an experimental art piece. What inspired the work? “I wanted to go forward in my life,” she said calmly. And as luck would have it that year, boutique chain Cream Hotel was putting together a group project for Fountain in which 11 artists explored their relationship with the bathroom (“a place of unique significance on a personal, cultural, and social level,” the company’s press release put it.)

Thank god for art. Until next year, BASEL BASEL BASEL

Art Basel diary: The other side of the causeway, street art, Art Asia


Read part one of Caitlin Donohue’s Art Basel diary: South Beach here

It would be a mistake to characterize the Art-Basel-that’s-not-in-South-Beach parts of Miami as containing more DIY/indie/anti-consumerist detritus than Art Deco land during the arty wheeling and dealing that occured last week (transactions worth, the Miami New Times helpfully noted, approximately the GDP of Guyana.)

Not-South-Beach, after all, included the Design District, where my camera memorably died for the last time during our Florida adventure as I was photographing an exhibit entitled “Architecture For Dogs.” 

So maybe lumping in all the art and murals I saw in the Not-South-Beach neighborhoods is a bit confusing. I hope this helps clarify: Wynwood is the area that has been designated as hipster city clusterfuck, centering on the murals bankrolled by the recently-deceased Tony Goldman and a handful of actually-indie art fairs. It hosts many parties featuring free beer and Chromeo.

The Design District is home to “Architecture for Dogs”, the Louis Vuitton store whose facade has been refurbished by last year’s Art Basel week darling, street artist Retna, and copious amounts of fancy bathtubs on display in local businesses (a must for your post-Basel recuperation.)

Between them, Mid-Town is bisected by a street that becomes absolutly jampacked with art and design fairs (and the patrons who love them), including SCOPE, Context, Red Dot, and more. Also, a fountain accented with brightly-colored butterfly, etc. statues by Brazilian artist Romero Britto, who my companion helpfully clarified, is “the worst.”

Snarkiness aside, should you find yourself in Miami next year Baseling, you’ll want to make the trip away from the Convention Center, fashion, high-falutin’ nightlife, and beach beauties of South Beach, because the art on the mainland can be refreshing, and freakish, and gorgeous. Here’s what we saw:  

HELLA MURALS: Street art was pretty much the reason why I went to Art Basel last year, and it continues to blow my mind, even if the crushing crowds of gawkers on Wynwood’s main drag tend to dull the shine for you after awhile. Fountain Art Fair sponsored some dope pieces, and had the only formal (indoor) showing of Miami street artists I caught at the fair. Miami graff pioneer Hec 1 had a room at Fountain he’d curated, with model trains and canvases sprayed with work by some of the city’s most iconic letter artists.

I’d never seen a pro-Israel artist collective until we wandered into the Bomb Shelter Museum‘s street art complex, where Asturian street artist Belin had done one of the most technicaly proficient murals I’ve ever seen of a stretched-out, insect-proportioned young woman. 

One of the best parts of the week was just wandering the back roads, where some super-talented street artists had taken refuge from the crush. We found Molly Rose Freeman and Danielle Brutto putting up a gorgeous pair of cats on a shack in an abandoned lot, that had been informally transmorgified into an aerosol gallery. 

ART ASIA: This year I was once again blown away by the mini-fair within SCOPE that brings Asian-run galleries from Korea, Japan, Bangladesh, Taiwan, in addition to New York and Miami. 

I’d seen its near-identical showings at Art Asia last year, but even so Miami’s Art Lexing gallery was probably my favorite gallery showing of the week, including Ye Hongxing‘s intricate Buddhist collages, shining rainbows revealed to be made of stickers you’d find on a schoolkid’s notebook when you shove your nose up close to them. Lexing showed them alongside washed-out blow-ups of Quentin Shih‘s photos for the somewhat controversial Dior “Shanghai Dreams” ad campaign. Models in Dior gowns come boxed in glass, unaffected indicators of Western glamour in the middle of prosaic scenes from Chinese country life: a market, a basketball court. 

Also in Art Asia: Buhan, Korea’s Kim Jae Sun gallery brought Sehan Kim‘s dotted homage to Keith Haring and other pop artists, the legends’ work rendered on a Asian skyscaper in a busy nightscape. Seung Yong Kwak‘s “Old Future” geisha remix of Mona Lisa sat a few booths down from Tokyo’s Gallery Tomura, whose entire showing was dedicated to Kazuki Takamatsu‘s eerie depth mapping of ringleted little girls. 

For SCOPE, Context, and more on Fountain Art Fair stay tuned for my final blogstallation

Art Basel diary: Air-kissing South Beach on day one


Caitlin Donohue does South Beach during the country’s most excessive week of art. Check out her other Basel 2012 posts here

Faced with a daunting calendar, we went straight to the belly of the Art Basel beast on our first day in Miami: South Beach. The centerpiece of this belly, of course, is Art Basel — “Art Basel proper,” as one must call it during a week with over 20 satellite fairs in orbit around the main event.

Tip: do not try to see it all at Art Basel proper. I highly recommend doing it as Lovemonster and I did, starting out with a talk in the Art Salon. The labyrinth of galleries and their art and endless muted hush of high-level art dealings can make the whole affair seem robotic, so it was real nice to witness a coherent, out-loud discussion among human beings. 

The panel focused on Middle Eastern street art as a form of political expression. I got all fangirl about the last-minute addition of French street artist JR (level of geographical appropriateness be damned) to the talk, but was even more thrilled that the moderator was billed as ¨Princess Alia Al-Senuzzi, patron, London.¨ BASEL Other panelists included Bomi Odufunade, director of special projects at London´s outsider art mecca Museum of Everything, and Tala Sanah, author of Marking Beirut.

Conversation focused on the recent appearance of art-focused street art in the Middle East, and how it related to the political scrawls that have long served as stand-in for uncomfortable political conversations between neighbors there. I found the distinction between artists and political followers a little clunky, but the images flashed on-screen behind the panelists of Middle Eastern murals were amazing, and made me want to read Sanah´s book. JR kind of dominated the talk though, with his handwaving Frenchiness, making me wish Odufunade would moderate with a slightly heavier hand. BASEL

We left the talk early because the older Mid-West mom who sat next to us was having trouble not gawking at my pink hair. These creatures abound at Art Basel, providing quite the incongruous counterpoint to the freakish gazelles of South Beach until you realize the oldies are probably millionaires and really, who the hell am I to say that a brokeass alt-culture writer belongs in this scene any more than them? Her shoes def looked better suited to gallery stomping than my not-enough-broken in kicks, so good job lady and next time just take a picture.

Stop number two (after a brief intermission spent in a smoothie shop that was blasting techno music at 2pm MIAMI) was the massive translucent white tent on the beach that is housing Untitled Art Fair. Untitled´s a young buck in its first year of existence, and breaks from the usual fair mode in that a single dude (New York´s Omar Lopez-Chahoud) curated the whole, 50-gallery affair. The venue is flash as hell, foregoing spotlights on the art for primarily natural light, and designed to ¨flow¨ between gallery spaces.

Chicago gallerist Monique Meloche has shown at NADA and Pulse art fairs during Basel week before, but told us that participating in Untitled “is super-different. Omar calls you up and says ‘I want to do something with Justin,’ and then you pick complimentary pieces.”

Justin, of course, being Justin Cooper, whose site-specific rubber hose sculpture welcomed attendees off the beach into Untitled. A smaller creation sat on the floor in the middle of Meloche’s set-up, which also included pieces by Ebony Patterson, a Jamaican-born artist who works with mug shots of male criminals, converting them into ravishing drag queens with DIY-like touches like vinyl flowers cut from common household items. To complete the trifecta (all Untitled exhibitors were allowed three), she paired Patterson and Cooper with Iran´s Sheree Hovsepian, who manipulates dark room proofs to create deceptively simple abstracts. All three, Meloche told us, worked with elements of craft, mixing high and low materials and references. 

Throughout the exhibit you could see touches of Lopez´s personal preferences — there was a lot of abstract work, for example, although I´m not sure you could classify Paco Cao´s dead celeb tarot card prints (at $25, they were the cheapest pieces on sale at the fair) as abstract. Maybe the presentation of them, though. Cao sat in a hidey hole built with gallery walls, screaming out readings he did with the cards of fest-goers. 

Growing discomfort of my neon pink boots be damned, we made it to our third fair of the day, the free-entry (this is pretty much unheard of among Basel week fairs) New Art Dealers Alliance or NADA art fair, in the Deauville Beach Resort. We got a serious hit of hometown pride over the Bay galleries that made it to NADA — Oakland´s Creative Growth gallery for developmentally and otherwise disabled artists was showcasing William Scott´s R&B culture icon paintings, and can I just say that Cindy, Terry, Maxine, and Dawn of En Vogue have never looked lovelier. We also got to check out Oakland´s Et Al Projects, and SF´s CCA Wattis Institute and Queen´s Nails

And I know what you´re thinking and yeah duh, we´re partying too. Like, with mansions and shit. boychild (who along with another member of our SF-does-Basel crew, Dia Dear, were the subject of Marke B.´s Super Ego column last week) tipped us off to ¨The Body As Lightning Conductor,¨ a private party which turned out to be in a mansion you got to via yacht. We all stood around this Spanish-style mansion (or, y´know, ducked into the well-appointed library) housing drinks from the open bar with aforementioned Mid-West millionaires, high fashion West Coast club kids. All retired to the ballroom (!) to check out a vogue crew tear it down around midnight. 

Then, lacking a cab or cabfare, I got in a buncha strangers´ car (I think the dude sitting shotgun was a rapper), allowed them to buy me fries from the Wendy´s drive-thru, and then ditched them when they got mired in the standstill traffic going through Wynwood, charged my phone on some DJ´s powerstrip who was playing a set in a cigar factory, danced while it charged, and then made the Fountain Art Fair after-party with a buncha street artists/street art festival organizers BASEL

Chris Brown´s painting entitled ¨Chompuzz¨ is on display at hipster clusterfuck Basel Castle tonight, which is pretty much my only priority to see tonight. Center of the art world! BASEL!