Artist William Powhida Mocks Art Basel With Huge Drawing, Calls Miami 'Hooverville'

Categories: Art, Culture

Art Basel is many things to many people. Some see it as a drug-infused bacchanal where, occasionally, art is appreciated. Others see it as the art world's seasonally scheduled hangover. Most would agree it's a catastrofuck of major proportions.

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William Powhida
Do you remember anything from last year's Art Basel? Don't you wish you had a memento to remember it by other than some lame Tumblr snapshots, and a Shepard Fairey washable tattoo? Well, artists William Pohida and Jade Townsend penned a meticulously detailed drawing to commemorate our annual orgy of excess. It's like one of those pictures you get at Busch Gardens after a terrifying roller coaster ride.

Called Art Basel Hooverville, the 40 by 60 in. piece shows Miami Beach as a city on the brink of the Rapture, a burning shantytown brimming with art types and millionaires.

Naturally, a bunch of local names made the mural. In the bottom left corner, local vulgarian Marty Margulies and mucho dinero collector Don Rubell watch a cockfight between their roosters, Mini Damien Hirst and Mini Jeff Koons. "Whaddaya say, Don? Loser gets the fuck out of Miami?" Margulies taunts Rubell. To which Rubell retorts: "Ho, ho, ho, I'm like Santa Claus around here. I am Miami you shitheel."

Watching over the scene is bosomy British chef Nigella Lawson, who admonishes them both: "This is disgusting...I'm telling your wives." Thanks, mom. At the center of the drawing is a long breadline of VIPs waiting for pan Cubano. One bespectacled lady utters a phrase surely familiar to anyone who walked through the Miami Beach Convention Center: "Hello, is this the line for the free VIP brunch?"

Meanwhile, Rubell's daughter, Jennifer, the erstwhile caterer, looks over the breadline and says: "This is so great! Maybe I can ask mom if we can feed the poor for my next work."
Powhida says the drawing took him and Townsend six months, on and off, to finish, and it came out of "a conversation about who to fuck with and who to support in our vision of the fucked up social hierarchy that occurs for a week down there." Their materials? pencil, paper, booze and other chemicals.

It's not the first time Powhida has messed with Baselistas. Two years ago, he passed out personalized condolence cards to artists who'd lost their agent, for instance. "In respects to who we chose, it's pretty much auto-biographical and a dual portrait of our experiences in the art world," he adds.  Who else is in the drawing? Soap opera star James Franco, artist Chuck Close, President Barack Obama and his secret service posse, and "Lady Gaga and Taliban tribal chief."

In other words, your usual Basel attendees. Click here for a high-res PDF of the drawing.


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