Art Basel Miami 2011: Rubell Collection Stuns and Makes Fun

The recession is over. Supersize me and let’s party. OK fine. The recession is not over. But, still, let me see those pearly whites. Why the F*ck not? Let me paint you in chocolate gold. I promise I will make you laugh, have fun, be merry. Hell I will even tickle you. OK. I won’t. B/c only because my medication’s wearing down. In the meantime, enjoy the pin-up girls. They ain’t free. But they are fabulous.

Such was the dialogue that seemed to emit from the Rubell Family Collection as we traipsed through their stunning yet playful exhibition this year: American Exuberance. This year, Don Rubbell and his family – who boast one of the largest collections in the world – outdid themselves, in true Miami fashion, with an immense collection of 64 American artists. All 28 of the 45,000 square-foot museum’s galleries were filled with 190 artworks, 40 of which were made in 2011. The goal? To chronicle America today. “In its totality, the exhibition creates a portrait of the American condition,” stated the installation guide.

With titles like “The True Artists Makes Useless Shit for Rich People To Buy (2008) by Bert Rodriquez, a Tracey Emin-esque neon wall sculpture, we knew we were in for a treat. But it’s been a while since we’ve laughed out loud at an exhibit in Basel – which is exactly we did to Joel Kyack’s “Pine Woods Municipal Band Tryouts” – featuring a guy with a trumpet sticking out of his ass, with a butterfly on top of it. (On top of the trumpet… not the ass…) The visual eye candy also included mannequins dressed (by Lanvin) for a night at Studio 54, neon, gold, a whole room filled with Budweiser, pin-up girls, two basketballs floating in an aquarium by Jeff Koons, and a really obnoxious talking rock with a porn loop on display inside.

It was a brilliant sensation to feel the blatant irony of being at the art world’s biggest bacchanal, (an event that is beginning to resemble more of Ibiza than Basel), in a city known for its own colorful exuberance, dressed decadently and being deadly hung over, while exploring this pot-pourri of American color and decadence. Then again, 47 years ago after starting their collection, The Rubells know what we want before we want it. And at this point, they know how to make fun of themselves and others better than any one of us ever could. Before leaving, we made sure to wink at the last mannequin.

 Photos by Faith-Ann Young

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