The Most Infamous Moments in Art Basel Miami Beach Week History

The only place where a stabbing gets mistaken for performance art.

Art Basel Miami Beach 2015 - VIP Preview
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Nothing lives up to its reputation quite like Art Basel Miami Beach. Since its advent in 2002, the art fair and surrounding bacchanal has only further established itself as the only time and place in the world where, in a matter of hours, you might encounter scenes ranging from Princess Eugenie hawking wares to Leonardo DiCaprio clubbing with Kendall Jenner at 6 a.m. (Or even get Zika!)

And yet, of all the surreal happenings in Basel Miami’s past, few have caused as much of a scene—or had as long of a shelf life—as The Banana, a lowly piece of fruit that earned the artist Maurizio Cattelan hundreds of thousands of dollars with the help of a little duct tape. The fair wrapped last week, and yet, The Banana—technically an artwork titled Comedian—remains in our collective conscience. Here, a bit of distraction in the form of more of Basel Miami’s most memorable moments and mishaps.

That time an artist got naked to hang out with swine.

In 2012, the South Korean artist Miru Kim managed to become the talk of the fair without even stepping foot in its main site. Instead, she set up shop in the window of the gallery Primary Projects, where she proceeded to spend exactly 104 hours naked, in the company of two pigs she had saved from a slaughterhouse. The publicity surrounding I Like Pigs and Pigs Like Me died down post-Basel, but it wasn’t long before Kim was back in the headlines. While the pigs had moved into a sanctuary, just as Kim had planned, they’d also fallen sick. Suffice to say, animal rights activists were not having it.

That time Usher charged his phone in an artist’s vagina.

This one is unfortunately exactly what it sounds like. In 2014, the performance artist Lena Marquise took over the booth of Vector Gallery—a since shuttered Satanic space— at the satellite Select Fair with an exhibition titled “Body as Commodity.” Usher, who was then a burgeoning art collector, decided to drop by. Ostensibly, he was then forced to consider “whether using a doll for sexual pleasure commodifies sex more or less immorally than using a real body for amenities that can be monetarily quantified such as energy.”

Did the message sink in? That remains unclear. But regrettably, there is photographic evidence proving that Usher did at least interact with the exhibition, by accepting Marquise’s offer to use her vagina to charge her phone.

That time a Picasso vanished.

Twenty fourteen was a rough year for the fair. While Usher and the rest of the fairgoers were keeping themselves busy, someone managed to steal a 16.5-inch silver plate by Pablo Picasso from the booth of Leslie Smith Gallery at Art Miami.

That time fairgoers thought a stabbing was performance art.

In 2015, the Nova section of the fair played host to an exhilarating piece of performance art. At least, that’s what plenty of fairgoers thought when they witnessed a woman attack another woman with an X-acto knife, stabbing her arms and neck. Confusion lingered even after the victim was escorted to the hospital, drenched in blood; the crime scene’s proximity to a booth led some to believe it was an installation featuring police tape. (The attacker later pled guilty to second-degree attempted murder, and accepted a plea deal that barred her from ever returning to the U.S.)

That time a Jeff Koons shattered, and Jeff Koons didn’t care.

In 2016, a miniature balloon dog by Jeff Koons fell from its display and shattered well beyond repair. Much more notable than the damage, though, was the manner in which Koons brushed it off. “It’s not the end of the world. All these things are very relevant and you never like to see anything go to waste, but that can be re-created,” he told Vanity Fair. “Worse things happen. That’s quite mild.” (For the world’s most expensive living artist, anyway.)

That time a 20,000-pound sculpture fell from the sky.

“It sounded like a bomb,” a Florida resident told the Miami Herald in 2017. She was recalling the moment that a 20,000-pound granite sculpture by the artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla unexpectedly made a pit stop in her neighborhood, while on its way to be installed at the Institute of Contemporary Art just in time for Basel. A “crane malfunction” suddenly caused the gargantuan mass to come crashing down to earth, leaving a dented truck and a pot hole in its wake. (Somehow, the work itself survived unscathed.)

That time a fairgoer spoke “the truth.”

According to a new poll by Insider, a whopping 45 percent of Americans now believe that the cause of Jeffrey Epstein’s death was murder, not suicide. (There’s no official evidence to support the claim—yet.) Official evidence to support the theory has yet to present itself, and yet, that didn’t stop one of those millions of Americans from boldly asserting his belief on the last day of this year’s fair. Seizing the spotlight recently vacated by The Banana, a rebellious truther used a tube of lipstick to send a message: “EPSTIEN [sic] DIDN’T KILL HIMSELF.” (Security guards swiftly escorted him out.)

Related: Overheard at Art Basel Miami Beach 2019