When Art Basel debuted in Miami Beach as a satellite of the Swiss art fair in 2002, it was a fairly humble event, with young artists showing their work in converted shipping containers. But South Florida has never done low-key very well, and Art Basel Miami Beach grew into an important stop on the global cultural circuit, along the lines of SXSW and Coachella. Celebrities, musicians, brands, rich guys, and yes, artists gather each December to check out some art, work on midwinter tans, and party.
Somewhere along the way, cars also became a part of Art Basel Miami. BMW sponsors the fair and has used the event as a platform to unveil new Art Cars. Some artists used automobiles as raw materials for sculptures, while others treat the car like a canvas to be painted upon. This year’s Art Basel Miami had a little of each, with fascinating results. Sometimes the car itself was remarkable, sometimes how the car was used stood out.
Either way, here are six examples of how the car was the star at Art Basel this year. Also, a plane.
VEHICLE: FERRARI F430
Retna started out as a graffiti artist, but has since expanded into the fine art world. He has developed a unique typography, which is influenced by hieroglyphs, and his work appears on the cover of Justin Bieber’s new album Purpose. At Art Basel, Retna was one of three artists chosen to participate in “Artceleration” where he was given a Ferrari F430 Challenge car to paint live at an event in Miami.
ARTIST: OS GEMEOS
VEHICLE: VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE
It may not look like it, but this sculpture by Os Gemeos, twin brothers from Brazil, started its life as a VW Beetle. The untitled piece is part of the Tiroche Deleon collection and was shown at Art Basel by the Mana Contemporary gallery. It incorporates a massive wooden head affixed to the wood-bodied car. The face on the head opens to reveal a mirrored surface and shelves of curious objects, while the car body has a built-in piano and hand painted doors.
ARTIST: RENE TURREK
VEHICLE: JAGUAR F-TYPE COUPE
Turrek is another graffiti artist who has found cars to be an ample canvas. But he did more than just paint this Jaguar F-Type, nicknamed the “Shaguar”, with a British Union Jack. Turrek also applied a clear coat that alters his custom paint job. When the car comes in contact with water, the wet areas look black. That means the car looks completely different in the rain than it does when dry. The car belongs to a British expat living in Miami and it was on display during Art Basel. You can see the car’s transformation here.
ARTIST: CESAR MANRIQUE
VEHICLE: BMW 730I
No automaker has embraced the art world quite like BMW. Renowned artists such as Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Robert Lichtenstein have all applied their touch to Bimmers through BMW Art Car program. The collection is celebrating its 40th anniversary and the Art Car created by Spanish artist Cesar Manrique was on display in the Collectors Lounge at Art Basel. The colorful 730i was designed to highlight the harmony of technology and nature.
ARTIST: JIMMIE DURHAM
VEHICLE: CHRYSLER SPIRIT
The Chrysler Spirit isn’t exactly the kind of car that gearheads drool over. It’s kind of hard to get excited about a 100-horsepower ride. But artist Jimmie Durham made it a prized vehicle with his sculpture, “Still Life with Xitle and Spirit.” The 2007 piece, which was displayed by the Peter Freeman gallery in Miami, features a 9.5-ton volcanic rock resting atop the crushed sedan. The rock has eyes and a mouth painted on one side. The sculpture was listed for $1 million, which would easily make it the most expensive Spirit ever sold.
ARTIST: BEN LEVY
VEHICLE: FERRARI F430 CHALLENGE
British artist Ben Levy also painted a Ferrari F430 as part of the “Artceleration” show at Art Basel. Levy’s creation featured a series of words such as “love,” “cash,” and “envy” spray painted repeatedly over the Ferrari. The words certainly captured the spirit of Art Basel, but the cars helped a good cause. Levy and Retna’s supercars were auctioned off after the event to benefit the Miami Children’s Health Foundation and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
VEHICLE: BOMBARDIER SIGNATURE SERIES GLOBAL 5000
Private jet is the way that most boldfaced names arrive in Miami for Basel. So private jet rental company NetJets enlisted design firm Snarkitecture to customize one of its planes. Daniel Arsham and Alex Mustonen, the creatives behind Snarkitecture, drew inspiration from the ombre color of the sky at dusk and dawn and tried to replicate those gradient colors on the exterior of the Bombardier Signature Series Global 5000 jet, which greeted visitors at Miami International Airport. The interior of the plane, which seats 13, featured custom seating among other amenities like a Nespresso machine.