Text and slogan ‘statement pieces’ draw Instagram crowd to Art Basel

Jeppe Heins All You Are is The Result Of What You Have Thought (2019), on show with Nicolai Wallner Photo: David Owens

Being heard above the hubbub of an art fair—particularly one as loud as Art Basel in Miami Beach—can be tricky for dealers, but this year exhibitors are making their voices heard with a cacophony of text and slogan works that holler, cajole and accost you from every corner.

VIPs in search of that perfect Instagram photo were seen queuing on Wednesday to take their picture in front of Jeppe Heins neon work, All I Need Is Less (2019; priced at €40,000), strategically installed on the outside of Nicolai Wallners stand. So popular was the Danish artists work that, after all three editions of the piece sold out, a second text work, All You Are Is The Result Of What You Have Thought (also 2019, and priced at €40,000), was hung in its place, with one edition finding a home within hours of the fairs opening on Thursday.

Heins work is a hit with fairgoers, Wallner believes, because it consists of a text embedded in a two-way mirror, providing the “perfect excuse to take a photo of yourself without taking a selfie”. He adds: “Thats what Jeppe wants you to do, to become part of the work.”

Alex Fitzgerald, an associate director at Andrew Kreps gallery, whose stand is lit up by an eye-catching text installation by Andrea Bowers, notes how “more people are coming to fairs just for the Instagram moment”. Positioning a “statement piece” on the external wall of the stand “gives us a bit more visibility that translates to Instagram too”, Fitzgerald adds.

It is not all about the “gram”, however. While pretty to look at, many text-based works at the fair have socially conscious undertones; Superflexs powder-blue LED signs (on show at Nils Staerk and Kukje galleries) fall into this category, as do Doug Aitkens sunset-hued slogans such as DRAMA (2019), priced at $225,000 with Eva Presenhuber gallery. “Drama is a good word in any situation—in todays political climate it might be read differently, less personally,” Presenhuber says. She notes that Aitkens work resonates with “a new crowd of US collectors”; two of four editions sold during the VIP preview on Wednesday.

Other slogan pieces are downright political. Bowerss practice marries art and activism, and the Los Angeles artist has long incorporated found words from protest posters in her work. Her illuminated piece, Let Boys Be Feminine/Sensitive (2019; priced at $75,000), is a direct comment on toxic masculinity.

Even without the frill and fanfare of glowing lights or bold colours, Carey Youngs conceptual piece at Paula Cooper gallery has been stopping passersby. Declared Void II (2013; $25,000) consists of a “zone” delineated by black duct tape on the floor, which Carey invites viewers to step into. A text on the wall reads: “By entering the zone created by this drawing, and for the period you remain there, you declare and agree that you are a citizen of the United States of America.”

More people are coming to fairs just for the Instagram moment

Anthony Allen, a director at Paula Cooper, acknowledges that it “is not the most fair-friendly”, but adds: “We wanted to make a political statement. Its a border crossing of sorts.”

Looming large at the entrance of the Canadian gallery Catriona Jeffriess stand is another monochrome text work written in English and Spanish that conjures up the US-Mexico border crisis. Ron Teradas 3m-high aluminium road sign, You Have Left tRead More – Source