Dumpster Diving Art Basel 11

How to Succeed in Contemporary Art Without Really Trying

Earn $500K at Art Basel from the comfort of your own home. All you need are some everyday items in your basement trash pile and a positive attitude!

MIAMI—It’s the first week of December, which means the world’s current and future gout sufferers have descended once again upon Miami for Art Basel, the jet set’s annual orgy of conspicuous consumption. Now in its 11th year, Basel Miami has become one of the largest and most important art fairs on the international circuit, where wealthy drunks drop obscene amounts of cash for the latest and greatest from hot young artists, and everyone else tries to fuck them.

It’s widely known that wherever hot young artists go, perfume-scented clouds of bullshit form overhead, raining down free money and adoration. And the smog is thick at the Miami Beach Convention Center this year. A quick survey of the product on offer has convinced us once and for all that being a successful contemporary artist is the greatest job in the entire world. And here’s the exciting part: We’re pretty sure we’ve cracked the code.


Own a trash can? Have a basement, garage or closet? Are you physically able to wrap pears in tinfoil or drop stuff on a floor? Well, you might as well buy a villa in France, friend, because you are a successful contemporary artist. That’s right: Now you, too, can earn $100,000 to $1 million at Art Basel without even leaving the house! It’s that easy.

Wait a second, you’re asking, do I need to buy all kinds of fancy equipment or expensive professional art supplies?  No and no!  Just follow these 14 simple DIY steps using everyday household items and a little imagination. We’re not even going to make you buy the infomercial DVDs or pay shipping and handling, we’re just going to give away this life-changing information free of charge.


burning money 

If you’re also asking yourself, “Didn’t the original gangster Marcel Duchamp figure this shit out almost a hundred years ago with his famous found-object urinal?”  The answer is yes, and congratulations for taking art history 101 in college. “But how is it then that an entire generation of RISD grads can keep ripping off the same idea year after year and still convince these corpulent billionaires to line up at the trough?” It’s art, you philistine; didn’t you go to college? Now let’s get down to business. All prices quoted below are real.

1. Wad up a pile of your soiled underpants and drop them on the floor. Done. Congratulations! You are a fucking genius. Seriously. This piece sold for $3,500. We told you this would be easy! Now you can barely afford to keep your underwear on—it’s like printing money. (Rosa by Adriano Costa, Sadie Coles Gallery)

2. Splash some paint on a couple of used mattresses. Demand $65,000. EACH. You’re getting the hang of it.  (Untitled by Wade Guyton, Kelley Walker, Greene Naftali Gallery)

3. Oops. You spilled some tennis balls on the floor. And…it’s a goddamned masterpiece! You’re a natural. We knew you had what it takes. 

4. Blindfold yourself and grab 14 random items out of your attic or closet. Arrange them on the floor. Charge nothing less than the $12,000 you deserve, you beautiful monster. (Destination Peru by Meric Algun Ringborg, Galerie Nordenhake)

5. Wrap some fruit in tinfoil. Finished. Your raw talent is positively sexual.  (The American Supermarket by Robert Watts, Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects)

6. Place one fruit on a mirrored pedestal. Take the rest of the day off.  (F.R.O #a-g by Thomas Zipp, Baudach)

7. Swipe some belts from your mom’s closet—the ones she got at Marshalls that time but never wore. Apply them to a wall. You must be exhausted. Stick with it, you can do this!  (Beltbuckle (Voodoo Ray), Belt Buckle (Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag), Belt Buckle (Misirlou) by Jim Lambie, Anton Kern Gallery)

8. Put a rock in the corner. Make sure the rock is nice looking. This must have been what it was like watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel. (Still. Life. by Ugo Rondinone, Esther Schipper Gallery)

9. Grab a big armload of shit out of a Goodwill donation dumpster and paper-mache it all together like a disturbed child. If you can’t find a pink sweatshirt, just toss in a dirty rag or whatever junk is closest, like a fast-food wrapper. But not your beret—you’re going to need that. You’re an artist now. 

10. Dump the contents of your kitchen utility drawer into a concrete receptacle (Warning: advanced). (New Museum by Adriano Costa, Sadie Coles Gallery)

11. Steal any bike in Portland and/or outside someone’s tent at Burning Man. Ask $25,000 or best offer. (Pedal Over by Jarbas Lopes, Galerie Krinzinger).

12. Choose one sporting good from your garage and kick it into the middle of the room.  Wait for your check in the mail. (Minus gallery fees, of course—the leeches always take a piece. They live off your creativity because they can’t create themselves. That’s just going to be life for you now, get used to it.) (Untitled (Ball) by Marzena Nowak, Gallery Mezanin)

13. Own a Shop-Vac and a can of spray-paint? Don’t overthink it. Quit while you’re ahead. You just earned $75,000which is what this sold for on the first day. (Labor Saving Device by Roxie Paine, Kavi Gupta)

14. Dangle some life preservers on your step stool. Now take a load off and have a beer—you’ve really earned a break. But make sure to leave the red plastic cup on the stool—this is art, for fuck’s sake. Here’s $25,000. (Summer Law by Lizzie Fitch/ Ryan Trecartin, Andrea Rosen gallery)

Respond Now
  •  TThe real ‘ART’ is making others see what you want & that comes at a price.

  • You forgot the cheap venetian blinds – Open – 65,000.closed – 70,000.

  • This may be the most hysterical thing I’ve ever read on this site. 

  • If you dont like this kind of art dont judge it, it’s as simple as that. There is genre’s for a reason.

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • I think you may have it backwards –If you don’t want it judged, don’t put it out there as art. Once your “art” is out of your studio and being shown publicly it is opened for critique.

  • better to have no art than to hve art like this

  • wait a minute… all these artists are trying to say something or maybe there is a deep meaning…?

  • Show More
  • AT LAST!!!! I ve been critsizing art that way for years, and all you got to hear was “you don t get it”. It s simply great to finally read there more people out there thinking in a similar way. Emily, would be great to get in contact with you via mail or fb. Marion Elias

    1. So glad to see I’m not the only one who recognizes trash when they see it.
    2. Unfortunately, wait 50 years and criticising these will mean you don’t get art….
    3. Where if you art resembles something beatiful, your a copy cat , not an artist.
  • such a shame to art

  • And to think, I spend hours, sometimes months on certain sketches. 

  • Excellent article. Straight to the point.

  • Interesting lol. I do like this article… It’s interesting to read it as an artist myself, who tries to make art on the cheap end as well. THough I like to think I try a bit more than this.

  • hahha! good write up

  • The author of this article seems to be taking the anger they have for the buyer out on the artist. What’s the problem, that some one makes work you don’t like or that people pay for this stuff that you detest?

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • The “art” featured in this article is the equivalent of someone scratching their fingernails across a chalkboard and calling it music.  The problem is that in order to promote this type of work as “high art”,  all forms of visual art based on traditions prior to the Modernist Movement must be (and are) disparaged and rejected.  If this happened the musical arts, it would be the equivalent of promoting Miley Cyrus as the pinnacle of music talent while simultaneously deriding Mozart, Bach and Beethoven as inferior and irrelevant. The “anger” in this charade should be directed at the curators and art consultants; the word for the artists should be simply “insulting”. 

      1 Reply - Reply Now
      • Funny!(the above article). I see great art in Contemporary artists like Henry Moore, he welded steel and worked hard to present great masterpieces. The ones who quickly throw an installation together, well they look like they were thrown together, and if buyers want to spend their cash on that junk,so be it. It is their cash to spend it the way they wish, however they don’t have much for their investment. Peter Daniels.

  • This is a darn good cosmic joke. . . Why are we working so hard in Fresno or Oakland, California and points beyond?  Calling for the artists and patrons to express themselves be an artist or be a supporter of artists?  It matters that we contribute to the world’s Art Renaissance in every form: Dance, Visual, Theatre, Music in all innuendos, formats, expanded eccentricity, , ,  some folks have to drive to the cutting edge and we all live on the Earth with pain and Joy.  . In this season of sharing. . . why not. . . is a $3,500 recycled “art object” any different that the stuff people get at Walmart, Macy’s, etc.  share the love & $.  Janet Capella janetplanet83@gmail.com    

  • Tikki Tikki Tembo had better writing than this…. EAD emily!

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • As an artist, I find this to be extraordinary – no wonder so many of us creating art, that has some meaning and something to appeal find it so difficult.   

  • Thank you for this lazy post that is now clogging my fb feed.Your writing and researching skills are even more lackadaisical than the supposed easy and vapid art you accuse these artists of making. By example, the Roxy Paine piece (the vacuum) is actually made of carved wood.

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • Your right…  Maybe the caption should read… “Want to recreate a vacuum out of wood? Don’t over think it. Just take your vast amounts of capital and pay a fabrication company to do it for you!” 

  • My mother-in-law sold a lovely bronze piece for $28,000. She worked very hard on it – the foundry fees were staggering. She made a $2,000 profit. Just saying.

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • …and I know exactly what you’re saying and feel for your mother.

  • Oh dear, jealousy sure does produce some vapid vitriol.

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • … Or it’s simply a sardonic way of calling out the emperor for having no clothes

  • Oh-My-Gosh!

  • You know, the author of this piece at least made an effort to understand the artistic value of each piece, as his commentary shows. You commenters could try to make a commensurate effort. Open your minds, try to get beyond Gainesborough’s “Blue Boy,” and see what . . .Well, I tried.

  • i donut like its ambiguity

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • Much like the 3rd grade gag – oops made you look. We’re looking. That was the point wasn’t it.

  • Well I guess I should stop nagging my boyfriend to pick up the underwear/pants pile he leaves on the floor after dropping them on the floor and walking out of them. I never knew he was so artistic!

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • Sell them every time he does it. You’ll get rich or he’ll stop it.

  • The vacuum piece is carved entirely out of wood. It is not an actual shop vac. The Belts are made of steel.

    6 Replies - Reply Now
    • Oh! It’s wood! That’s made all the difference! It’s a steal at 75 thousand dollars.

    • then it surely doesn’t even clean the floors

    • +
    • It’s’ spray painted beige.

    • thank u

    • what about the pile of dirty pants/underpants?

    • wow. steel belts. that’s incredible. 

  • Yes I have a question for the author. What the F*** is wrong with the people who buy this stuff? 

    2 Replies - Reply Now
    • grazie ancora!

    • Stupid people with to much money, give it to me I have bills to pay

  • Not only am I an artist, I’m an art collector! I have a vacuum at home. Voila! It’s an art piece. So how am I going to clean my carpet with a valuable objet d’art? Are you crazy? Oh, and I’ve got underpants too. I shall now leave them on the floor and invite my “collectors” over to buy them.

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • The vacuum piece was carved entirely out of wood. It is not an actual shop vac. The Belts are made of steel. This author sucks.

  • you mean I spent $75K on the vacuum and it is just a vacuum?  oh god!

    2 Replies - Reply Now
    • Until there are stupid people out there to buy “art” like this, there will be ”artists” who will keep  producing them…it is so sad…and insoulting…

    • It’s not a vacuum, and it still sucks. Brilliant!

      1 Reply - Reply Now
      • perfect :)

  • hehe, love the first one

  • yeah yeah it’s been like this for years. Everyone tripping over the newest youngest cheapest hippest whatever,

  • Bravo!!!!

  • This is totally obnoxious. And boring. The shop vac is completely hand-carved out of wood. How to continue to not succeed in art writing….

  • This is the most inane article I’ve read in a long time.Here’s how to make money writing web content:Take pictures of what you think is boring art!Mock it in the tone of a 13 year old!

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • No it’s not. It’s simply “The Emperor has no clothes” type of article.

  • And art is what you can get away with, with a hidden laugh!

  • Headers should be above picture, not below.

  • Just got back from there! Haha! So trueI couldnt agree more , now to laugh all the way to the bank!:)

  • Looking at this things… i realized that a i make art everytime i go to the bathroom…

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • What took you so long to figure that out? LOL

  • Where do these people show off this work? Do they have parties to show their collections and everyone nods at how amazing they are and how much money they will make when these pieces go up in value? 

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • There are these places called Art Galleries and Museums.

  • burn that money!!

  • easy, tiger.

  • If it is so easy, why don’t YOU do it?

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • Maybe because any self respecting person would be ashamed to prtake in such a scam.

      2 Replies - Reply Now

      • haha, selling my jeans for $12,500? I am self respecting and I would be all over that!

  • If this is so easy, and anyone can do it, why isn’t everyone doing it?

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • It’s called Self-Respect.

      1 Reply - Reply Now
      • Almost every artist is, it seems.  

  • While most of these works come across as absurd and uninteresting to me also, I chose one to look up.”Labor Saving Device” by Roxy Paine is in fact an example of “the artist’s skill and dexterity,” as it is made out of maple. If the author can’t look at the work long enough to tell the difference between solid wood and spray paint, then who’s the one really slacking on their job here?Fact is, Art Basel Miami Beach contains all types of wonderful art, no matter what suits you. Ungenda out.

    3 Replies - Reply Now
    • 5. Wrap some fruit in tinfoil. Finished. Your raw talent is positively sexual.  (The American Supermarket by Robert Watts, Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects)” I saw this at ABMB and said work was also misrepresented …the large scale installation included “fruits” that were made from other materials…ceramic mainly with different glazed finishes. It actually was quite a dazzling piece…I will admit to finding the article a good laugh though….and I’ve been working in contemporary art world for over 3 decades…sometimes you just have to put in perspective.

    • well that shows an astounding craft and amount of work… but still, I do have to ask, with everything a work of that commitment and magnitude could do in meaning and resonance…. they chose a vacuum cleaner. and do not go on at me about post-modern theory, self expression or perspectives on contemporary pop culture and a commercial society’s definitions of art or I’ll bug spray you.

      1 Reply - Reply Now
      • Very witty and astute. Fools and their money…

    • +
    • Okay, we can now move on to the question: is a painted maple vacuum cleaner a good simulacrum and, if so, of what? Are using different materials to make objects that look like fruit interesting? If so, why?

  • Roxy Paine’s work is hand carved out of maple. Whether you think the piece is successful or not has nothing to do with the artist’s effort or skill set. Perhaps you should look more into some of these artists.http://roxypaine.com/

  • Emily Levy feels threatened by art. How sweet and old fashioned is that?  My standards are a bit higher than imagined. I refuse to paint a mattress for the buyer who is looking for something to agree with the sofa. Consequently, I consider myself very lucky If I paint 65 new Posturepedics over the summer and I sell one for $65,000 at the art fair the same year.  I may break even on the cost of the mattresses that year but it doesn’t begin to cover the cost of the paint. I have considered using cheaper materials. But I figure nobody’s going to pay $65k for a used mattress.

    2 Replies - Reply Now
    • I think the only thing anybody should feel threatened by is the fact that all of these works are derivative, like levy mentions, of an outdated duchampion model of the ready-made that was at the time avant-garde.  In 2013, it comes off as the most conservative thing an artist can do.  The fact that none of these artists, or art basel, or the entire “art-world” has any investment or concern for what avant-garde actually means in 2013, even though they are modeling their art off of it, is disturbing, but it makes perfect sense given that if it truly was avant-garde artwork it would not be marketable.

      1 Reply - Reply Now
      • Absolutely! That’s why it’s hard to get excited or emotional over most (not all) “contemporary” art.  You can also say that there’s really nothing much new under the sun in general. The problem today is that there’s SO much money out there to be spent that galleries, art dealers etc. are in a huge scramble for new “product,” the next big thing with staying power. Most of this stuff will be worthless in 20 years as it should be. The few that are genuinely talented skyrocket to unfathomable prices in a mere few years. You’re also right about innovation not selling. But hey, if some people can make a living from selling stuff to other people who don’t know what to do with their money…go for it!

    • that’s not art.. its garbage.

  • “From Dada to Caca”…. C  TM
     If you would like to buy my Artsy line it’s only $10,000

  • Damn straight.  Art should look the way I think it should, using traditional materials and the skill and dexterity of the artists should be paramount and visible to the viewer so they don’t have to read or do any thinking.  Meaning should be implicit!  There should be visible evidence of time invested because we live in a christian protestant nation where honest work = value and can only be measured with a clock.  People with money should not be allowed to spend it on things that challenge me aesthetically.

    3 Replies - Reply Now
    • The only art on this page will be the post calling you a moron. Moron.

    • when people see a bunch of garbage strewn together, it doesnt engage them enough to find meaning in it, thats why contemporary art is objectively bad. but hey, why not pick one of those pieces out in this article and dissect its meaning for us philistines. i would love to hear an insider’s perspective.

    • +
    • The most valuable thing we possess is our time. It is finite and we have no way of knowing how much of it we have left. So, how we spend that time does in my opinion give a subject value. Whether it is time spent with family or friends or on projects, what you give your time to gains that precious commodity. I also think it is weak for artist to rely on their audience to give their own work meaning. If you are moved to create something you should be brave enough to admit what it was you were creating and be part of the dialogue. But, more importantly, to provide the rosetta stone to the language you are speaking if the work is intended to have a voice. If it is not, then why bother as the world provides us enough interesting things to look at that do no cost $100,000.

  • I went to  wedding of two college art students. I never saw so much purple hair, usually on one side red on the other tapered side, partially torn horrific garb and monstrous look at meeee tattoo work. I only mention it because I lived, worked with, and supported some, very normal looking awesome artists. Freaks yes, but none of the garbage loading down the “art community”.. Its part of the trust fund, Johnnie -has- no- real- talents- or- drive- he- must- be- an- artist game..

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • I am actually encouraged by this article. Most of the art is lame but Jim Lambie and Ugo Rondinone are still called “Hot Young Artists”. This is not because I like them (Lambie-usually, Rondinone- not yet) but because they were both born in 1964. That means 49 is the new Young.  Maybe there is still room for artists out of adolescence. Now, if only the art would grow up. Or is it the collectors?


Inside Gaza's Smuggling Tunnels

Vocativ Staff

Meet the Man Who Invented Israel's Iron Dome

Ralph Avellino

More Young Adults Live With Their Famlies Than Elderly Do

Abigail Tracy

"Stuffers" Pack on Pounds to Satisfy Their Sexual Desires

Elizabeth Kulze

CalArts in the '70s: "When Art School Was Like Animal House"

Elizabeth Kulze

Poltergeist Under Couple's Bed Turns Out to Be Meth Addict

Shane Dixon Kavanaugh

5 Things You Should Know About the Ukraine Plane Crash - Vocativ

Versha Sharma

Testicle-Eating Fish Found in Michigan Lake

Luke Malone
Join the Fray
The Dark Enlightenment: The Creepy Internet Movement You’d Better Take Seriously