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Good art in bad taste: art that mixes high and low culture at the fair

You know what they say—there's no accounting for taste. There are many handsome works on show at Art Basel, but there are also works by artists who care little about refinement

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Toiletpaper magazine at Fondation Beyeler This absurd domestic interior—there is an alligator (or crocodile?) that greets you outside the bedroom—is also overloaded with bucatini pasta that is made fresh daily and strewn about the stand, which some visitors have even tried eating. The installation, called Maze of Quotes (2016) and designed by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari (the founders of Toiletpaper magazine), makes close associations between death and domesticity, as evidenced by a tombstone in the stand. “It’s funny, but it’s a bit disturbing in a provocative way,” says Angelika Bühler, the Beyeler’s head of events and public programmes. The stand is not for sale but the magazine is available for purchase through the foundation’s website.

Katherine Bernhardt at Xavier Hufkens This untitled, 120in-tall work on canvas from 2016 by the US artist Katherine Bernhardt shows a grinning Pink Panther with a cigarette lingering in the corner of the frame. The dealer Hester van Royen was “unsure what it is supposed to symbolise” but confirmed that the work sold on the opening day of the fair. Although she declined to name the price, similar works in size and subject by Bernhardt have sold for around $65,000.

Wong Ping at Edouard Malingue “This makes me uncomfortable,” one visitor was overheard saying in this stand dedicated to the Chinese artist Wong Ping. It is covered with deceptively cute pink carpeting and “beckoning cat” figurines, but the paws have been replaced with penises and an animated film deals with themes like prostitution and impotence. The film, Jungle of Desire (2015), is for sale for $10,000.

Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg at Gió Marconi Nearly 30 anthropomorphic sculptures of various foods and animals by Nathalie Djurberg—grimacing bananas among them—are presented in this stand alongside a cartoonish musical soundtrack by Hans Berg. “Everyone, big and small, has loved the characters,” says the dealer Esther Quiroga. The entire installation is for sale for $95,000 and some of the sculptures will be included in a short forthcoming film by the duo called The Lights of an Undirected Mind (2016).

Aaron Curry at Michael Werner Science fiction meets the historic avant-garde in this painting, called Dark Matter Matter (2016), by Aaron Curry. The work (priced at $95,000) “mixes pop culture references” (Star Trek comes to mind) with “higher artistic references, such as Picasso”, says the dealer Gyonata Bonvicini. The shaped canvas also recalls mid-century work by American Abstract painters like Charles Hinman, but a figure resembling Felix the Cat on the upper right side of the picture brings a humorous quality to what may otherwise look like serious abstraction.

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