Karl Haendel, Inverted Mirrored Trump Chopper (2018) Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects © David Owens

Art Basel 2018

Presidential portraits : All the president’s men (and one first lady) at Art Basel

Presidents past and present are a recurring theme at Art Basel this year; here is a selection of different takes on presidential portraits found at the fair.

The assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963 shook the US and his widow became a public symbol of mourning. Warhol became obsessed with Jacqueline Kennedy’s image, saying that although he had liked the president, what bothered him most “was the way television and radio were programming everybody to feel so sad”. Warhol used images taken from newspapers and magazines in the aftermath of the president’s death; this print, which features an enlarged newspaper image, is priced at €40,000 (framed).

The assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963 shook the US and his widow became a public symbol of mourning. Warhol became obsessed with Jacqueline Kennedy’s image, saying that although he had liked the president, what bothered him most “was the way television and radio were programming everybody to feel so sad”. Warhol used images taken from newspapers and magazines in the aftermath of the president’s death; this print, which features an enlarged newspaper image, is priced at €40,000 (framed).

Perhaps unexpectedly, there are several portraits of Ronald Reagan at the fair. For a series of works based on prominent figures who were assassinated or had attempts made on their lives, Gardar Eide Einarsson has painted Real Name: Ronald Reagan (2018), on show with Standard (Oslo). On Michael Werner’s stand is a near-abstract portrait—you’ll have to squint—called Reagan and Dots (1986) by Sigmar Polke. And Adam Gordon has made a new oil painting of the former president, Untitled (2018), which shows Reagan in front of the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin in 1987, giving the speech in which he urged Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union, to “tear down this wall”.

Perhaps unexpectedly, there are several portraits of Ronald Reagan at the fair. For a series of works based on prominent figures who were assassinated or had attempts made on their lives, Gardar Eide Einarsson has painted Real Name: Ronald Reagan (2018), on show with Standard (Oslo). On Michael Werner’s stand is a near-abstract portrait—you’ll have to squint—called Reagan and Dots (1986) by Sigmar Polke. And Adam Gordon has made a new oil painting of the former president, Untitled (2018), which shows Reagan in front of the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin in 1987, giving the speech in which he urged Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union, to “tear down this wall”.

Donald Trump’s helicopter has been turned upside down in Karl Haendel’s Inverted Mirrored Trump Chopper (2018), a large pencil drawing priced at $40,000. The Los Angeles-based gallery is also showing a second work featuring Trump, this time by Nicole Eisenman. The US artist has reworked The Tea Party (2012-17), which originally featured a “generic rich fat man” next to a figure of death, “with a Trump face”, says the gallery’s director, Susanne Vielmetter. The work is priced at $60,000.

Donald Trump’s helicopter has been turned upside down in Karl Haendel’s Inverted Mirrored Trump Chopper (2018), a large pencil drawing priced at $40,000. The Los Angeles-based gallery is also showing a second work featuring Trump, this time by Nicole Eisenman. The US artist has reworked The Tea Party (2012-17), which originally featured a “generic rich fat man” next to a figure of death, “with a Trump face”, says the gallery’s director, Susanne Vielmetter. The work is priced at $60,000.

George W. Bush, himself a keen portrait painter, is represented at the fair by a portable voting booth that many would not recognise, but which was “immediately clear” to a visitor from Florida, says Daniel Herleth, one of the gallery’s directors. The faulty booths led to confusion, delay and recounts during the 2000 presidential election, which Bush won. “If they had worked, maybe a lot of things would have been different,” Herleth says.

George W. Bush, himself a keen portrait painter, is represented at the fair by a portable voting booth that many would not recognise, but which was “immediately clear” to a visitor from Florida, says Daniel Herleth, one of the gallery’s directors. The faulty booths led to confusion, delay and recounts during the 2000 presidential election, which Bush won. “If they had worked, maybe a lot of things would have been different,” Herleth says.

Barack Obama features less frequently at the fair than his successor, or even his 1980s predecessor Ronald Reagan—but a quote from the former president appears underneath a polar bear in Rob Pruitt’s Polar Bear/Global Warming (Barack Obama) (2017), and a cartoon of Obama can be seen in Eric Baudelaire’s Chanson d’Automne (2009). The latter includes several newspaper pages describing the financial crash, which the artist has doctored with a red pencil to produce a more poetic narrative. (The work is named after a poem by Paul Verlaine that was used by the French Resistance to send coded messages during the Second World War.)

Barack Obama features less frequently at the fair than his successor, or even his 1980s predecessor Ronald Reagan—but a quote from the former president appears underneath a polar bear in Rob Pruitt’s Polar Bear/Global Warming (Barack Obama) (2017), and a cartoon of Obama can be seen in Eric Baudelaire’s Chanson d’Automne (2009). The latter includes several newspaper pages describing the financial crash, which the artist has doctored with a red pencil to produce a more poetic narrative. (The work is named after a poem by Paul Verlaine that was used by the French Resistance to send coded messages during the Second World War.)