Because much of our inspiration comes from fellow artists, Art Basel is kind of like our Coachella.
Let’s get meta for a second. Throughout history, philosophers have identified and described three distinct kinds of love. Eros (sensual), philia (affection), and agape (spiritual) are all experienced by humans at different times and in different ways. Naturally, all of these distinct kinds of love have translated into art in ways that transcend time and medium. From
From Vermeer’s “Officer and a Laughing Girl” to Rodin’s “The Kiss,” artists throughout the ages have explored all three types of love, offering commentary germane to the time and culture in which they were created.
Contemporary art is no exception—and there’s no better place to view it than Art Basel. This annual showcase (from June 14th-17th) will have 291 galleries representing over 4,000 contemporary and modern artists. Galleries include paintings, drawings, sculpture, installations, prints, photography, video, and digital art—and the artistry doesn’t end there. Emerging artists present solo projects, leading publishers share significant and rare editioned works, and the Unlimited pioneering exhibition platform allows for large-scale installations and live performances.
As artists and designers ourselves, we can’t help but keep close tabs on these kinds of innovative exposés, which provide nearly limitless opportunities for inspiration, exploration, and peeks into the creative process. In honor of Art Basel, here’s a window into artists that inspire us—and that we can’t help but LOVE.
You may not know him, but you certainly know his iconic LOVE graphic that’s been featured on countless prints, paintings, sculptures, and even postage stamps. Robert Indiana first designed the bold L-O-V-E (with an offset “o”) in the 1960s, a true product of the Summer of Love and the anti-war movement. By 1970, it had morphed into a 12-foot-tall steel sculpture for the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and began its inevitable journey to cities across the world.
Indiana died just last month at age 89, but he’ll always be remembered as the man that transformed this four letter word into an artistic movement.
This North Dakota native (and current New Yorker) may have been born in the ‘80s, but he counts Robert Indiana as one of his main inspirations. His “Love Me” tag has been ubiquitous in cities from Paris to Istanbul, gracing everything from billboards to T-shirts to an Instagrammable “Love Wall” in Culver City, CA.
A fast-rising star in the art world, Kulig’s “Love Me” tag was born out of a personal sentiment, but now has “morphed into something bigger that’s out of [his] hands.” Bright and graphic, it’s the perfect slogan for posters and neon signs alike, which has led to partnerships with the likes of Vans and Urban Outfitters.
Banksy is both a megastar, and a complete enigma. A mysterious artist that hails from Britain, Banksy is known for graffiti works created in public spaces with a stencil and a dash of activism. Despite the public nature of their work, Bansky refuses to divulge their true identity or use social media—and somehow their pieces spread like wildfire on the very platforms they eschew.
Where does the activism come in? Banksy pieces always have some smart commentary to offer, particularly when it comes to love. The notable portrait of two male police officers kissing on a wall outside a Brighton pub reminds us that true love comes in many forms, while “Mobile Lovers” in Bristol is an exploration of the importance of love and connect—and how easily we allow modern technology to disrupt it.
Andy Warhol once said, “People should fall in love with their eyes closed. Just close your eyes. Don’t look.” Much like his personal philosophy on love, Warhol wasn’t afraid to close his eyes and take a leap when it came to art, reinventing himself and the category of pop art over a period of decades.
Though you might know him for his Campbell Soup paintings, his works span a variety of visual styles and media that range from silkscreen to film.
In 1983 (just four short years before his untimely death), Warhol created his famous Love screenprint series, a triptych of a nude couple embracing, with a seemingly progressive narrative from one print to the next. Showcasing their full bodies—rather than reducing them to parts—seems to suggest Warhol’s emphasis on love as an emotional connection, rather than the physical act of sex.
A former commodities trader, Jeff Koons has incongruously burst into the art world with his renderings of everyday objects in mirror-polished stainless steel. The mundane becomes fabulous in his sculptures, which range from seemingly delicate balloon animals that look ready to float away, to a nine-foot-tall 3,500-pound “Hanging Heart” that sold at auction for a record $23 million.
“Hanging Heart” isn’t Koons’s only venture into the theme of love: the equally large “Sacred Heart” is wrapped up with a bow, like a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day, or the gift of your heart to another. We appreciate his mastery of steel—but we also can’t help but be inspired by his use of the perfect shade of red.
An American contemporary designer and illustrator, Shepard Fairey is also known for his political activism and commentary. Indeed, one of his best-known pieces is the “Hope” campaign poster for President Barack Obama.
Also created in 2008 (but lesser known) is his “Love Unites” poster, which was intended to raise awareness and funds to overturn Prop 8 in California. Proposition 8 stripped the rights of same-sex couples to marry, and was eventually overturned at the ballot box on November 4, 2008, in part due to Fairey’s vocal activism. Love wins!
Hearts in San Francisco
Technically this isn’t the work of one artist, but many. If you’re a Bay Area resident, you probably look forward to this annual public art installation that raises funds for the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation.
Nancy Bechtle and Ellen Magin Newman kicked off Hearts in San Francisco in 2004 by commissioning 131 uniform heart sculptures, painted by different artists. These “heartworks” were contributed by artists including Monika Steiner, Roy de Forest, Silvia Poloto (and many others), installed around the city, and then auctioned off at the end.
Hearts in San Francisco has become part of the very fabric of the city—and especially Tony Bennett’s “America’s Greatest City by the Bay,” which found a permanent home in Union Square.
If this peek into artists we LOVE has you feeling inspired, read more about the 12 most romantic lovers in art or the 10 best love paintings throughout history. Or support our artists, who work every day with LOVE to create wearable works of art.