7 Art Basel Themes that Predict the Biggest Art Trends of 2014

Work by Damien Hirst

Photo: J SwannWork by Damien Hirst

In December, L.A. Weekly made a pilgrimage to Miami Beach to escape L.A.'s frigid, 70-degree winter weather and bask in the 80-degree sunshine of Southern Florida. At Art Basel, the annual art fair and extravaganza, we surveyed thousands of works of contemporary art from artists all over the world, including from L.A.'s own Charlie James Gallery and Coagula Curatorial. In between taking in new work from major players and relative newcomers alike, we began to identify several major themes. From neon installations to inflatable objects, we present the seven most intriguing trends of 2013, along with our predictions for the major art sensations of 2014.

Nicolas Kerksieck's sculpture at Untitled Art Fair

Photo: J SwannNicolas Kerksieck's sculpture at Untitled Art Fair

7. Basel Trend: Functional Objects Made Non-Functional

Don't you love coming across a perfectly-good object that you just can't use? Isn't it ironic, like that Alanis Morissette song, don't you think? Contemporary artists exhibiting at Art Basel this year were especially ironic, subverting loads of traditionally useful things into totally dysfunctional objects. There was the leather floor rug adorned in metal studs so you absolutely could not lay on it. Then there was Nicolas Kerksieck's skateboard half-pipe on display at Untitled Fair. Did we mention the half-pipe was completely carpeted, transforming it into a useless slab of wood and fiber? Well, it did make for a great resting spot when we got tired of walking.

Our Prediction for 2014: Carpet Bombing Everything

Artists must abolish functionality completely in 2014. Artists will cover entire skate parks with rolls of carpeting, giving new meaning to the term "carpet bombing." Carpet bombing streets and roads will become more trendy than even yarn bombing trees, bike racks and museums. Wheels? Who needs 'em? Lets carpet the whole damn freeway system in the name of art.

Sculpture by Enrique Gomez De Molina (left) and Deborah Sengl (right)

Photo: J SwannSculpture by Enrique Gomez De Molina (left) and Deborah Sengl (right)

6. Basel Trend: Hybrid Animals

Erique Gomez De Molina has been called everything from Franken-artist to nightmarish taxidermist to illegal smuggler. The latter title is one he pled guilty to after being charged with illegally importing parts of endangered species for his sculptures two years ago. Despite being sentenced to 20 months in prison, a one-year probation and a $6,000 fine, De Molina still managed to return to a Miami art fair this year to showcase his taxidermy animal mash-ups. Artist Deborah Sengl, meanwhile, has made a career of implanting fabricated animal heads on human figures.

Our Prediction for 2014: Human Body Parts

Damien Hirst's formaldehyde-injected sharks and goats are intended to remind the viewer of her own mortality. But in 2014, you may be seeing the art viewer herself, preserved in a glass tank for all to marvel at. Art patrons will be able to sign up to donate their bodies to art projects upon death, much like signing up to become an organ donor or donating your body to science. Why not donate your body to art? Your eyeballs might just be the perfect addition to De Molina's next creation.

Sculpture by Marc Sijan (left) and sculpture by Shen Shaomin (right)

Photo: J SwannSculpture by Marc Sijan (left) and sculpture by Shen Shaomin (right)

5. Basel Trend: Hyper-Realistic Sculptures of Naked Elderly Women

Marc Sijan's hyper-realistic human figures put the ones at Madame Tussaud's wax museum to shame. His sculptures are hauntingly imperfect: fleshy, pudgy, sweaty. At Art Miami, his sculpture of a nearly-naked, silver-haired levitating woman was so convincingly realistic that a crowd gathered around to ponder how she was seemingly suspended in mid-air. Shen Shaomin's "I Want to Know What Infinity Is," installed at the same art fair, is another strikingly realistic sculpture of an elderly woman. This time, she's sunbathing on the sand.

Our Prediction for 2014: Naked Eldery Women Doing Performance Art

Hyper-realistic sculptures of silver-haired women are so 2013. In 2014, we want to see real women, live and in the flesh, performing as sculptures in a gallery setting. As much as 2013's sculptures looked like real humans, the elderly performance artists of 2014 will look a lot like sculptures.

Sculpture by Anish Kapoor

Photo: J SwannSculpture by Anish Kapoor

4. Basel Trend: Mirrored Selfies

It's been a big year for selfies. So much so that Oxford Dictionaries declared selfie its word of 2013. The trend has continued at Art Basel, with countless mirrored wall pieces and sculptures that actually incorporate the viewer's reflected image. Anish Kapoor, the artist whose mirrored stainless steel public sculptures practically encourage selfies, exhibited a small, purple sculpture that reflects and distorts the viewer's image. Damien Hirst's mirrored case of dead butterflies was spectacular precisely because the viewer could see her own reflection in it. Perhaps she could identify with the fact that she, too, might find herself as a skeleton in a box someday. On a less morbid note, it also provided a great selfie opp.

Work by Damien Hirst

Photo: J SwannWork by Damien Hirst

Our Prediction for 2014: Filtered Selfies

The art of 2014 will look a lot like your Instagram feed. And by that we mean that most fine art photography will be taken on cell phones and displayed on monitors in real time with a continually-updated feed. Got an idea for a marble sculpture or an oil painting? Forget it. Just take a selfie instead, and don't forget to polish it off with an Anish Kapoor Instagram filter. It's almost as good as seeing yourself in the real thing.

Elaine Sturtevant's "Peinture a haute tension"

Photo: J SwannElaine Sturtevant's "Peinture a haute tension"

3. Basel Trend: Neon, Black Light and Glow in the Dark

From Elaine Sturtevant's neon-enhanced portraiture at Basel to Tracey Emin's neon and text-based solo show at Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art, the city was all all aglow in neon this year. Not just neon, but also completely glow-in-the-dark installations, like the pop-up Deluxx Fluxx arcade produced by street art duo FAILE. At Complex art fair, we even spotted regal marble sculptures illuminated by funky black light lamps.

The Faile Deluxx Fluxx Arcade pop-up in Miami Beach

Photo: J SwannThe Faile Deluxx Fluxx Arcade pop-up in Miami Beach

Our Prediction for 2014: Blackouts

Kitschy neon saw a huge revival in the art world in 2013, but 2014 is all about conserving energy -- not using it to light up giant, ironic text installations or illuminate parts of a massive painting. Instead, this year the art world will embrace the beauty of pure darkness, often forcing viewers to walk through an art gallery without the luxury of any sort of artificial light. Patrons can bring their own flashlights to view the works on the walls, or simply close their eyes, consume the darkness of the room, and imagine what the art in the show looks like. Darkness is a powerful thing.

Inflatable TV box mounted on the wall at Art basel

Photo: J SwannInflatable TV box mounted on the wall at Art basel

2. Basel Trend: Inflatables

At first glance it looks like a TV is trying to burst right out of its cardboard packaging at this Art Basel installation. Upon closer inspection, what looks like a cardboard box is actually made of rubber and given a life-like quality when pumped with air. In another Basel installation, an LCD screen displays the illusion of an inflatable, breathing chair plugged into the wall. Most striking of all was Wang Yuyang's room-sized installation, in which nearly every item in a corporate office setting was fabricated out of rubber and continuously pumped with air so that iPhones, computers, printers, and even McDonald's bags appeared as if they were alive.

Art installation by Wang Yuyang. Look closer and every item breathes like a living organism.

Photo: J SwannArt installation by Wang Yuyang. Look closer and every item breathes like a living organism.

Our Prediction for 2014: Blow-Up Collectibles

Inflatables are totally taking off in 2014! Sure, inflatable chairs and water beds reek of the 1990s, but inflatable works of art are so futuristic. Why buy a lifeless painting when you can breathe life into an inflatable, collectible object for your home, office, or car? Rubber and latex are the materials of the new year, and oxygen will dictate the form.

Tina La Porta's painting made from birth control pills at Robert Fontaine Gallery

Photo: J SwannTina La Porta's painting made from birth control pills at Robert Fontaine Gallery

1. Basel Trend: Prescription Pills

From Tina La Porta's circular wall piece fashioned with tiny yellow birth control pills at Aqua fair to Michele Pred's handbag adorned with birth control pills at Art Basel, female artists were popping pills all over Miami this year. At Jessy Nite's pop-up solo show in the Wynwood art district, she installed what appeared to be ecstasy in the shape of text that read "Roll Model." At Art Miami, another artist fashioned tassels out of prescription drugs. Clearly, artists were eager to spill their medicine cabinets into frames and sculptures, commenting on over-medication and excess.

Michele Pred's "American Tourister" vintage handbag adorned with birth control pills

Photo: J SwannMichele Pred's "American Tourister" vintage handbag adorned with birth control pills

Our Prediction for 2014: Pills Make the Art Better

In 2013, artists went crazy gluing pills to everything from handbags to canvas boards. But in 2014, the viewer will get in on the pill party, too. Rather than serving wine and cheese at art openings, galleries will provide bowls of unmarked prescription pills for the viewer to ingest while surveying the works of art. Art will become a truly insane, out-of-body experience as patrons view the art under a completely new and unexpected frame of mind.

Jennifer Swann on Twitter:

Public Spectacle, L.A. Weekly's arts & culture blog, on Facebook and Twitter: