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Art Basel Art Fountain’s Inhuman Stain

City blots it out.

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Art Basel Miami Beach is known for its aestheticized hedonism. But city officials have barred the installation of artist Cooper’s Roman-style, black-ink-spewing Dark Fountain, which was commissioned for the fair, from a public park. “The ink stains,” says Max Sklar, the city’s tourism honcho. “Clothing, cars, the sidewalk—everything. If the wind blew the wrong way and this black ink hit me, I would like to think I’d be able to wash it out of my clothing.” Cooper says his work dramatizes the increasingly toxic state of the environment. “This isn’t Disney pretend,” he says. “This is real, live public art. You can look at it and enjoy it. But if you get in the middle of it, it’s not going to forgive you.” Plus, he says, only real ink looks ominous enough. Sklar isn’t budging. “We’re not asking him to change the very nature of his work,” he says. “Just to accommodate it to a public setting.”

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