How do you engage with a painting hung on the wall of a subway station? On the sidewalks or in our Parks? What happens when an exhibition is staged at one of the most celebrated museums in New York City without the museum’s consent?
Creative curators, gallerists and brothers Ki and Sei Smith began an experiment based upon shifting perception of art exhibited in nontraditional settings or through unorthodox means. This began with a series of pop-up exhibitions in unconventional locations around the City, leading to the creation of Base 12 in 2015.
The following spring, twelve artists staged their inaugural group show as a guerrilla pop-up at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Despite carefully sidestepping vandalism laws by using a suction cup hanging system, the exhibition hung for forty minutes before museum security confiscated the works and asked the group to leave. Upon departure, they accepted a lifetime ban from the institution in exchange for the return of the seized paintings. This guerrilla exhibition, and those that followed at MoMA PS1 and the Met Breuer, was indicative of Base 12’s larger project: to express reverence for the art world while cleverly underscoring the absurdity of its tradition and structure.
Since then, Base 12 has evolved into a vibrant community that celebrates creative expression and critical thought, centered around close proximity and hyper productivity. Although their respective mediums, values, and approaches were very much varied, the restrictions posed by each exhibition challenged the artists to adapt their practices to, for example, a two-by-three-inch painting to be viewed through binoculars.
Base 12 was born out of the company Apostrophe NYC, founded in 2012 by Ki and Sei. It was an experimental art gallery by day and an underground nightclub from dusk ’til dawn. When it closed, the Smiths began a series of pop-up exhibitions in unconventional locations around the City, and thus ~ the creation of Base 12.
Now, five years after its conception, the artists of Base 12 have come together once more for their first exhibition in three years. Though their studios no longer share walls, they continue to collaborate and support one another both professionally and otherwise. Along with the twelve original works from the Whitney pop-up, this exhibition will include a selection of new pieces from each of the artists’ studios.
The exhibition, BASE 12: Don’t Call It a Comeback includes works by the artists of Apostrophe NYC’s Base 12 project ~ Caslon Bevington, Ryan Bock, Morell Cutler, Jay ‘The Love Child’ Gittens, Alana Dee Haynes, Kolter ‘Señor Melon’ Hodgson, Charlie Hudson, Julia Powers, James Reyes, James Rubio, Bruno Smith, and Sei Smith.
BASE 12: Don’t Call It A Comeback will be on view from March 3 through April 17 at Ki Smith Gallery, 712 West 125th Street, Harlem.
If you would be interested in seeing the works in a less public setting, the Gallery will open by appointment for private tours of the exhibition until its closing date. If you would like to take a look inside the exhibition remotely, email the gallery and they will make it happen.
Ki Smith Gallery Editorial Director, Naomi Falk and our wonderful community of writers, have been working tirelessly to create a catalogue for Base 12: Don’t Call It a Comeback, which are available to order for just $30. Featuring texts by Naomi, our Gallery Director Claire Foussard, and ever talented creative writers Mina Hamedi, Chris Molnar, and Sophie Golub, this catalogue shares the story of Base 12 and beautifully captures the exhibition for anyone who is unable to see it themselves.