Alcohol as Medium: 12 Works That Make Drinking an Art

While waiting for the Thanksgiving turkey to roast yesterday, Gallerist sat at home, a glass of beer in hand, and read about the exhibitions that are opening in Miami next week, in conjunction with the Art Basel Miami Beach fair. As we skimmed the news release for Erwin Wurm’s Bass Museum of Art show, these lines caught our eye:

“Wurm’s smaller-scale ‘Drinking Sculpture’ series ask the audience to engage and they literally do; it is a bar. The viewer can open drawers and interact with the piece.”

We were previously unaware of these works, and this was a thrilling discovery, placing Mr. Wurm firmly in the ranks of artists who have used the bar—or just alcohol—as their medium. Think of Salon Aleman (2006), Eduardo Sarabia’s tequila parties at the 2008 Whitney Biennial, or Tom Marioni’s FREE BEER (1970-79) salons. Fine works.

In the accompanying slide show we present highlights from the history of alcoholic artworks. Its span is rather wide. The only rule for inclusion was that the work needed to incorporate alcohol in some way—whether the liquid itself, its packaging, its advertising or various accoutrements. Mere depictions of drinking were prohibited (Picasso’s 1901 Absinthe Drinker, for instance).

We no doubt missed many seminal works in this genre, and invite you to please share them in the comments below.

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