We don’t usually get to see too much of the work of William N. Copley (1919–96) here in the United States, which is a sad, sad thing because he is one of the most peculiar and interesting artists of the 20th century, a self-taught master. He was adopted by a newspaper baron as a child, ran a very short-lived Los Angeles gallery in the 1940s, was a friend and collector of the Surrealists, and made brash, funny, discomfiting paintings in a cartoonish language that often involve sexual exploits and all sorts of bad behavior.
But here at Art Basel Miami Beach no less than three different galleries—Kewenig of Berlin, Sadie Coles of London, and Paul Kasmin of New York, which reps his estate—are showing work by Copley, whose star has risen a bit in recent years thanks to the promotional efforts of Bjarne Melgaard and outré-minded curators. The four works on offer follow below, but if you’re in Miami, go have a look in person. You won’t be disappointed.