In 2018, the multi-media artist Alex Israel told Tatler Asia, “I’m a brand.” That brand extends from fine art, such as glossy paintings of Los Angeles—the city where he was born, raised, and still lives—to product collaborations with other brands, including Rimowa, Louis Vuitton, and Snapchat. His latest show, “Fins,” a collection of giant, brightly colored sculptures shaped like surfboard fins, brings Israel’s favorite subject—Southern California—to Gagosian’s Rome gallery.
As a Los Angeles–based artist with international obligations, Israel spends much of his time on airplanes. Here, he answers our questionnaire about what he packs, eats, and buys while traveling.
Last flight you took?
Los Angeles to Rome.
As long as they get you there safely …
What do you wear to the airport?
Soft clothes. Hoka trainers. Sunglasses.
How long before your flight boards do you get to the airport?
Just enough time to pee, buy gum, and call my mom.
Check bags, or carry-on only?
Carry-on only when I can, but sometimes a checked bag is (sigh) unavoidable.
What do you bring in your carry-on?
Quest Hero bars (the crunchy ones). Trident Sour Patch Kids gum. Whatever book I’m reading. My laptop, phone, chargers, and converters. Anti-bacterial wet wipes (Naomi Campbell–style). Liquids (just kidding). Magazines (because I’m nostalgic). My Beats by Dre x Kerwin Frost noise-canceling headphones. Extra sunglasses. Socks, undies, and a T-shirt, just in case the checked bag doesn’t make it. A Hästens eye mask that I got at Lauren Halsey’s open studio. Stevia. Xanax.
TSA PreCheck, or regular?
Regular. Also Clear. But, yes, I know, I must get PreCheck!
What do you buy in the airport terminal?
What do you do while waiting to board?
Pee. Buy Gum. Call Mom.
Do you take any drugs or alcohol for the flight?
Item you can’t fly without?
First class, business, or coach?
Window, middle, or aisle seat?
How do you pass the time on the plane?
Sleeping. As much as possible.
Do you buy Wi-Fi?
Do you eat plane food?
Occasionally, although I usually sleep through it.
Best plane food you’ve ever had?
The moutabel in the Arabic mezze appetizer on Qatar Airways is memorable.
Best drink to get on a flight?
Decaf coffee. (I add stevia.) But not too much or I’ll keep having to pee.
Do you talk to the people sitting next to you?
Only if I sense a spiritual connection, or if they say hi.
Keep shoes on or off?
Off. But on for the bathroom, of course!
What do you do when turbulence hits?
I pretend I’m on a beach, wiggling my toes in the sand.
Worst part of the flight?
Traffic on the way to LAX.
First thing you do when the plane lands?
Advice for travelers?
AirTag your bags, for fun and peace of mind!
“Fins” is on at the Gagosian gallery, in Rome, through July 28