SO FULL OF PERVERSE PROMISE, the PR fantasia known as Art Basel Miami Beach remains a burlesque of fevered pitches and swift rejections, grandiose “launches” for “architectural footwear” and “scent collaborations.” On Tuesday, while important things transpired elsewhere (e.g., the National Portrait Gallery’s knee-jerk yanking of David Wojnarowicz’s video Fire in My Belly), the Miami crowds, wallets thick with cards declaring Elite airline status and VIP fair access and other distensions of the first-person singular, reaffirmed the city’s standing as the capital of frivolous fabulosity.
Not that we’re complaining. After all, we’re here. So what better way to kick off the eve of the big fair than an Amazing Race–style gauntlet of all the amazing parties and their amazing bastard afterparties? (A hot tip, via Pascal: Say “amazing” enough and you stave off the ennui.) First stop: the Standard hotel for André Balazs and Marc Newson’s toast to “the first US sea launch of The Aquariva by Marc Newson with Dom Pérignon.” Like in AA, everyone here needs a sponsor. We missed the christening (so, lamentably, did Newson) but caught the snacks, mostly crab cakes and, yes, Dom Pérignon.
Next was Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, which was celebrating its final Miami show after six years in the former gas station–cum-ICA-style digs. The backyard dance party wouldn’t get rolling until later, but upstairs a menacing wall label (ATTENTION: THIS ROOM CONTAINS ADULT CONTENT; NO MINORS ALLOWED; NO PHOTOGRAPHY) and press release (“ . . . sure to surprise even the most informed of audiences”) was titillating, like Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Beyond the white curtains hung a deadpan series of eleven photographs by Paola Pivi.
“There are these parties in Prague where boys go to have sex and people take their pictures,” Pivi explained. “So we asked if any of them would do some for an artist.” We glanced at the pics on the walls, each featuring naked ephebes lined up, hip-to . . . er . . . hip, in ecstatic daisy chains.
“But are they really . . . ?”
“Well, yes—that’s the point,” Pivi said, raising her eyebrows.
The next stop, Miami MoCA’s opening for Jonathan Meese and Bruce Weber, was more than eight miles north. Outside in the gloaming, above the glistening half-moon reflecting pool, hung a Vanity Fair logo projected onto the museum’s facade. We wandered past the chorus of Haitian singers and the parked cheeseme.com truck (doling out greasy sandwiches and sliders) and into the blitzkrieg flashes of paparazzi.
Inside, Meese stood delivering military salutes amid his group of twisted figurative sculptures. He was about the only person in the crowd I recognized. Well, him and newly (out) gay icon Ricky Martin, who, it happens, is not just a major celebrity but also a collector. He mostly likes Latin American art. I wondered if he wasn’t partly there to plug his bluntly titled autobiography, Me, which I mentioned having seen at the airport bookstore. “It’s at the airport?” he asked.
So then it was eight miles back the way we came to the annual Rubell dinner, which is typically a highlight of the whole party mash-up. Last year, Jennifer Rubell conjured a wall of crucified donuts, but this time round her talents were being reserved for a daily brunch (dozens of Crock-Pots of porridge, it turns out, set in a “derelict” house on an adjacent property), while the evening event was catered in the normal way, whatever that means. I guess this had to do with the night’s sponsors, US Trust, whose aura of corporate chill extended to the check-in at the door, where even major art patrons like the de la Cruzes were said to be hung up. (“I doubt they ever have to rsvp to anything in this town,” a dealer noted.)
“The art world is wacky. It’s all one big family. It’s all about ideas . . . ” one of the hosts explained to a group of US Trust–ers bearing name tags. They nodded appreciatively.
There wasn’t a theme for the main show this year, but the first floor held a treat: a “Time Capsule” re-creation of an exhibition Jason Rubell had curated, from his own private collection, for his college thesis at Duke in 1991. This was its first reinstallation since it finished touring university museums in 1994. Rubell fils gave the rundown: The Keith Haring print, from 1982, was a bar mitzvah gift. (Haring also did the invites; the reception was at Studio 54.) The first work he actually bought, at age fourteen, was George Condo’s Immigrants, in 1983. Next to an early Gursky was a great series of Thomas Ruff photos from 1986–89 he’d purchased out of the artist’s Düsseldorf studio for one hundred deutsche marks each. “They’re like old friends,” Jason said of the collection, which also included a few brash, early Cady Noland assemblages acquired from Luhring Augustine Hetzler during the dealers’ time in LA. “I was there before anyone.” He had a killer eye for a teenager. “But you know, I had a unique childhood.”
“Okay, go to White Cube, get bored, and then come meet me at Le Baron,” a friend warned/implored. It was already past midnight, but we took off for our next destination on the upper reaches of Collins Avenue. Since Balazs parted ways with the Raleigh hotel earlier this year, the new Soho Beach House was the spot voted most likely to succeed. The Tiki Bar and Pool was hopping with VIPs that no one knew. We didn’t stay long.
Le Baron’s party at the Delano’s Florida Room should have been the last stop of the night, but some friends coaxed me to the Raleigh for a nightcap. The caution tape cordoning off the front entrance should have been warning enough, but entering through the side door I arrived in the backyard to see . . . no one. Or, rather, just three welcome faces on an oversized futon. The Swiss Institute’s Piper Marshall looked up from her tea: “Welcome to Le Barren!”