Moon over Miami

Kate Sutton around Art Basel Miami Beach


Left: Val Kilmer, collector Vladislav Doronin, and Naomi Campbell. (Photo: Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan) Right: Le Clique's Chi Chi Menendez and artists Samuel Boutruche and Bernard Frize. (Photo: Kate Sutton)

THIS YEAR, I PAID my Miami penance up front, with back-to-back red-eye flights—seventeen hours’ worth—from Moscow. In return, I was rewarded with indecently warm weather and the delicious stupor of intense sleep deprivation. This meant that by the time I arrived at Emmanuel Perrotin’s gallery for dinner on Tuesday night (after pantomiming the address to my French cab driver), it already felt like the afterparty. The good-natured dealer had flown in the majority of the participating artists—among them Matthieu Mercier, Bernard Frize, and Daniel Firman—for the group exhibition and two solo shows being hosted at his Miami gallery, effectively opening up his home to half his artist stable. “We’re a package deal,” joked Frize. The artists were joined by a sizable but similarly dazed crowd of jet-lagged jet-setters, including collectors Richard Chang and Jean Pigozzi, art adviser Lauren Prattke, curator Jérôme Sans, and fellow gallery artists Jesper Just and Daniel Arsham.

In the garden out back, artist duo Kolkoz (whose carnivalesque backward WELCOME sign crowned the front of the building) took to the DJ booth for a set of their trademark eclectica, familiar to frequenters of peripatetic Paris nightclub Le Baron. Not far from the dance floor, Le Baron ingenues André Saraiva and Lionel Bensemoun and Le Clique’s resident pinup, Chi Chi Menendez, were on hand to welcome the party back to Le Baron’s pop-up bar at the Delano’s Florida Room.

Of course, where Le Baron is concerned, nothing ever really starts before 2 AM, so I took advantage of the break and hit the Standard for a midnight meal. Half disoriented and half delighted by the hotel’s logic-defying layout, I emerged from the pool area and mistook the Paul Kasmin dinner for the more casual dinner with friends waiting for me at the other side of the pier. After making polite acknowledgment of the few familiar faces (and clocking designer Christian Louboutin), I spied my table across the pool, where tomato salads and tuna tartare were all we could coax from a closed kitchen. (Gratefully, they were more accommodating with last call.)

Left: Designer Mattia Bonetti with Christian Louboutin. (Photo: Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan) Right: Dealers Frank Elbaz and Emmanuel Perrotin. (Photo: Ryan McNamara)

Maybe it was the jet lag, maybe the full moon, or maybe just that spring-break feel of vodka cocktails in poolside plastic cups, but on the way out, we couldn’t resist a dip in the Standard’s glorious pool. Artist Cyprien Gaillard led the charge with a back flip into the deep end while the others poached beach towels and improvised swimwear. By the time we made it to the Florida Room, our wet hair, smeared makeup, and generally dishabille appearance got us to the front of the line without even having to flash the club’s obscenely coveted VIP cards.

Wednesday evening, having nobly put in my due diligence at the fair despite only managing two hours of sleep, I celebrated with champagne around the private pool of collector Oleg Baybakov’s penthouse at the new W Hotel before descending to the first floor for the opening of Bruce High Quality Foundation’s “Happy Endings.” The multisite exhibition features a series of lo-fi works (a kiddie pool with Styrofoam “barge” manned by Raggedy Andy), videos expounding on the etymology of pedagogy, and the Performa fave Art History with Benefits, which explores the history of sex, money, and power as played out in the art world (all with a healthy dose of humor, of course).

From there, I crossed the street to the Bass Museum for the Bombay Sapphire–sponsored opening for Deitch wunderkind Dzine and selections from the Jumex Collection. Before I could see anything other than Dzine’s handcrafted (I believe the technical term is tricked out) chandelier, girls in “Bombay” suits shuffled me toward an impromptu bar covered in the artist’s brightly colored murals. While craning my neck to find non-Bombay offerings (the swirling blue-light logos bathing the building front had something of an adverse effect), I was amused to observe artist Andrey Bartenev struggling with a rapidly tumbling floral arrangement, which was subtly accented with blossoming bottles of gin. “Let me get this out of your way,” the bartender offered tersely, whisking the regrettable decoration under the bar.

Left: Art adviser Lauren Prattke with collector Jean Pigozzi. (Photo: Kate Sutton) Right: Hotelier André Balazs with photographer Sante D'Orazio. (Photo: Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan)

Stepping out with curator Claire Staebler and Fondation d’Enterprise Ricard director Colette Barbier, we paused to scope the newly retooled Oceanfront area, where Amanda Blank was already midconcert. Collins Park has lost something with the cancellation of “Art Positions,” whose industrial trailers gave the space an appealing energy. The revamped Oceanfront now looks more “Shakespeare in the Park” than cutting-edge art, outfitted as it is with a low-budget stage and a cluster of bright red benches. We debated joining the concert on the beach but opted instead for the telecast.

The last traces of jet lag worked in my favor Thursday morning, as I was more or less on time for Ai Weiwei’s 10 AM kickoff talk for “Art Conversations,” this year at the Oceanfront. The change in locale leavened the studied seriousness of previous fair editions; this was more of a communal sunbathing session. My perch on an unsettlingly sticky back-row bench provided me with a privileged position from which to watch the accumulating sweat spots on the back of all the button-up shirts. Midway through the talk, these same shirts started to come off like it was a party.

The growing nudity did not seem to faze moderator and Artforum contributing editor Philip Tinari, who made a valiant effort to get a discussion going despite Ai’s stubbornly evasive or obstructionist answers. (Regarding the artist’s upcoming plans to fill one swimming pool with milk and another with coffee: “What happens when the milk goes bad?” Ai: “It’s spoiled milk.”) Tinari did manage to get a provocative line or two from the artist, particularly when he asked Ai whether there was anything he’d like to say to any spies in the audience: “Your time is over,” Ai declared, without a hint of humor in his voice.

Left: Artist Ai Weiwei. (Photo: David Velasco) Right: Collectors Aby Rosen, Samantha Boardman Rosen, and Stavros Niarchos. (Photo: Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan)

Early-evening events that night––Aaron Young’s in-studio performance, the Whitney Cocktail, and a party at the Miami Art Museum––were geographically unappealing, so I grabbed a mojito at Tap Tap on Fifth Street before taxiing back up to the W for a dinner in honor of collectors Peter Brant, Alberto Mugrabi, and Aby Rosen. Over the course of the week, I had observed access to the W growing more and more convoluted, and this was no exception. What I had expected to be a relatively manageable seated dinner ended up as a buffet for nearly four hundred, masterminded by PR guru Nadine Johnson. Hopeful parvenus lined the lobby, trying unsuccessfully to BlackBerry their way through the two security stations.

Once past the bouncers, the objective was a little less clear. The seventy-something table setup technically meant that every guest had the opportunity to rub shoulders with Naomi Campbell, but the cramming of chairs and the press of couture meant that many preferred to camp out with the closest cocktail. There were at least four droppable names at every table, with art-world royalty—the Broads, the Mugrabis, the Acquavellas, the Villareals—joined by the likes of Val Kilmer, Stephen Dorff, and Nicky (but not Paris) Hilton. Apparently, I was not the only one who had expected something more intimate. “I left my own dinner for this, but I’m not sure I even understand what ‘this’ is,” an Interview correspondent moaned to a sympathetic dealer. “Don’t worry,” she consoled him, “I left mine, too.”

Not bothering with the buffet lines (“What are you waiting for?” I asked one American collector. “I’m not sure. But I’m hoping it’s hot”), I made my way to the Standard to catch the last ten minutes of the Swiss Institute’s launch of a limited-edition calendar featuring snapshots of New York artists on their bikes. More my speed, with the lovely likes of Swiss Institute curator Piper Marshall, Emma Reeves, and the always-affable artist Matthew Brannon enjoying the ocean breezes on the pier. Bumping into the very same disgruntled dinner guest from earlier, we exchanged self-satisfied smiles and promises to meet up later at the Florida Room for the We Have Band concert.

Left: Collector Jane Holzer and artist Aaron Young. (Photo: Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan) Right: Artist Kehinde Wiley with Fab 5 Freddy. (Photo: David Velasco)