GRACE JONES was the event that night. But nobody, it seemed, not the crowds who came from the Deitch party, not Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, not even Yvonne Force Villareal, her vintage Halston caftan notwithstanding, was being admitted to the Delano basement for the performance. “You reach an age when you just can’t deal anymore with capacity,” Villareal exhaled to a friend after being given that classic doorperson line. People had steadily been dropping away, and, when she and Rohatyn did, many more figured the cause lost. “Now if those two can’t get in somewhere . . .” Nadia Gerazouni from the Breeder gallery snickered later. Still, a dense throng, annoyed and anxious, milled about the spotlighted Audi parked in front (the door policy incidentally increasing advertising impressions for the party’s sponsor), wanting to patch their punctured egos.
There is, however, an easier way into the Delano basement, but one not for people whose self-worth depends on getting velvet ropes unclipped: the service elevator. By the time this route was relayed to artists Mika Tajima, Howie Chen, and Mai-Thu Perret, and by the time we had made it through the cluttered bowels of the building and into the party, Grace Jones had dissipated into a pixelated dream, her latex leggings and velvet bustier seen only on cell phones and later on Patrick McMullan’s website. To some, though, her presence was incredibly corporeal; artist José León Cerrillo, who had enjoyed some intimate onstage dancing with her, gushed about her unexpected “fleshiness.” We missed the show but stuck around to dance and to eat skewered chicken and bacon-wrapped scallops, uncertain whether Jones might perform again at 2 AM, as word had it. Music equipment was being set up, after all, but the Lucite piano and glittery drum kit seemed a little ironic for her.
It turns out they belonged to A.R.E. Weapons. There had been a lot of music that night—there had been Yelle’s concert on the beach (a moment straight out of Vice City, their high-energy electro-pop projecting out from a bright stage under the glass and steel skyscrapers fronting the rolling ocean), and there had been the Gossip at the Raleigh—so when Paul Sevigny started screeching into the microphone, it seemed a fine time to acquaint ourselves with the front door.
The next morning I went to NADA, which looked great, and Pulse, which did not (“It’s shocking how far the step down from NADA is,” one visitor correctly noted), before going to the main fair to see Jerry Saltz’s talk, sensationally titled “This Is the End: The Rising Tide of Money Goes out of the Artworld and All Boats Are Sinking.” Crisis junkies and giddy art-world mythologizers are getting a strong, regular fix these days from the economic collapse, and predicting what will happen to art has become constant white noise. The house was packed.
It was a lyric, freely streaming sort of talk, the logic of which surfaces only in spots. The metaphors were flying. The Borscht Belt humor was in full force (“Use some soap, shall we?” the avuncular Saltz said after having the artists raise their hands). Art dealers, he claimed, are the most interesting people in the art world, more so than artists: “Dealers make a world, and they want their world to be your world. They’re very vampiric.” He prophesied something “even better” than dropping prices: “Marketability will no longer equal likability. Money will no longer be a measure of success, because you’re all going to be relatively fucked up. You’re going to all be relatively the same.” He later mentioned that Jackson Pollock made drips for only four years, after which he “changed his work and willfully went back to hell. You must now be able to do that . . . and where you’re going is not hell, it’s heaven.”
In this hell that might be heaven, with dealers acting as vampires or angels, Marilyn Manson is enjoying his first US solo exhibition. He’s a painter. The intended audience of that night’s opening, which inaugurated a gallery called 101 Exhibit, was unclear. Curator Jérôme Sans was there, as was artist Angelo Plessas, but apart from them the crowd was difficult to place. A crew of Mansonites, thin white girls with black hair and dresses, hung around their leader and in front of watercolors that portrayed them in a style resembling Marlene Dumas meets Aya Takano meets, well, Marilyn Manson. In a side gallery, champagne was served alongside Mansinthe, the Marilyn Manson absinthe. The guest of honor posed for some photographs, talked with some visitors, including Sans, and then disappeared.
“He’s in the back-back-back-back,” one person in charge whispered to another. This was the first I had heard of the back-back-back-back, but it sounded hard to get to, so I stuck around the front. Manson’s primary dealer, Brigitte Schenk, in from Cologne, strutted around in a red lace sheath. She pointed David Galloway—an “art historian,” I was told, “who has written on Marilyn’s work, for Art News”—toward the back, and he ecstatically skipped off to join his subject. Every so often, Manson came to the corner, to be immediately enclosed by people photographing with cell phones and professional cameras, his pale pancake skin reflecting the flashes. Ivana Trump showed up in a black sequined dress, and they posed together for a bit.
From there it was Visionaire at the Raleigh, where guests were greeted by shirtless men (many cast the previous night at Twist, the Miami Beach gay bar) on a black shiny stage holding copies of the magazine’s new pop-up issue, some so as to pop up just below their waists. Akari Endo-Gaut, a stylist flown in from New York to manage what little dressing they needed, had given their bottom halves black Converse shoes and black American Apparel pants, the latter of which required the real grunt work. “They would keep going for, like, size 32, and I would have to say, no, 30, 30!”
Not many people made it to the Manson afterparty at Louis, a dark bar in the Gansevoort South, but some did. Jérôme Sans did. Alanna Heiss did too. (In fact, Heiss called Marilyn’s paintings the best work in Miami and had apparently spent the night before driving around in his limo with Klaus Biesenbach and some others, the Mansinthe freely flowing.) Manson conspicuously hid in the corner with his girlfriend. Heiss curled up with Brigitte Schenk. The midget in the Napoleon costume hammed it up. Miami appeared to have bloomed into Weimar Germany, or a staff party for Hot Topic.
I ended up having some Mansinthe by the decorative stainless-steel wall with punched-out Marquis de Sade quotes including OH, SATAN! ONE AND UNIQUE GOD OF MY SOUL, INSPIRE THOU IN ME SOMETHING YET MORE, after which I have flashes of returning to the Raleigh and a very late dinner at Jerry’s, but the images strangely appear as blurs or in double.