Truth or Dare

Sarah Nicole Prickett around the 13th Art Basel Miami Beach

At the Jack Shainman party at the Surfcomber Hotel. (Photo: Paul Porter/BFAnyc.com)

ON WEDNESDAY, a man with a plan was talking into a banana, walking down Lincoln Road. Two wives, fidgeting with rings and bracelets, prepared to step into a large inflatable concept—TRUTH—while the husbands stood a few paces back. At a bar made of sand, a woman wearing a pure white silicone alligator, clipped like a bib around her neck, told me I could buy one for $85, and I wondered if anyone had ever told her she had only to make it six times the size to sell it for two hundred times the price. Outside the Miami Beach convention center a man in a ten-dollar suit was handing out cards that promised INVITATIONS to ART SHOWS.

Jordan Wolfson, the cute young artist represented by David Zwirner, was occupying a pool chair, complaining about the “levels of exclusivity” in Miami. He was staying at the Edition, where lines for the basement sometimes snake up two flights of marble stairs and down the hall. I nodded, and said that if exclusivity is his bête noire, his artwork must be priced so reasonably.

Wolfson looked at me through green and gold shades. “I fed two thousand kids in Africa last year,” he said.

“Oh, you went to Africa?” I said.

Jordan Wolfson had not gone to Africa and did not like my line of questioning, or maybe it was the way I asked, as if I didn’t particularly want to fuck him. I wanted to see him get dirty. Most artists I know work with shame. Only the hand of the rich guy shrinks from touching his own money, and the very few, mostly straight, mostly male artists who can make six figures on a sculpture are usually unkeen to admit it (Sterling Ruby, who is represented by Hauser & Wirth, once told me he didn’t know the prices of his works). It’s no fun to think about what we deserve, especially if we’ve already outgotten it. Some of us, however, know that money is the last thing a person can deserve, and you can’t imagine an artist like Wolfson using a word like “earning.”

Left: Amanda Ross-Ho sculpture at NADA. Right: Jose Lerma’s work at Roberto Paradise at NADA.

On Thursday at the NADA art fair, where the best sculptures sell for more like four figures, maybe five, Alex Israel and Hans Ulrich Obrist were discussing the several pieces of really big clothing on display: Jose Lerma’s sail-size polo shirt, for example, or Amanda Ross-Ho’s body-size single blue glove. Obrist declared the trend “urgent,” a word he also used to describe my meeting Israel and his interviewing FKA Twigs. Israel said the trend meant people were feeling loose. Almost simultaneously, I said it meant people are feeling small.

Over the Venetian Islands on Friday the moon was bigger than anything. The radio stopped playing “Tuesday” and started playing a remix of “Tuesday.” A dinner at the home of Design/Miami director Rodman Primack was warm and surprisingly chill, given that fifteen percent of the attendees weren’t speaking together. Meanwhile, a shindig for the Jack Shainman Gallery, DJ’d by the singer Solange, actually felt like a party and not an event, probably because there were no VIP seats and no flashy cameras and the majority of the guests weren’t white things in discount Jil Sander.

“We just found the one party at Basel,” said the artist Ryan McNamara, “where the black people in the room aren’t only on the stage.” He was exaggerating, obviously—but barely. The other such party had happened Thursday at Soho House, with Russell Simmons hosting and Miguel singing, and had been attended by like a thousand fewer people than had lined up to see Miley Cyrus, accompanied by a six-foot-tall topless black woman, open Wednesday’s Jeffrey Deitch party with a cover of “Super Freak.” Here too there wasn’t a line to get in, and the mood was far from exclusive; it’s too bad Wolfson couldn’t make it. When a dancer from DC asked me if I was having fun I had a sudden desire to say yes.

Left: Miley Cyrus at the Raleigh. Right: Miguel performs at the 5th Annual Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series at the Soho Beach House. (Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Later, in the sinking breeze, the poolside fete for MoMA PS1 had become neither a party nor an event but a nice familiar nonevent. Everyone literally sat around. Seven people named Alex said hello or were introduced to me. Angela Goding, the museum’s director of development, took very specific drink orders (“I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants,” she said), while Klaus Biesenbach, the director, went out to get sandwiches from Subway. And it wasn’t until I noticed that he was only giving sandwiches to his friends (or his critics) that for the first time all week, something actually happened at a party.

At first I thought Mykki Blanco, the New York rapper and performance artist, was starting a food fight, because he was throwing bits of a sandwich in Biesenbach’s face, and because Miami is a place where a food fight might be positioned as an experience. I thought nervously of my discount Jil Sander, a white dress I’d just had dry-cleaned. Then Blanco was yelling. Biesenbach was mumbling (an apology, someone said later). “My legacy will outlive your curatorial bullshit,” Blanco was saying. Everyone sat up straight. Blanco got up on a table.

What Blanco did may or may not have been rehearsed, and it may or may not have been a “stunt,” as some said, and it may or may not have been, as many speculated, “justifiable” in the particular. What he said, however, was that Biesenbach doesn’t care about black people unless they’re famous. What he said, and the demandingness with which he said it, was in the general so just—so urgent—that the wish for it to be justified is disgusting. “He wants to hug Mickalene Thomas, he wants to hug Kehinde Wiley,” said Blanco, three or four times. “I’m not Mickalene Thomas, I’m not Kehinde Wiley,” he said, twice. The second time I caught that he was saying, “I’m not your Mickalene Thomas.” He talked about being black in America. He talked about being hated. When he said your, I didn’t think he was talking to Biesenbach, and when he called him a German and a bad word for gay, I thought “German” sounded more like the slur. “He doesn’t like black people,” said Blanco, just once. “He likes black culture.” I felt a little bad for Mickalene Thomas, but mostly I just felt bad. Blanco went out to dance, and Biesenbach said, of the queer black artist’s performance, “That’s entertainment.”