Excite Strategy

Sarah Nicole Prickett at the 13th Art Basel Miami Beach

Left: Glenn O’Brien and friends at his TV Party. (Photo: Neil Rasmus/BFAnyc.com) Right: Frida Giannini, artist Kris Knight, and LACMA director Michael Govan. (Photo: Joe Schildhorn/BFAnyc.com)

I SWEAR THE AIR in Miami is cut with tourist-grade cocaine, making sleep uneasy, sunshine itchy, each nighttime destination like being still stuck in the acid-lit caterpillar traffic. At a Monday evening preview of Kris Knight’s wonderful exquisite-realist paintings, hosted by Gucci and Spinello Projects, the mood was already restless. When, having forgotten how to do my job, I asked Knight what he was excited to see this week, he looked around nervously. Art people don’t get excited; we find things exciting. Behind me a man in white said the quality was high, but it was simply too early to tell.

In the old Playboy theater at Castle Beach Resort, Ryan McNamara was giving the first, Art Basel–sponsored performance of MEƎM 4 Miami, “a story ballet about the Internet” that works like an experimental, immersive cure for its sundry effects: attention deficit, a fear of missing better. Nearly thirty dancers, performing as individuals or in groups, gave looping, hypnotic, and occasionally glitchy shows to an audience carted, seat by seat, from scene to scene. The climax was a full-body high, gorgeous ecstasy. After the applause, nobody knew whether to leave; the rush, for a second, was elsewhere.

Left: Serpentine codirector Hans Ulrich Obrist watches Alexandra Albrecht perform in Ryan McNamara’s MEƎM 4 Miami: A Story Ballet About the Internet. Right: Dancers/choreographers Waldean Nelson, Jos McKain, Joshua Weidenmiller, Jen Rosenblit, Mickey Mahar; artist Ryan McNamara; and dancer-choreographers Kyli Kleven, Kim Brandt, and Fana Fraser at the Interview, Dsquared2, Performa, and Maserati party. (Photo: Sam Deitch/BFAnyc.com)

The next morning, at a hair salon inside the Shore Club, a long blonde woman in four-inch heels and foils was having an air-conditioned meltdown. “The work was supposed to arrive at 9 AM,” she said into the phone, under the dryer. She said she understood, of course, “but you fucked up, and to make it better, you’re going to have to do something you’ve never done before.” I thought about how this might be a maxim for making things. I thought about Agnes Martin, and how she would paint daily, destroy almost everything, fix big mistakes by changing the style entirely. I decided to get Agnes Martin paintings on my fingers.

At the Vanity Projects nail salon pop-up on South Beach, while my manicure was being Martinized, owner Rita de Alencar Pinto showed off a new iPhone 6 case: matte black, with trompe-l’oeil lines of coke. “I should give this to Mr. Brainwash,” she joked. “Like: Here, do it all. I’ll just take the crumbs.” The locals all laughed. “Fucking artists,” said a club promoter with a Miley Cyrus haircut. “They think everyone in Miami has drugs.” But it was too late to change my lede, and somewhere on Sunset Island, Paris Hilton was arriving to make it truer.

Left: Interview editor-at-large Christopher Bollen with artist Jeremy Kost. (Photo: Sam Deitch/BFAnyc.com) Right: Paris Hilton and musician Swizz Beatz. (Photo: Rodrigo Varela)

At Tuesday night’s Interview dinner with Dsquared2, artists and actors Hari Nef and India Salvör Menuez compared notes on performance as a bridge between the two disciplines. “You never get the reaction you plan for,” said Nef. “So you have to stop planning, let go.” We followed the wind down Collins and wound up at Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party, hosted by NeueHouse at Casa Claridge, where a man dressed as the United States of America wandered in behind Josie and the Pussycats after a change of spots. “I’m a curator by day, Amazon by night,” explained the trio’s leader, Coco Dolle, in so winning a way it took me a minute to remember when exactly the Amazons dressed as zebras. Kembra Pfahler, dressed as a goth Kembra Pfahler, took the stage to shout sentences involving “rich,” “aristocracy,” and “New York” (a Patti Smith cover?). “All my cohosts are women,” said O’Brien, then turned to his producer. “I want Kembra talking [on the TV set upstairs]. I want Hayley talking, I want Scout talking. I want Fabiola talking. She’s beautiful.” An opera singer named Jamie stumbled in, wearing a pink velvet suit—embarrassing, since the nearby sofa was wearing the same thing, and wore it better. “I don’t know anybody at Basel,” said the opera singer to Nef, “but I’m surprised by how much we all have in common. Look at all this performativity!”

At a party for W and Ian Schrager at the Miami Beach Edition, newly open after a decade-and-a-half’s abandonment, I kept thinking of this Chris Rock interview in New York magazine. I read it three times on the flight. He says: “If poor people knew how rich rich people are, they’d riot.” I’m sorry to bring up poor people when we’re trying to talk about art, but as I dazed through the downstairs space at the Edition, a space occupied severally by a disco lounge, a dance floor, a bar or three, a bowling alley, and an ice-skating rink with its own alpaca-chaired waiting area, I felt like I was in a future ghost town. When Jena Malone sailed past in a sick white gown, Jena Malone being a star of the Hunger Games movies, the feeling was double. It was late, and I knew I wouldn’t sleep; I was already destroying my art nails, edgy with ambient money and dust in the air. Sure, I’d volunteered, but for the wrong side of the revolution, the side that has one thing correct: It doesn’t feel right to be excited.

Left: Kembra Pfahler. (Photo: Neil Rasmus/BFAnyc.com) Right: Ice skaters at the Miami Beach Edition. (Photo: Madison McGaw/BFAnyc.com)