Real Talk

Boychild at MoMA PS1 + YoungArts's party at the Delano Beach Club. (Photo: Kay Goldberg)

OVER THE PAST FIVE ART BASEL MIAMI BEACHES—I first attended in its worst-selling, most-fun year, 2008—the insiders have changed, but their complaint remains the same. It is uttered in an anal, intransigent outside voice, the voice of someone doubtless named Johan, and it’s this: “All these hipsters/rich kids [who are young and beautiful] are flying to Miami [where it is sexy and wildly nice out] in December [when it is disgusting and cold in most of art’s first world] to drink free vodka and eat [or get] crabs while having [blitzy, filmic] sex on the [literal] beach—and they’re not even going to look at one piece of contemporary art!”

The complaint would contain its own riposte, except it is not really about Basel or art. It is about the anxiety of influx in the art world. The assorted philistines who come to feed off the industry’s plethora, then vomit at the feet of its gods, are considered “fake” fairgoers; the relatively diminishing number of serious dealers, collectors, and curators are the “real” ones. One camp takes selfies with/of a Scott Reeder sculpture that spells REAL FAKE in silver balloons in the fair’s Public sector, while the other hangs at private previews of family collections, debating the authenticity of Nick Paumgarten’s sources in a New Yorker profile of gallerist-heir David Zwirner, and I have to say, when I’m picking at my nail polish in the latter conversations, I miss being on the other side. To those who make culture for a living, Art Basel is the playground of class war.

“Every year the fair makes me realize I love Abstract Expressionism and hate art,” said Glenn O’Brien on Thursday at the Standard Hotel. He was unveiling Penance, a new book of other people’s confessions, and his own mea culpa was that all he wanted from five hundred thousand square feet of booth space was a 1960s Michael Goldberg and a 1960s Joan Mitchell. What an old-guy opinion! “No!” he retorted. “I think your generation is the best one yet. You have the most interesting tools, and you are not as obsessed with selling out.” Fair, I said, and turned around to show him a Cy Twombly tattoo on my back.

Left: Lily Cole and artist Scott Campbell at a celebration of Spike Jonze's HER at The Standard Spa. Right: Glenn O'Brien at the release party for Penance at The Standard Spa. (Photo: Philipp Draxler)

Twombly, C. Schneemann, and Berlinde De Bruyckere were my Goldbergs and Mitchells this year. I went to the fair on Saturday, when it’s crowded like hell, because I can’t stand the hushed, who’s-that attention of the VIP day. On Saturday you can feel what you really think. And I find that I cannot distinguish between real and fake, only between dead and alive. The lighting makes all work feel like bodies at a morgue. The gallery girls (and boys) are still dressed for the death of painting. So when I see something I love at Art Basel, it is usually because I recognize the artist—but in a quick, subcutaneous, not superficial way. Real artists are human in extremis, and their life clings to objects the way life does to stars.

An assistant at Galleria Continua’s booth told me that De Bruyckere’s bleeding antlers, parceled off from her work at the Venice Biennale, were selling for $125,000 and $150,000, depending on how much material was used. It was a shock: Who would have thought that the worth of a work at an art fair might correspond to its weight? A drippy Sigmar Polke on paper, for example, was sold by Michael Werner for $1.4 million.

“It’s like going to the butcher shop,” said Scott Campbell at a dinner for Interview and OHWOW, his gallery, on the rooftop of the Boulan Hotel. Scott is one of the good guys making stuff, so I was thrilled to hear him say it—or maybe just relieved to recognize someone. When he introduced me to Neville Wakefield I said, “Hi Alex,” as in Alex Olson, and when Harmony and Rachel Korine walked in I thought Jesus, Leslie Mann is really going hard in the plastic. Was it only Wednesday? Basel’s pure wattage can burn out your facial-recognition system in a blink.

Left: Evan Yurman, Brant Publications president Dan Ragone, and friend with filmmaker Harmony Korine at the Interview x OHWOW party. (Photo: Carly Otness/BFAnyc.com) Right: A$AP Rocky at the VFiles + DIS party. (Photo: Bramble Trionfo)

On Friday, I recovered from the curiously substandard NADA by hitting up UNTITLED, now in its second year in a tent on south South Beach. There I found work I loved instantly by a Swiss boy, Julian Charrière, represented by Dittrich & Schlechtriem. Charrière’s suprareal images of ecosystemic collapse remind me a little of Cyprien Gaillard, whose show at MoMA PS1 was a favorite this year. But Gaillard drinks champagne with Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld, and Charrière—who lives and works in Berlin—bought paper-bag whiskey to slug with us in a car snailing Standard-ward (for the charming PICA + DIS magazine soiree, in celebration of Jennifer West and Trajal Harrell). I just hope he never moves to New York.

“Is everyone here from Manhattan? God! It’s like the Hollywood of the art world!” proclaimed a bleached Lindsay Lohan who, in close-up, turned out to be the notorious Warhol blonde and Adderall diarist Cat Marnell. Luckily, no Lohan is more quotable than Cat. It was either the Interview and OHWOW afterparty or the Hole Gallery and Shore Club afterparty, and I asked her, because she knows, about the graffiti scene far from South Beach. “Like, you mean Wynwood? Wynwood is over,” said Cat. “It’s for tourists. I mean, I am here for glamour. I love fake beauty and all that shit. But if you want to see real art that isn’t in the market or the museums or anything, you have to go driving at 5 AM to see my friends”—she means the artists Mint & Serf—“just taking spray paint and PCP and fucking up the walls of all the fancy hotels.”

Left: Writer Cat Marnell at the Interview x OHWOW party. Right: Artist-choreographer Trajal Harrell and PICA artistic director Angela Mattox. (Photos: Sam Roeck)

At one of them, the Fontainebleau, I crawled through the service entrance into the champagne room of a head-pounding, nerve-ending club. “You look familiar,” said the real Lindsay Lohan, who is a redhead again, I’d forgotten, and I thought: Even if you’ve seen me before, it couldn’t possibly be true. Lindsay, whom I’ve always loved from afar, is not one of those works who has verity under ultraviolet light.

Two days later, she was accused of ordering Ray Lemoine to beat up Paris Hilton’s kid brother. (The kid’s Instagram, showing a face carved up by the sunglasses he had on when punched, should be a lesson to all dealers wearing blackout shades to candlelit dinners.) The story isn’t true: Ray ordered himself to do it, then labeled it a “performance" titled Lohan Thug, marking the hundredth time in five days I heard a friend or acquaintance describe their participation in something absurd or beneath them as either “performance” or “installation.” That too is false. Miami is where New Yorkers go to show our real faces and call them masks.

LIV at the Fontainebleau during the 12th Art Basel Miami Beach.

Stars exist only for night. Marnell is one. A$AP Rocky is another, and so is Jacolby Satterwhite—the young performance artist absorbs the spotlight at every party he attends, by which I mean every party… there is, and yet when I saw him by day, at UNTITLED, it took me three tries to place him. I think my new friend Hari Nef, an 89-plus-approved bad vivant, will be one: During a boychild/Korakrit Arunanondchai/Ben Wolf Noam performance at Friday night’s MoMa PS1 party, I watched, from across the pool, Nef’s face shimmer in recognition of themself—and no one else—and it felt like a baptism or a relief.

But the real spectacle starts when the art party ends. When the list ends, I mean, and both the locals and the philistines loop in. Then you see a hula-hooping Bushwick club kid next to the only girl this kid has ever seen who actually knows how to twerk. You see a guy wearing a Jeff Koons sculpture on his head that is, he tells you, actually a balloon animal (he can make you one for five dollars, which seems high). You hear a Latino bodyguard tell some Johan he’s going to jail if he causes any more trouble at Chez André, and you get a kiss from a stunning black girl that will not come off in the bathroom, it’s like paint, and the drugs do come off so you feel really and truly expired but you’re still twitching in time because a star who shares her name with the city’s airport is singing:

All I wanna do is

All I wanna do is

All I wanna do is

All I wanna do is

Left: Serpentine codirector of exhibitions Hans Ulrich Obrist with writer Kevin McGarry and MoMA PS1's Jenny Schlenzka and Klaus Biesenbach at MoMA PS1 + YoungArts's party at the Delano Beach Club. (Photo: Sam Roeck) Right: Artist Jacolby Satterwhite at the Interview x OHWOW party. (Photo: Carly Otness/BFAnyc.com)

Left: Artist Korakrit Arunanondchai with MoMA's Lizzie Gorfaine at MoMA PS1 + YoungArts’s party at the Delano Beach Club. Right: Dancer Thibault Lac. (Photos: Sam Roeck)

Left: Pérez Art Museum's Katerina Llanes with DIS magazine's Solomon Chase. Right: Dealer Johannes Vogt and artist Carlos Mota. (Photos: Sam Roeck)

Left: Writer Christopher Bollen with dealer Alexander Hertling at the Interview x OHWOW party. Right: Sotheby's Lisa Dennison with Serpentine codirector Julia Peyton-Jones at the Serpentine Galleries Brunch with David Webb and W magazine. (Photos: Sam Roeck)