Planet Mirth


Left: Live Thorough This coeditor Kathy Grayson. Right: Bernard Frize and Emmanuel Perrotin.

Each November (has it been four seasons already?) the international art clan roots about in its closets for garments not black and makes the journey south. The art world doesn’t do Miami all that well; it’s bad for the pallor. In public we love to love it—bring on the neon and the thongs!—but in private we whine. Notice the vendors in their booths: All but besieged, stoically smiling, they stick up like beanpoles among the Versace-clad undergrowth. “All these new people,” they sniff. Did I mention that no one is turning down the money?

Disembarking at Miami International on Thursday evening, a little late in the proceedings, I headed for my hotel, meaning to dump my bags and head for the main fairground to squeeze an hour of looking before the closing bell. As I hit the minibar to grab a water for the road, my eyes alighted on the perfect scene-setter: A “concierge suggestion” from general manager Jorge Gonzalez counseled, “Sip signature cocktails at water’s edge while lounging on comfy daybeds. Beach butlers on hand to check in shoes. A delectable menu of Chinese Dim Sum prepared by our hotel’s award-winning chefs will be served Friday 6-11 pm.” Conflict with The Guggenheim’s Hugo Boss awards party, I noted, before rejoining my cab driver: Miami Beach Convention Center, please.

Left: Jeffrey Deitch and Ange of fashion collective As Four. Right: Dash Snow and Julie Atlas Muz perform at the “Live Through This” party.

Quite by accident, I started at the blue-chip back end and worked my way forward. What’s not to like? There were first-rate Twomblys at more than one stop; a Warhol de Chirico around the corner from a real one at Gagosian; the same overpriced fill-in-the-blank so-and-so had up last fair. It’s amusing to test your connoisseurship—Good? So-so? A real dog?—even if your pockets aren’t deep enough to get in on the real fun. It was all looking so right and respectable, in fact, I had to kick myself: “Belly of the beast,” I tried to remember, “that’s the mantra.” As if on cue, I rounded the corner on a merry clutch of seventysomethings cavorting about a new video by the artist Sam Taylor-Wood on display at White Cube’s booth. A formidable Texas dame—enormous diamond butterfly alighted on her hairdo and a flute of champagne held at an angle just a degree shy of a major spill—gleefully intoned, “It’s gonna drop! It’s gonna drop.” She meant a lengthening cigarette ash, the telltale hint the stone-still old master-ish vignette was a real-time view of a real-world pub, but I worried the beverage would go first.

Time was already short: A quick spin and hellos to favorite galleries was all I would manage. At Gladstone, they pulled me into the back room for a peek at Richard Prince’s recent updating of de Kooning’s women. Working off bookplates at a manageable scale, Prince has replaced the maternal archetypes of the Dutchman’s savagings with the physiques of hunky dudes. I know what it means when moody guys slash away at toothy monster ladies, but Prince’s spin on the fate of the pinup in the age of Bruce Weber opens a trap door on the evolution of boy/girl relations since the ‘50s. I hear he got a hold of a de Kooning original. Let’s just hope it’s not a choice one!

Left: Jacob Ciocci of Paper Rad at the “Live Through This” party. Right: Zaha Hadid's installation in the Moore Building for design.05.

By then the gong had rung, so I followed the crowds to the Emmanuel Perrotin Gallery. When the Paris-based dealer opened his Miami franchise in 2004, he was after something “really arrogant.” True to his mission, this year he opened three shows on two sprawling floors: Piotr Uklanski’s new Brazilian sunsets; the debut solo show by young Miami-based artist Martin Oppel; and a stunning series of new grisaille works by painter Bernard Frize. A buffet dinner was being served on the stiletto-aerated lawn outside, but the vernissage of design.05 at the Moore Building (and more fantasy shopping) beckoned, so we hoofed it the few blocks to NE 40th street, where we found ourselves gridlocked at the entrance in a velvet-rope crush. The only satisfaction came in telling another pushy New Yorker with a VIP card that everyone else had one too. Inside it was everything everyone likes: Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé and more Prouvé—and at least as many people as in the jam out front. For Art Loves Design lovers, Judd’s prototype desk for Flavin’s room in the block at Marfa was cool at Cristina Grajales Inc. and the Chamberlain couch was news at Demisch Danant. Down the street at “05 Degrees of Separation,” organized by design guru Murray Moss, the housewares are getting so kooky it makes the installations back at the art fair look positively cash-and-carry.

Next was Jeffrey Deitch. Cordial in khaki, he greeted me and my date for the evening with a friendly handshake and an “Oh,” which I guess meant he wasn’t expecting us. As if sensitive to our busy schedules, he offered the scoop in precis form: On the left is the best American street artist (Swoon), on the right the best of Brazil (Os Gemeos), and upstairs it’s the Live Through This artists. As we walked away, my date whispered, “What are the Live Through This artists?” I explained that Live Through This was Jeffrey’s latest festive concoction, a book that, as near as I could tell, chronicles something like spring break for the freebasing set, but that it also involved art. Fearing that the crowds on the stairwell had made me unfairly brisk, I added, “ask David Rimanelli.” David “understands” these artists, and he’s also a potentially useful mediator as his vocabulary includes tons of words with more syllables than dude.

Left: Artist Piotr Uklanski. Right: Right: Emmanuel Perrotin director Peggy Leboeuf with gallery artist Martin Oppel.