Purrfect Lovers

Los Angeles

The Cats-in-Residence Program at 356 S. Mission Road. (All photos: Paige Bradley)

“ART” CAN’T QUITE COMPETE with life incarnate, creatures in the alert, furry-limbed, tail-twitching flesh. Calico, tabby, tuxedo, tiger stripe, tortoise shell, monochrome: Felis catus are modern, effortlessly stylish, and lux in any situation. Pussies are the ultimate icons of elegant self-possession—excessively aesthetic. Of course, it’s neither fair nor necessary to pit art and animals against each other, and anyway, who would want them to be separate? (Certainly not Pierre Huyghe, whose LACMA retrospective across town is a buzzing menagerie of bees, crabs, fishes, a masked monkey, that much-fussed-over pink-legged dog—and, of course, humans.)

Rhonda Lieberman has always known, like furever, that art and cats are on the same team. Bringing them into each other’s frame has long been her mission, finally realized in the traveling art circus that is her Cats-in-Residence Program—proof that art and cats are mutually affirming aesthetic forces. In collaboration with nine feline purrformers, the show is part performance piece, part curated exhibition, part social sculpture, part meditation hangout, and (large) part adoption cativism. Someone told me there are upwards of eighty-five million pet cats in America; Lieberman thinks we can do better.

This is the third installment of her nomadic project (which is in search of a permanent institutional home). It debuted in Lieberman’s “The Cat Show” at White Columns in 2013 and followed up with a recent stint at Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut. Those first two showings set the adoption bar high, placing forty-three shelter cats into homes. Its LA iteration also marks the end of a trilogy of feline shows at 356 S. Mission Road, preceded this past summer by “Another Cats Show” (featuring what felt like and actually was 250 puss-in-boots-loving artists) and those spectacular huge blooms painted by the felicitously named Alex Katz before that.

Left and right: The Cats-in-Residence Program at 356 S. Mission Road.

The action is packed inside a big, netted cylinder enclosure—the CatAviary, designed by Gia Wolff and Freecell—lined with wall-to-wall purple carpeting and furnished with artist-made cozy crawl spaces, crates, cushions, climbing structures, scratch posts, cat dancers, a catnip-covered portrait bust, and dining ware…everything the resident rescue kitties could want from domestic life. Jonathan Horowitz’s carpeted Cat Pedestal is both highly scratchable and a tidy way to display cat-as-sculpture: win-win. Joe Scanlan’s upholstered pallets and Ruth Root’s fabric Cat Tunnels and Cat-nap Mats are neo-geo color-block playgrounds. Sam Roeck’s luxury-loft condo tower and Dane Johnson’s twin high-rises are favorites with aspiring fat cats who prefur an aloof perch where they can play at being 1 purrcenters, napping between existential yawns emitting a whiff of ennui—or is that tuna? Down below is Paul McMahon’s cardboard Kitty City for underground slinking and shady hideouts. There are chunky ceramic water bowls by Ann Leese and sloganeering knit pillows by Lisa Anne Auerbach. An elaborate tube maze hangs suspended like a treetop canopy, or maybe that’s the molecular structure of happiness. A video of chirping birdies runs at cat-eye level, the sound track of simple dreams.

The Sunday afternoon opening at 356 was full-on communal playtime—and, seemingly, a beacon to all local vegetarians and parents. Family-friendly fun! Free touch therapy! Interspecies bonding! Infants and toddlers ran the show. Cuteness was off the charts. There were squeals of euphoria and lots of cats skedaddling past small sticky hands still learning how and how not to pet. One oblivious little girl chased a tired old grimalkin into the mega litter box (Rob Pruitt’s Zen Litter Tray)… eww, yucky. Impossible to say who was entertaining who. Sitting in the viewing aquarium or circling it from the outside, I felt some kind of role-play social trap starting to take hold. Then again, cats are well known to breed suspicion and paranoia… and weed is, like, basically legal here.

A volunteer did population control to maintain equitable cross-species relations, admitting up to nine people at a time. The cats were total scene-stealers. Violet, who is spotless white with a prim gray cap, is catmander-in-chief, diva, and dowager all rolled into one, permanently ensconced at the room’s epicenter where she lounges atop the staircase that is her throne. Cubby is the neighborhood’s nicest nice guy, eager to meet and greet, snuggling up to your ankles and peddling his best “adopt-meeeow!” hard sell. I think he even has Ned Flanders’s auburn hair and mustache. The heart-melting tiny twin tuxedo kittens, Cicely and Puppy, take snoozing seriously and were mostly curled up out of reach in their modernist bedrooms where they drew constant adoring crowds. Coco is solid black and shared her stealth celebrity sparingly, making brief special appearances; a real cat-tease. Diesel looks like an ocelot and stalks like one too; he’s got that feral fearful symmetry that triggers feline fever in any red-blooded, double-X-chromosomed mammal—I have my eye on him. As Lieberman put it, “Tabby goes with everything.”

Rhonda Lieberman gives a talk at 356 S. Mission Road.

At 4 PM, she gave a contextualizing slide-show talk that posed pussies atop the Minimalist canon, tailing cats as repressed art-historical material and tracking their influence: litter from Judd’s boxes and LeWitt’s jungle gyms to Sandback’s taut yarn and Bruce Meowman’s nocturnal cat-and-mouse games. More than representational, art wants to be new ways of living. Politically, Lieberman’s exhibition is a strong animal rights—or should I say (in honor of Sandra, the twenty-nine-year-old orangutan who just had her day in Argentinean court) “non-human person” rights show. This pet project gives a damn about all the planetary life humanity reduces to mere collateral damage. And if her presentation reminded us of anything, it’s that Lieberman is also a born writer who loves cats for the puns they play into and the psychic projections they so gracefully articulate in all their innate physical intelligence, like a clowder of metaphors.

An hour or so later, playtime started to wind down for adults, kiddies, and kitties alike as the sun set through the windows in hot electric hues. Overexercising one’s anthropomorphizing muscle all day is emotionally exhausting, and the impenetrability of the nonhuman other remained in me like a hangover after the group interspecies high. Ultimately, the purrsistent impossibility of comprehending the cat returns—uh-oh, melancholy was setting in. The only solution: Put the cat in my bag, take Diesel home.

Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer

Dancing in the Moonlight

Berkeley, California

Left: Dohee Lee. (Photo: Marisa Darabi). Right: BAM/PFA founding director Peter Selz and BAM/PFA director Lawrence Rinder. (Photo: Peter Cavagnaro).

THE BERKELEY ART MUSEUM BUILDING, a bold but seismically iffy piece of Brutalist architecture, has been on borrowed time for a while now. Bracing was added more than a decade ago, but it still rates poor on the safety scale. A new, more stable, and conveniently located building designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro is nearing completion, and so the museum threw itself a daylong celebration of its soon to be former home on the shortest day of the year.

Architect Mario Ciampi’s edifice, which opened to the public in 1970, is all about exposed concrete, verticality, and buttress landings overlooking a ground-floor atrium, which in recent years has been utilized for social gatherings with commissioned conversation-pit pieces (by ReBar and Thom Faulders). On Sunday afternoon, the cavernous space echoed with sound-based performances, most created to highlight the building’s dramatic character. Which meant that the shindig was austere, and maybe a little anticlimactic, as no one is quite sure of the building’s fate after the museum vacates.

The event, though, was about memories. There were spots to record them, areas on the concrete walls to post notecards with recollections. An arts administrator who worked at the museum a few decades ago recalled how every show was a battle between the art and the building, with the building usually winning. There were exceptions—Jonathan Borofsky’s vertically generous 1985 exhibition “All Is One” may have used it best. Others brought up Maria Nordman’s 1979 summer solstice event, in which the museum became a grand vessel for ambient light, with no security guards—the kind of uncompromising artistic gesture that’s hard to imagine happening anywhere else, including the new BAM.

If anyone would have memories of the place, it would be BAM/PFA’s founding director, the ninety-five-year-old Peter Selz, who admitted he couldn’t believe that he’d outlived the building. Less seasoned arts professionals told me they were surprised by how emotional they felt about the museum closure; with SF MoMA closed until mid-2016, there are going to be some serious gaps in the city’s cultural landscape. Patricia Maloney, founder of the online journal Art Practical, said she was already missing the building’s “spatial chaos.” She pointed to the way that young and old audience members were sprawled on the cold, hard floor in circular formation, as if in someone’s living room.

Left: The T Sisters leading a parade to the new BAM/PFA building. (Photo: Marisa Darabi). Right: Jay, Gizmo, and Johnny5 of TURFinc. (Photo: Peter Cavagnaro)

Acoustically, the space is problematic—audio confusion is easy to generate. When I arrived, there was a distant female chorale of what the schedule termed “exquisite harmonies from Eastern Europe and beyond,” which gently filled the museum. This was followed by TURFinc dance battles, which involved young people dancing, etc., to hip-hop, and some elders clutching their ears and heading outside. The building itself seemed to have a pulse, with crowds ebbing and flowing, filling and diminishing, and filling once again. Sound artist and Machine Projects regular Chris Kallmyer created an austere horn-and-percussion piece that he told me was inspired by the discrepancies between the architect’s intentions—Ciampi apparently wanted it to be a particularly social space—and Kallmyer’s view that the building was in fact an extremely awkward social environment.

Next was a ritual farewell by Dohee Lee, which ended with the crowd encircling her and stomping their feet, an act that was more marked by movement than sound; the solid floor just doesn’t give. This led into the finale, a performance of György Ligeti’s Poéme Symphonique, a score for one hundred metronomes that were wound and set loose to a ticking rhythm that lasted about twenty minutes. The sound recalled the previous week’s rainstorms, which had revealed leaks in the ceiling that required the removal of at least one work.

Luckily, it was a temperate winter solstice as the event concluded with a New Orleans–meets–Burning Man parade from the old museum to the new one under construction. Berkeley had recently been rocked with Ferguson-inspired marches that had met with tear gas and rubber bullets, and word was that the museum gave advance warning to the local police department that this was a celebratory endeavor. Museum director Larry Rinder, who carried a papier-mâché giraffe head on a stick, led us, and a Southern jazz band, through wooded paths of the UC Berkeley campus, past the new building under construction where colored spotlights illuminated the fenced exterior. The march concluded on a round plaza on a hillside across the street from the new building, where there was more music, singing, and cider, sweet gestures that will have to tide us over till the big housewarming in 2016.

Glen Helfand

Struth Be Told

New York

Paul Holdengräber and Thomas Struth talking at the New York Public Library. (Photo: Jori Klein)

LIKE KRAFTWERK, those other celebrated sons of 1970s Düsseldorf, Thomas Struth embodies remote, dispassionate stillness. From his rigorously symmetrical street scenes, often devoid of people or motion, to his striking, clinical family portraits, Struth’s photography seems to capture architecture and bodies suspended in solid air, as if his subjects were frozen in the invisible aspic of the negative space surrounding them. All photographs are “stills,” of course, but Struth’s are stiller than most. Often large-scale and taken from great distances, his pictures efface the artist’s subjectivity—his eye/I is nowhere and everywhere—while maintaining a classical painter’s sense of composition. He began as a painter, studying under Gerhard Richter at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, and then, as his interests turned to photography, Bernd and Hilla Becher. As with many visual geniuses, talking about his work does not come naturally to him.

The season closer at this fall’s Live from the NYPL, Struth was amiable and refreshingly humble during his somewhat rambling interview with Paul Holdengräber, but the audience came away with only a scattershot sense of the artist’s life and thoughts. He loves music, we learned, as a riff on seeing a Who concert in 1969 segued into a discussion of his lifelong passion for jazz. As a teenager he would record the radio shows of German jazz evangelist Joachim-Ernst Berendt and try to replicate the tunes on his saxophone. Music influenced how he thought of “organizing time” in his own work (though it could hardly be less jazz-like). It is a “great partner in life,” offering “solace, peace, and intellectual stimulation,” he said. Holdengräber recalled William Claxton’s perhaps self-justifying quote that “photography is jazz for the eye.”

Holdengräber showed a slide of one of Struth’s “museum photographs” (photos of artworks and their spectators in museum settings) titled Self-Portrait. The photo depicts Albrecht Dürer’s Self-Portrait at 28, 1500, hanging on the wall of a German museum, with Struth’s back partially visible in the right side of the frame as he stares at the painting. Struth said the piece, which has a typical, Magritte-like stillness, “combined photography, painting, and film.” Pressed on the meaning of the photograph’s distanced perspective (camera looking at artist looking at art), Struth compared it to his own divided attention while speaking to Holdengräber: “I’m looking at you, but I’m thinking about them [the audience].” When shooting his family portraits, he continued, he thinks about how his subjects’ perspectives change from moment to moment.

Struth’s portrait of Richter’s family, commissioned by the painter for a 2002 New York Times Magazine profile, appeared on the screen. Referencing the Dürer self-portrait, which shows the artist’s left hand clutching his fur collar in a mannered fashion, Holdengräber noted the importance of hands—often held in strange ways or in or on unexpected places—in Struth’s portraits. The Richter family portrait is no exception. Seven out of eight hands are visible, all touching or holding someone or something in fairly unnatural ways; there’s little doubt that Struth told the Richters exactly how to position their hands. Struth referred to himself as a “group dynamic specialist” who “thinks like an analyst” when setting up a family portrait.

Turning to the artist’s own family, Holdengräber reminded Struth that he once said that images have a moral component, and brought up Struth’s father’s photo album from World War II, when the elder Struth was a soldier in the Nazi Wehrmacht. The photos showed his father in various wartime scenes in France and Russia and were a great source of repulsion-fascination for the young Struth, sowing the seeds that would lead him to become a photographer. Struth described them as “not banal, but not sensational either.” His father could never bring himself to apologize for Nazism—a perennial point of conflict between father and son. Struth noted the irony that his father did not look “Aryan” but was instead described as resembling an Arabian prince. “Photographs tell something,” Struth said. “The statement ‘photography is lies’ is uninteresting; the question is, ‘What can photographs show?’ ”

As an early street photograph of Düsseldorf in the 1970s appeared, Struth compared it to “open heart surgery,” revealing “a city that’s embarrassed of its past.” He drily described another empty, desolate Düsseldorf street photo as “not a musical.” Discussing a similarly bleak 1978 picture of Crosby Street in SoHo, Struth said he found New York at the time “totally overwhelming; I could hardly speak.” He did note, however, that New Yorkers were much more helpful when he set up his street shots, German passersby having always inquired as to whether he had permission to do what he was doing.

Holdengräber showed Struth’s widely seen 2011 portrait of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery in honor of her Diamond Jubilee. Calling it “an unusual commission,” Struth said that he did not immediately accept it, as he doesn’t usually shoot famous people. He decided to do it for the challenge of “showing them as human beings” (pace Johnny Rotten). Struth insisted on selecting the dress the Queen would wear, which led Holdengräber to interject that he’d heard that Struth had noticed the Queen had large breasts and wanted to dress her accordingly (which Struth denied). Struth admitted that he did reposition a pillow behind the Queen’s back, and that when he asked the Duke of Edinburgh to move his left hand, he replied, “I already did.”

Discussing a photograph that was not part of the presentation but is currently hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a major Struth retrospective (open through February 16, 2015), Holdengräber described a picture of a woman in an operating room, about to undergo brain surgery. Struth said it was a rare subject for him, as he is not a “war photographer” and “doesn’t do pain.” He characterized the sophisticated medical technology in the room as “technology of hope.” Averse to charges that he is exploiting the pain of others in such pictures, Struth didn’t want to show the photograph in a gallery or at the NYPL, but he felt it was OK to show it at the Met where “it is not viewed as a product.”

So, not exactly Werner Herzog (or Susan Sontag, for that matter). But then, who is? Struth comes off as neither banal nor sensational—just an ordinary German with an extraordinary visual gift. If he gave Damien Hirst (and many others) some pointers on artist comportment, the world would be a better place.

Andrew Hultkrans

Money Talks


Left: ‘An Evening with Anthony McCall’ at EYE. (Photo: Dimer van Santen) Right: Artists Gabriel Lester, Laurent-David Garnier, and Carlotta Guerra. (Except where noted, all photos: Agnieszka Gratza)

A MAN WALKS into a bar and greets another: “Wasabi.”

What on earth does that mean? “What’s up,” artist Gabriel Lester had to spell it out for me.

The bar, furnished with slanted black wooden stools designed by Robert Wilhite to facilitate encounters rather than comfort, is the setting for BOB’s YOUR UNCLE, a recurring event at the back of the Kunstverein in Amsterdam’s lively De Pijp district. That Friday, warming saffron vodka cocktails as well as a pale cloudy concoction were being served, courtesy of perfumer-turned-artist Laurent-David Garnier. “Saffron is the new red,” he assured me.

Following on the heels of a slew of gallery openings the previous night that ushered in the third edition of the Amsterdam Art Weekend, the Kunstverein’s Maxine Kopsa and Juliètte Jongma, director of the adjacent gallery, teamed up to host the second event in the Eau de Cologne series. Named after dealer Monika Sprüth’s female-focused magazine, published intermittently in the 1980s and ’90s, Eau de Cologne #2 featured, in addition to Garnier’s offerings, live music from Tommy Oost, one of the artists produced by the independent label I’m With Her Records, which Kopsa, Jongma, and Juliaan Andeweg set up earlier this year.

Left: Frieze cofounder Matthew Slotover and Stedelijk Museum director Beatrix Ruf. (Photo: Jan Boeve) Right: Artist Anna Ostoya.

After the gig, some of us headed out to the EYE Film Institute—a short ferry-ride from the Amsterdam Central Station across the IJ lake—to hear the soft-spoken British artist Anthony McCall talk about his work, one of the weekend’s well-attended lectures. The audience spilled out of the auditorium into the exhibition rooms where several of McCall’s “solid light films” are on view, illustrating his claim that these living, breathing sculptural objects encourage their own brand of sociability. The cigarette smoke and dust that gave the light cones substance in the 1970s, when they were first projected in alternative art spaces, have since been replaced by fog machines.

Another sign of the times: Frieze mogul Matthew Slotover, whom I spotted in the lecture theater, was in town to talk art and capital alongside Beatrix Ruf, the new director of the Stedelijk Museum, at De Balie, a place that prides itself on fostering critical debate. “I’m going to get bashed by all the Dutch revolutionaries,” Slotover told me, sheepishly. I clutch my copy of a biography of the fiery anarchist speaker Emma Goldman, nicknamed “Red Emma.” One of Goldman’s spirited replies lies behind the unwieldy name of that much-loved Amsterdam institution, If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution. Its rich program of guest lectures, performances, and workshops, part of the weeklong Performance Days festival, coincided with the Amsterdam Art Weekend.

Art and capital were very much on the agenda at the Manifesta-hosted Sunday brunch introducing Berlin-based artist Christian Jankowski as the chief curator for Manifesta 11. His curatorial concept for the 2016 edition of the nomadic European Biennial, which will take place in Zurich, involves connecting visiting artists with professionals of every ilk, and not just bankers. The engaging title—“What People Do For Money: Some Joint Ventures”—was prematurely leaked, according to Jankowski, but he stands by it. “Why this insistence on money?” I asked. “Because people wake up when they hear the word,” he said.

Left: Curator Chus Martinez and PR person Rhiannon Pickles. Right: Maria Isserlis, Manifesta director Hedwig Fijen, and artist and curator Christian Jankowski.

Modeled after the successful Berlin Gallery Weekend, Amsterdam Art Weekend plays to the Dutch capital’s strengths. “Amsterdam is very good at discovering and developing young artists,” said Adriana Gonzalez Hulshof, the glamorous Dutch-Peruvian art historian who is at the helm of AAW. Designed to attract collectors, from neighboring Belgium especially, the long weekend was originally an initiative of Rijksakademie director Els van Odijk, and the RijksakademieOPEN remains the main draw for many visitors.

I cycled out there with my hosts on Saturday morning, stopping en route to visit the Vivian Maier retrospective at Foam, Amsterdam’s photography museum. Located in former military barracks, the Rijksakademie—with its warren of studios spread over several floors and connected buildings—is home to fifty resident artists from all over the world. An hour after it opened its doors to the public, the place was already abuzz. More modest in scale, the first-year show at the nearby De Ateliers completed the circuit of artist residencies, in which the city justifiably takes pride.

The same can be said for De Appel’s Curatorial and Gallerist programs, whose participants had their own moment to shine at the discussion around “Curating and dealing performance,” organized by the arts center. “When Elephants Come Marching In,” a patchy group show exploring the legacy of 1960s psychedelia and conceptualism, took over De Appel’s exhibition spaces. The theme certainly has currency in Amsterdam; that very weekend, LED panels all over the city center flashed dire warnings about white heroin being sold as cocaine on the streets.

Left: Stedelijk Museum curator Hendrik Folkerts with artist Emily Roysdon. Right: Maxine Kopsa, director of Kunstverein Amsterdam with Juliaan Andeweg and Juliette Jongma, all of I'm With Her Records.

One of the indisputable highlights of Amsterdam Art Weekend was Tony Ousler’s site-specific installation for the city’s oldest building, the thirteenth-century Oude Kerk, situated right in the middle of the red-light district, a short distance from De Appel. When I arrived, a performance responding to Ousler’s work was taking place, sadly in Dutch; I concentrated instead on the talking figures of different sizes projected here and there on the walls, the vaulted wooden ceiling, the stained-glass windows, the misericords in the choir, as if designed to bring out the best features of the wonderful old church.

Destined for the Stedelijk Museum’s smooth white façade, Ousler’s outdoor projection echoing the one at the Oude Kerk was unveiled in the evening, shortly before the start of the AAW reception, which saw an elegant crowd mill around the museum’s grand staircase. The bright lights, the height of ceilings, and the event’s glitzy nature made me instantly long for the warm and congenial atmosphere of Performance Days, staged in a set of cottage-like buildings and in the garden of the former SKOR Foundation for Art and Public Domain (a casualty of Dutch funding cuts), where I heard the keynote speaker Chus Martínez extol the virtues of procrastination.

Things grew more relaxed at the afterparty on the ground floor of the prodigiously ornate Stadsschouwburg theater. The talk turned briefly to Alicia Framis’s transparent Plexiglas Confessional Room at Annet Gelink Gallery, where, throughout the weekend, visitors could open up to a priest for all to see—if not really hear. “They had to bring the priest in from Spain,” someone said wryly. But soon the place became too busy and loud to entertain any thought of conversation.

Agnieszka Gratza

Left: Vivian Ziherl, curator of If I Can't Dance, and artist Gerry Bibby. Right: Rijksmuseum director of collections Taco Dibbits.

Swiss Mix

New York

Left: The scene at the dinner. Right: Sandra Garger, dealer Ursula Hauser, artist Rashid Johnson, and Manuela Wirth. (All photos: Zach Hyman/BFAnyc.com)

JUST BEFORE the moneyed and/or aspirational art world decamped for Miami Beach, members of that self-same crew made their way through the blustery night to the Swiss Institute for their annual benefit. Arriving unaccompanied at the institution’s silvered Wooster Street digs—formerly Jeffrey Deitch’s HQ, as if any reminder were needed—I was immediately buttonholed by intense art historian Lorena Morales Aparicio, who filled me in on the subject of her doctoral thesis-in-progress, contemporary Swiss touchstone Pipilotti Rist. This developed with unnerving rapidity into a discussion of the finer points of “Swissness”—there are, it turns out, a great many—and a work-by-work deconstruction of the auction lots filling the front gallery. Just as I was beginning to suspect that Ms. Morales Aparicio was in the stylish not-for-profit’s employ, AIG private collection specialist Katja Zigerlig rolled up and changed the subject to . . . chairs, specifically their historical role in bolstering male power. (Andreas Angelidakis’s boisterous “Fin de Siècle,” an exhibition inspired by Ionesco’s The Chairs and featuring an eclectic array of said furniture, had just come down.) We were still an hour from being asked to take our seats.

Circling the room, which was already radiant with off-season tans, I clocked a diminutive Dr. Ruth Westheimer weaving between her fellow attendees. (A quick Google search reveals that the beloved sex therapist’s four-foot-seven stature led her, while still a teenager, to train as a scout and sniper with the Haganah in Jerusalem.) Suddenly, there was a resounding clang, and the crowd wheeled in unison seconds too late to watch Sarah Ortmeyer’s SAD EIS (4, SAD EIS SERIES), 2012, hit the floor. A giant cone of gray ice cream made from painted resin, it appeared undamaged, but those nearby couldn’t help but look sheepish. Someone hurriedly righted the work but the next time I looked it was once again recumbent, and Westheimer had again disappeared.

Left: Chalet Society director Marc-Olivier Wahler, Swiss Institute director Simon Castets, Swiss Institute curator Clement Delepine, and artist Valentin Carron. Right: Auctioneer Simon de Pury and Swiss Institute board chair Fabienne Abrecht.

Does Simone de Pury ham it up this relentlessly when his audience is sober? I don’t have sufficient auction experience to know for sure, but on the evidence of the pinstriped Baron’s showing here, there’s surely some carnival barking in his past. Regularly extending his calls to splurge into a disquieting roar, de Pury also squandered no opportunity for an antique “my wife will kill me” gag. Predictably (but productively), the crowd lapped it up. A contributing factor to the prevailing knockabout spirit may have been the fact that we were surrounded at our dinner tables by wraparound projections of vintage Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin flicks—actually an artwork by Swiss Institute Special Tribute recipient, cineaste Matthias Brunner.

I cast an eye over the familiar split-level space and took in artists Mary Heilmann and Hugh Scott-Douglas (a British-born, Brooklyn-based former Torontonian whose work was first off the block), as well as former SI directors Gianni Jetzer and Marc-Oliver Wahler, both looking a tad dazed by the proceedings. John Waters appeared too, but only via prerecorded video (his typically droll spiel was a good five times the length of honoree Ursula Hauser’s nervy acceptance). As the auction drew to a close, I swapped cards with a staffer from Third Eye PR, necked an espresso, pocketed some chocolates, and that was my night.

Michael Wilson

Islands in the Stream

Miami Beach

Left: Musician Wayne Coyne with dealer Jeffrey Deitch. Right: Dealer Sadie Coles. (Except where noted, all photos: Linda Yablonsky)

LAST WEEK, Miami Beach inspired murder. The killers were the many thousands in town for Miami Art Week—up to 100,000 of them, if you please. Their primary victim was time. Sleep ran a close second. Weapons of choice were beaches, superhigh heels, dinners for everyone you have ever heard of, cocktail parties to promote the self or luxury products to rub into the faces of have-nots, brunches to do the same, invitation-only concerts, dives like Sandbar and Twist, public conversations that breathed hot air into weighty-sounding subjects, and millions of dollars worth of art.

All of this was obvious from the jump. Yet, for the adventurous, there were still discoveries.

“What’s Thousand Island?” inquired the Italian dealer Franco Noero last Thursday, during a boisterous four-gallery dinner at downscale Puerto Sagua. “It’s an American invention,” he was told. “A salad sauce.” Giving a plastic squeeze bottle containing an irradiated orange substance a long look, he said, “I think I’ll try it.”

Left: Publicist Nadine Johnson with architect Peter Marino. Right: At the Miley Cyrus concert at the Raleigh. (Photo: David Velasco)

The Basel art fair’s winter encampment is like that. During its residency (officially December 3–7 this year), Miami divides into a thousand party islands floating the good life on a sea of free drinks and questionable taste. Occasionally, a bridge to redemption appears.

Design Miami approached it with an exuberant display of Memphis furniture by Ettore Sottsass presented by two New York art (not furniture) galleries, Koenig & Clinton and Joe Sheftel. The art crowd swarming the floor—the main fair wouldn’t open till the next day—had a good laugh (or was it a cry of horror?) at the super-gauche floor lamps, or whatever they were (King Kong on a silvery, fifteen-foot-tall Empire State Building with a golden temple at its base), that Carpenters Workshop erected, no doubt to attract any drug lords in the thirty-five-gallery tent.

“Did you see the paper today?” asked Peter Marino, tagged by Miami PR agents as the “fashion” architect, despite his daily dress in bicep-revealing motorcycle leathers. “They called me the prom king of Miami!” he chortled. “Don’t you love it?”

Left: Collectors Maria Baibakova and Oleg Baibakov. Right: Artist Lucy Dodd.

Miami loves Marino. He won the design fair’s first Visionary award, then created a black leather–paneled wall to front a special booth showing chairs from his collection with a life-size mannequin of himself. Bold branding! The Bass Museum also made him the subject of “One Way: Peter Marino,” an opulent exhibition of his impressive collecting habits. Curated by the peripatetic Jérôme Sans but clearly designed by Marino to emphasize the black, the metallic, and the self, it features five commissioned installations (three from artists repped by Emmanuel Perrotin) and a list of corporate sponsors that includes Chanel, Dior, and Vuitton (all Marino clients).

Imagine art by the likes of Warhol, Hirst, Prince, Kiefer, and (the high point) Mapplethorpe beautifully installed in a luxurious, private gentleman’s club with heroic portraits of the gentleman, bronze boxes designed by the gentleman, many shiny skulls, and cabinets of curiosities stocked with the gentleman’s fetish objects. Honestly, this show is unusual. The evening’s VIP preview kicked up buzz that vibrated throughout the week.

“It’s a big day in the art market,” noted Amy Cappellazzo, though she wasn’t talking about Marino’s show but the sudden resignation of Christie’s CEO Steven Murphy just thirteen days after Sotheby’s William Ruprecht was forced from his job. And, said dealer Rachel Lehmann, “The weather’s good!” Indeed, it was a fine evening for endless jawboning all over Miami, which seemed oblivious to nationwide protests against police killing unarmed black men.

Left: Photographer Todd Eberle. Right: Studio Museum in Harlem director Thelma Golden and dealer Bill Powers.

Anger management—and a vaccine against violence—were each free for the asking at the newly formed Institute of Contemporary Art. In one of the two shows opening its temporary home in the Design District, Pedro Reyes set up a clinic to address people with issues. “I don’t recognize the place!” ICA trustee Barbara Herzberg told Alex Gartenfeld, the museum’s deputy director and chief curator. Guests could sign up for “couples therapy,” or climb two floors for a fresh view of the Andra Ursuta sculptures installed by the intrepid artist on crossbeams at each level. These included Ass to Mouth, the Brancusi-like dildo sculpture that won over dealer Mike Egan on his first visit to Ursuta’s studio. That was four years ago. Now they’re married.

A few streets away, Don and Mera Rubell were celebrating fifty years of marriage and collecting with a group exhibition “To Have and to Hold,” and six solo exhibitions. Mark Flood looked especially strong and Lucy Dodd contributed a room-size abstraction along with a hefty catalogue documenting its yearlong making. “It’s crazy, right?” said an excited Mera Rubell.

Back on South Beach, Glenn O’Brien was corralling rappers and performance artists for his TV Party shoot at Casa Claridge, while dealer Jessica Silverman and her girlfriend, art-world anthropologist Sarah Thornton, gave a dinner for artist Dashiell Manley. At the table on Lincoln Road were Instagram cofounder Mike Krieger and Lovestagram creator Kaitlyn Trigger, suddenly the most coveted party guests around.

Left: Artist Ryan Gander. Right: Collector Carlos de la Cruz and Public Art Fund director Nicholas Baume.

But they weren’t in evidence at Ian Schrager’s new Miami Edition Hotel (the old Seville), where Tracey Emin left the dinner hosted by W magazine for its art issue just when Art Production Fund cofounder Yvonne Force Villareal headed for the skating rink in the hotel basement. “Look what I found under my chair!” shrieked Whitney Museum curator Scott Rothkopf, brandishing a pair of silicone falsies in the faces of Instagram-obsessed photographer Todd Eberle and the Serpentine Gallery’s Hans Ulrich Obrist and Julia Peyton-Jones.

The subject of a New Yorker profile published last week, Obrist led Instagram-accented panels almost every day. On Wednesday morning, Krieger and Trigger showed up in images posted to Instagram from Casa Tua, where Obrist and Peyton-Jones were hosting a pre-fair breakfast. It was Obrist who first made Krieger aware of the app’s appeal to artists. “That was a year ago,” Krieger said. “Before that, I had no idea.”

A few minutes later, the doors to the thirteenth Art Basel Miami Beach opened to the lifted and manicured masses gathered at the convention center. “It’s like Italians lining up to get on a vaporetto in Venice,” said Bard CCS director Tom Eccles. “At least no one is pushing,” collector Marieluise Hessel observed. Throughout the day, people behaved well. No one disregarded the rope drawn across a corner of David Zwirner’s stand, where Rothkopf hoped to persuade a group of Whitney trustees to add a second (better) Jason Rhoades to the museum’s permanent collection. And no one molested Public Art Fund director Nicholas Baume after the beefy bodyguards assigned to him by Ryan Gander—the gist of a performance for Art Public—abandoned him for Leonardo DiCaprio.

Left: Serpentine Gallery codirector Hans Ulrich Obrist, Instagram cofounder Mike Krieger, and Lovestagram creator Kaitlyn Trigger. Right: MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach.

Some collectors were also doing double duty. I found William Bell trading stocks on his iPad while looking at art in the Gagosian booth and thinking about the Urs Fischers at Sadie Coles. The latter dealer, meanwhile, played a nearly mute sentry guarding Fischer’s green bronze “raindrops”—sculptures suspended in midair across the stand—against crowds of gawkers. Massimo De Carlo mounted a stellar wall that grouped together paintings by Alighiero Boetti, Rob Pruitt, Piero Manzoni, and Lucio Fontana. “We aim to please,” De Carlo said. “How do you like my sign?” asked Gavin Brown of a rotating green neon by Martin Creed that spelled out the word PEOPLE. Almost as high as the ceiling, it was hard to miss.

New this year was the Survey section for neglected historical works. It’s like Feature at Art Basel, but smaller. The 1970s Michelle Stuart works on paper at Leslie Tonkonow alone were worth the walk to the back corner, but then there was the bonus of Gina Pane’s sand-painting homage to Malevich’s Black Square at Broadway 1602. And a ’70s Alison Knowles installation at James Fuentes. But in every sector, I saw works both old and new to fill the holes on the shelves of my present and future mental archive—the handmade David Altmejd spools at Andrea Rosen, the gorgeous Max Bill at De Carlo, the early Mike Nelson at Noero, K8 Hardy’s Fashion Fashion books at Reena Spaulings, the Sheila Hicks at Sikkema Jenkins, the Nairy Baghramian at Daniel Buchholz, and on and on. Surprise: Some art fairs really can deliver an experience of art.

This fair, by all accounts, was hugely profitable. Emphasis on huge. More intimate, and thoroughly enjoyable, were the cocktail launch parties that evening in three bungalows at the Edition. In one, Fulton Ryder introduced Marilyn Minter’s first artist book, Plush, with a show of her “bush” photographs, racy and gorgeous at once. Next door, where Harper’s Books and Half Gallery were the hosts, Jordan Wolfson was signing his book and Genieve Figgis—discovered first by Richard Prince—was signing catalogues and showing her appealing paintings. And next door to that, Nate Lowman and Leo Fitzpatrick presented work by Sue Williams, who was definitely not home alone.

Left: Collector Melissa Soros with dealer Andrea Rosen and Creative Time director Anne Pasternak. Right: Dealers Michael Jenkins and Brent Sikkema.

In fact, it was so cozy around the bungalows that I was almost sad to depart for the Design Miami dinner honoring Marino. Cocktails took place in the far-from-domestic luxury mall developed by Craig Robins. Christie’s America chair Marc Porter denied he ever wanted Murphy’s job, while Florian Baier and Nina Bischofberger described the new complex they’re building to house Bruno Bischofberger’s immense collection outside of Zurich.

As dinner began at tables in the street, I raced to gated La Gorce Island, where a Cuban band was playing at Maria Baibakova’s housewarming for her father’s new Miami digs—a 1953 Spanish-style mansion once owned by Cher. (Provenance!) This was an entirely pleasant affair, with a delicious buffet served under the nearly full moon over Biscayne Bay. Speedboats returned guests to South Beach just in time for the Miley Cyrus concert at Tommy Hilfiger’s Raleigh Hotel.

Those who hadn’t gotten the e-mail earlier in the day instructing them to pick up wristbands in the lobby that afternoon stood in a crush at the door as the potty-mouthed, silver-wigged performer, working hard to overcome her child-star image and inhabit the role of—wait—an artist, began a set accompanied by the Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne. What can I say? He sounded great and she’ll never be street. But the crowd went wild, raising iPhones and iPads to the sky to capture the spectacle of silver confetti, a dancing penis, and magic mushroom, presented by Jeffrey Deitch. “Your life will never be better than it is right now,” I heard one person in the crowd say as Cyrus covered Led Zeppelin. Others were less adoring. “LCD Sound System was much more exciting,” one man commented, recalling a Deitch/Raleigh/Basel concert from the past. “It’s fascinating. Here’s this avant-garde visionary coming out of the mainstream,” said Deitch, who informed an inquisitor that he was “retired” from dealing art. After the crowd dispersed, he went to bed.

Left: Dealer Simon de Pury. Right: Swiss Institute director Simon Castets.

Next morning brought VIPs to routine visits to Miami’s publicly private collections. I opted for a Ruinart-sponsored Public Art Fund brunch at the Shelborne feting artist Georgia Russell’s special packaging for the brand. It was the only proper breakfast I had all week, but I missed the lunch that the Argentine Faenas were giving to announce the insanely extravagant residential development they’re building on Collins Avenue, cultural forum centerpiece by Rem Koolhaas. (According to the Miami Herald’s Alastair Gordon, Miami has no less than 280 new buildings in the works, with many apartments starting at $10 million. What?)

I missed lunch because I was immersed in the NADA fair at the Deauville Hotel, which was as close as I would get to a beach. NADA is like Williamsburg to ABMB’s Manhattan: hip, relaxed and scruffy, and a little too much. I reached my limit halfway through, though I wished Sergei Tcherepnin, voted the winner of the Artadia/NADA Award by judges Massimiliano Gioni and Cecilia Alemani, had appeared at Lisa Overduin’s booth to give promised massages. I missed him because I went back to the Edition for a panel (moderated by Obrist) that pitted singer (and Robert Pattinson squeeze) FKA Twigs against Alex Israel. Immediately afterward, Obrist appeared yet again at ABMB’s Art Salon with Instagram’s Kevin Systrom, auctioneer Simon de Pury, artist Amalia Ulman, and MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach.

That night, I missed Daniel Arsham’s opening at Locust Projects, a cocktail on a yacht cohosted by Deitch, the preview of a Shen Wei exhibition at the Miami Dade College’s Museum, the more underground “Autobody” show, and probably dozens of other things—including Biesenbach’s “Zero Tolerance: Miami” at YoungArts, one exhibition that actually went in for protest politics. Now my dance card was full, but I didn’t want packaged glamour. I didn’t want fashion. I’d seen enough art. So I traded Aby Rosen’s dinner at the W for the casual Esther Schipper/Mendes Wood/Mehdi Chouakri/Meyer Riegger gallery dinner at Puerto Sagua, where the Americans left earliest, the Brazilians arrived last, and Franco Noero never did eat his salad

Back in New York, I slept for three days.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: New Museum deputy director and chief curator Massimiliano Gioni and Highline Art curator Cecilia Alemani. Right: Wayne Coyne and Miley Cyrus. (Photo: David Velasco)

Foul Language

Miami Beach

Left: Wayne Coyne and Miley Cyrus. (Photo: David Velasco) Right: Artist Jacolby Satterwhite. (Photo: Andrew Durbin)

“THIS IS A PLACE where I bet you thought you could escape me,” Miley Cyrus shouted to her audience at Jeffrey Deitch’s Wednesday night party at the Raleigh. She lit up a joint and passed it around the crowd.

“Well, I’m here.”

Forty-five minutes and six covers later she launched into “Love Money Party,” an ABMB anthem if there ever was one and the only original Cyrus recording she sang all night. A rocket launched wads of fake bills with her face printed on them into the audience, while a giant penis and the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne danced around her. (“It’s southern outsider art,” Deitch claimed in an offhand interview. “Very close to Mike Kelley.”) “I’m over it,” said a friend, disappearing into the crowd, opening Instagram on his phone.

So much of Art Basel now filters through @artbasel, with Instagram and Twitter commingling with the fair booths, VIP lounges, dinners—partygoers, artists, and curators rapidly posting and liking and quickly deleting images and faulty précis of works of art, celebrities, and #artselfies. The hashtag #ABMB had 32,521 posts as of this writing. I mostly resisted the urge to upload my pics to the big feed, even though the wheedling mirrored works at many booths begged for it.

Left: Timur Si-Qin at Société's booth at Art Basel Miami Beach. (Photo: David Velasco) Right: Artists Sam Pulitzer and Marie Karlberg. (Photo: Andrew Durbin)

I dodged the mirrors but clung to surfaces at ABMB’s Nova section. At 47 Canal, Ajay Kurian’s pensive toad dangled off a trashcan surrounded by Michele Abeles’s malfunctioning photos of paradise. At Société, Timur Si-Qin did his best Bernadette Corporation drag, hiring Preston Chaunsumlit to produce Abercrombie-esque tableaux. At Buchholz (still fresh, if not in Nova), I messaged Richard Hawkins a snapshot I took of one of his paintings, attended by a few 👊👊👊👊. “Buy it,” he joked, recommending I track down one of the fair’s ubiquitous sugar daddies.

Ubering between the fairs scattered across Miami Beach, I feared most the traffic and the pervasive, networky conversations of undisguised ambition. I found release in the inspired/rehearsed jargon of collectors, dealers, artists. At Wednesday’s Horse Meat Disco—a party imported from London—I was told that “to sell your work, it really has to shine,” and for a moment the Miami miasma was such that I didn’t see the tautology. “What is your role in the Whitney conversation?” a woman asked me at the Whitney’s Thursday dinner at the Fishbar at the Loews. “I write about art,” I said. She smiled politely, then asked about “the good parties.” I recommended that she check out Twist, South Beach’s gay multiplex.

Left: 2 Live Crew performs at the Edition. (Photo: World Red Eye). Right: Artist Zak Kitnick. (Photo: Andrew Durbin)

Along with everyone else at #ABMB I returned to the basement at the Edition Hotel Friday night for Gavin Brown and Herald St.’s party, where Martin Creed, Yo Majesty, and 2 Live Crew played to a packed room. Like more than a few attendees, both Creed and 2 Live Crew seemed sleepy and uncomfortable in the dim spotlight. Creed concluded his short set with “Fuck Off,” screaming its repetitious and singular lyric like he were performing an exorcism. I got it, and fucked off to the neighboring bowling alley, where Absolut hosted a party that quite literally no one attended except artists Marie Karlberg and Sam Pulitzer and myself. It was like our own private Interior Illusions Lounge. We played until Brown’s party spilled over and fantastically dressed ice skaters circled the tiny adjacent rink, metaphorizing the circuitous logic of entertainment.

I thought about all those likes circling on Instagram and how the feed kept forcing this surreal juxtaposition or slippery continuum of parties and protests. I thought of the viral treatment of Deitch’s surreal juxtaposition or slippery continuum of Mike and Miley. While I shuttled between the must-attend parties and the barely-attended parties, while friends marched in Miami and New York, I kept thinking about Foul Perfection (2002): “Official art culture is much more effective in its control of history than Republican strategists,” Cyrus writes—or was it Kelley?—“for it knows that the best way to treat contradictory material is not to rail against it, but simply to pretend it didn’t happen.” What didn’t happen at #ABMB seemed to happen pretty much everywhere else; good thing we were all too busy pretending to notice.

Andrew Durbin

Truth or Dare

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.”

Sarah Nicole Prickett

Excite Strategy

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.

Sarah Nicole Prickett

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