Art & Design

Art, Adderall, and A$AP: A Real-Time Recap of Art Basel Miami Day 1

Art & Design

Art, Adderall, and A$AP: A Real-Time Recap of Art Basel Miami Day 1


5:20 a.m. Standing in the TSA line at Newark International, I am so underslept and enervated that for two seconds I forget where I’m going. Then I see a woman who, in lieu of a shirt, is wearing a solar-flare-yellow sports bra.

9:10 a.m. The plane lands in Miami. I go to collect my 54-pound suitcase; my friend Jenna, who brought a smug little carry-on, gets stuck behind a security blockade. I tweet #FreeJenna. It works? Later, we speculate that somebody tried to cross the border with an actual work of art, and that, naturally, the TSA got suspicious.

10:51 a.m. Jenna calls a cab.

12:22 p.m. A cab arrives.

12:23 p.m. By now, the press preview for Art Basel Miami’s first-ever festival of .gifs—Moving the Still, presented by Tumblr, Paddle 8, and Milk Studios—is over. Feel like I can see the .gifs on my computer, though.

12:50 p.m. At The Webster in South Beach, new memoirist Stephanie LaCava is wearing Marni and eating matcha-flavoured Kit Kats for breakfast, because if you get a book published and it’s good, that’s like being a diplomat. Angela, who was the photographer on Gallery Girls, is taking pictures. Things on reality TV should not also happen in life, should they? But Miami feels like being on reality TV all the time.

The Webster has candles named “drugs” and “rock ‘n’ roll,” but “sex,” the salesgirl says, is sold out.

1:18 p.m. On the beach, off Ocean Drive, I lay on a white chaise and light a cigarette. A man asks if we “ladies” would like to rent the chaise. It costs $18 per day. “No thank you,” says Jenna. We watch planes trawling banners of text overhead and I think it’s the Plane Art thing, but the banners are advertisements for banners, so—sure, that’s art.

1:45 p.m. Lincoln Road, the marathon shopping stretch of South Beach, was once a gonzo art mecca. Now it’s a mall. There is, however, a large menorah made entirely from seashells.

There is also one bookstore. I buy a paperback copy of Miami, because duh, but also because it’s Joan Didion’s birthday. Happy birthday, Joan Didion! Do you think anyone calls her Joanie? I also buy a tiny magenta Moleskine and a magenta Wallpaper* guide to Miami and then I’m done with magenta forever.

1:58 A mid-30s mom is wearing a cerulean robbed tank top with, in diamante lettering, the single word “winter.”

2:38 Design Miami, now located directly across from the Miami Beach Convention Center, is fronted by a Snarkitecture “pavilion” that looks like a bundle of tampons, or Vicodin. So much of Art Basel Miami is inflatable, is plastic, is literally a carnival. Buy your day pass and go for a ride.

2:40 p.m. What constitutes the skin of the rich? These VIP bitches look tanned not by the sun, but by the inner glow of solvency.

1:43 p.m. We enter Art Basel Miami Beach through Hall C, or maybe D. Right away, I play “spot the artist,” picking out Cy Twombly, Tracey Emin, Agnes Martin, Robert Longo, Ryan McGinley, Nick Cave, and more from ten paces away. But the game is too easy, and I feel like an algorithm with sore feet.

Miami’s neophilia lends itself more to new content than to new intent. At Almine Rech Gallery, I gaze up at a pastel sky-painting by Alex Israel, hanging behind a sculpture that imitates ruins, or runes, with a winning artificiality. I’m fascinated mostly because I just watched the documentary Cocaine Cowboys, about Miami’s drug trade in the ’70s and ’80s, then read that one of the druglords became an artist in prison (something I didn’t include in my Globe & Mail essay on Miami and art, which you could also read). He wanted to send the filmmakers what he called “a surreal watercolour painting.” I want to believe it looked like this.

Around the corner, Doug Aitken has spelled out FLESH in big, block, LED-lit letters cut from a too-blue photo of the ocean. This isn’t work made, then sold. It’s not even work made to sell. It’s work made to sell at Art Basel Miami Beach.

2:24 p.m. Malls are hard. I’ve been here for 40 minutes and I haven’t found the Orange Julius stand?

2:35 p.m. I don’t spot the artist Laurel Nakadate at Leslie Tonkonow Projects, but I do like her tar-black handprints and lipsticked kisses laid over floral wallpaper and banal contemporary photos. Maybe I like it because it wasn’t obvious (to me), but I also think she’s showing another side of “screen culture,” in which the artist clamours to be released from her own image. There is a similarly emo romanticism at work in David Douard’s “City Sickness,” a hanging “mechanized construction” that most people might call a “mobile.” I say I like it, although I’m rarely down with assemblage as sculpture.

Jenna says it looks like something you’d find on Regretsy.

Three years ago at Basel Miami, I shrugged off half the art as irreparably kitsch. Now, so much of it is earnestly decorative, and that’s even…. worse?

“These are vintage postcards dipped in gold leaf,” enthuses Fabrice Samyn’s gallerist. “And he did this ladder, like Jacob’s Ladder, in the Bible, with gold dripping from above.”

“If the art market goes to shit,” I say, “you can just melt it down.”

“Yeah!” she says, still smiling and nodding.

4:03 p.m. Fuck the art world, I’m going to buy Band-Aids and disposable cameras and those Lay’s Limon chips you can only find in cities where South Americans live.

7:15 p.m. Boys are driving us from Coconut Grove, where we’re staying, to South Beach again. One of them is a nurse with a travelling dispensary.  I wash down a white pill with a five-hour pink lemonade energy drink. The pill is called Soma. Suddenly I can’t remember how Brave New World ends.

8:22 p.m. Nyehaus, the Chelsea gallery my friend/roommate Dani works at, is showing in a bungalow at the Delano Hotel. Much of the conceptual, light-and-space-based work is from the ’60s, and it’s good-strange to see “old” art that looks contemporary, not new stuff that seems already dated. Also, there’s a lot of free Mezcal, and more friends.

I take a Vitamin C-sized Adderall. The temperature is perfect, I mean, the temperature does not exist.

9:00 p.m. The Hole party is also at the Delano, with Playboy sponsoring and A$AP Rocky rapping at 10. We pile onto white beds, poolside, reading about how to have a threesome. In Fool’s Paradise, Steven Gaines says that two-guy, one-girl threesomes are the preferred method of “sport-fucking” in Miami, and I would really like to know if that’s true. (Email me.)

10:17 p.m. What I thought was a slightly strange table is in fact a Judy Chicago original and the gallery would rather I didn’t put my wine on it, thanks.

11:23 p.m. Sorry, but I am finding the A$AP in A$AP Rocky a little ironic. By now Kathy Grayson has changed outfits twice. I’ve smoked ten cigarettes. The Democrats got a carbon tax through Congress. Also, when drinks stop being free, they start being a million dollars each plus tip. Should I just go get a tattoo?

11:38 p.m. A$AP Rocky is very sorry for being late, explaining like how there’s no equipment and they’re going to do this in “backyard Harlem barbecue” style. If more than five people at this party have ever been in a Harlem backyard, I’ll wear a tank top that says “winter.” Anyway, within strokes of midnight, A$AP seriously whips it out. Tip: if you leave a party while dude is playing you will feel like you’re getting away with murder and there’s $10,000 in cash on the other side.

1:25 a.m. So. Now I’m at a wedding. Like, Chanel and just got married in a tent on the beach and it was beautiful and now they’re popping champagne and playing all the bad wedding songs but also, like, febrile grinding songs, and Demi Moore is that one bridesmaid and Jean Pigozzi is the eccentric old guy and there are all these Mephistophelian bachelor-cousins from Britain. I forget how I feel. I only know I’m sitting outside chain-smoking with my shoes off like I do, for a little while, at every wedding. And that there’s cake.

2:09 a.m. No, really, they’re playing “Son of a Preacher Man.”

2:11 a.m. And we’re leaving. The girls are in line for the bathroom, and it’s a long line, because of long lines. I’m waiting and I look alone, which always makes some rich uncle-type like this Steve from Ohio ask me questions. “Are you a buyer or a seller?” he asks. I laugh. But then I honestly don’t know.

2:37 a.m. My friend says there’s a party at Silencio and Karley’s friend says there’s a party at Twist, but we are already cometing over the causeway by the time we get these texts, and I think I would just like to “chill,” to lie in the half-moon not sleeping til morning.