Thirty teamsters in jeans line the entrance to Frieze. I’m passing them in a yellow car, so I know, right now, which side I am seen to be on. The workers are protesting a perceived discrimination, by the organizers of this second now-annual art fair, against their unions. I am going to report on a pastime for millionaires.
From the FDR, an enormous red balloon dog is instantly recognizable as the handiwork, minus the “hand” and arguably also the “work,” of Jeff Koons. Art makes history. I shiver to think this will be ours. If Koons is the most successful artist since Warhol, and if what we think of Warhol is also and forever what we think of the ‘60s, what of now? Of now, then, the question isn’t what is art, or why it’s art, but who gets to make it.
One answer is that I would like work to be made by those who cannot afford to have others do the handi part for them, by artists closer to union workers, or Cooper’s Union-ers fighting for free tuition in the future, than to Wall Street-era CEOs or their brats.
Another answer, one attempted by a distinct minority of the representatives at this year’s fair, is that art should be made for those who cannot afford to buy it.
Art that happens outside the white-walled containers of museums, galleries, and fairs is not new, of course; over the past three decades, social practice art has found itself on a continuum with social media and “Internet art,” and all of it is partly reaction against the hyper-materiality and crudely implied materialism of contemporary, pleasingly “conceptual,” loft-intended paintings and sculptures that blew up the New York scene in (loosely) the ’80s, and is bigger than ever now (Koons, Damien Hirst, just metonyms for scale). Still, it is easier to store an object than an experience. No matter how many power naps Tilda Swinton takes in the MoMa, it is still the museum’s permanent collection—a collection mostly of objects—that tells you what the culture wants to preserve.
Even Marina Abramovic, who once told me that she does not believe in owning objects, especially if those objects are called “art,” is preserving her “immaterial art” by building what appears to be a very material museum on the Hudson River. “It’s not about you; it’s about others,” she says in a video posted to her Facebook page last month. The museum, it seems fair to note, will be called the Marina Abramovic Institute. It is a museum meant to make her métier art.
Meaning: What we call art, and not just “guys doing stuff,” is work that requires both medium and mediation, both content and context. Artists like to say that art is defined by intent, but intent is something taught to you in college. The difference between a balloon dog and a Koons is scale, yes, but also place: street fair versus the Palace of Versailles.
The difference between what a social worker does and what the legendary social practice artist Suzanne Lacy does, when she combines performance art with studies on rape, or with self-defense classes against women, is also place: The homes of these women versus the steps of Los Angeles City Hall.
There is an extra difference when, as a socially conscious if not socially practicing artist, you make art for those who can afford it, but of those who cannot. This is the art likeliest to feel exploitative, like one side Othering the other. It’s also that which is mediated by curators and dealers and editors at the highest strata of taste and class, and so, if history shows, will remain. Picasso wasn’t the only guy to paint Guernica; he was the only Picasso. If there were no Picasso, would there still be a Guernica, or a Guernica at all?
There was, for example, no Braddock, Pennsylvania in my world until the still-underrated photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier’s A Haunted Capital opened at the Brooklyn Museum last month. Had a totally unmediated artist posted the same images to Flickr, almost nobody else would see them, either, unless Buzzfeed were to do an investigative listicle of 117 Places So Poor You Wouldn’t Believe.
Likewise, I’ve looked at Jenny Holzer’s Lustmord (1993), telling the story of a Yugoslavian genocidal rape from three perspectives, in three jarring mediums, over and over again, but I had not heard of Lacy’s 1977 Los Angeles City Hall piece until I researched her pre-Frieze. This may have to do with merit, Holzer being something of a genius, but it has also to do with mediation. Does the mediation justify the means? And then, to what end? If Lustmord is bought and displayed by a museum, it makes history for women we might not have remembered. It might also make me feel like Holzer stole. Unlike Frazier, she is not making this work of victims from her own family, place, or class. On the other hand, she is practically a genius, with not only the art-world power but also the pure ability to make a work that transcends—if transcendence is possible—all three.
“It’s not only the raw experience or the raw emotion of the political event that matters,” says Mary Sabatino of Galerie Lelong. “It has to be mediated into something that transcends the topic, because the topic will end. Art that transcends versus art that is topical is also the difference between great artists and good artists.”
This year, Sabatino has dedicated her Frieze booth to some greater works of “activist art,” a term that fails to differentiate between art that contains action (like Kryzstof Wodiczko’s literally moving “Homeless Vehicle,” 1989) and art that represents it (like Yoko Ono’s paintings about fracking, which you can buy if you want to do literally fuck-all about fracking while supporting a rich artist’s ability to continue making you feel like you care).
Representation, I tell her on the phone, can be so porously delineated from exploitation.
Sabatino seems audibly to shrug. “Exploitation is an easy way to distance ourselves from the feelings engendered by the work,” she says. “To put it on the artist rather than yourself. Besides, exploitation implies money that often isn’t there. Socially conscious work is not commercially successful—there’s an audience for it, but I wouldn’t say there’s a market, save for a few clients who share certain democratic values.”
And so, Sabatino says she’s had to take risks on “artists who speak about important issues of our time, whether it is violence in Guantanamo or against women here.” Most of these she’s worked with for decades, and some (Nancy Spero; my world-favourite, Ana Mendieta) are dead. Given generational bias, I expect her to say that young contemporary artists are less political, more cynical, than they were in the first heyday of say relational aesthetics. She does not.
Neither does Lacy, who teaches at Otis College of Art in Design and California, and who has been practicing what she’s come to term “new genre public art” for four decades. This term is evolved from “social practice;” it feels exacter than “activist.” It implies, she says, “a dialectic between politics and art,” the way relational aesthetics zig-zag between art, life, and life as the medium for art.
“Social practice and public-space art has been steadily growing over the past 10 years,” says Lacy, when I suggest that this might “just” be cyclical, “and it does go with the return of relational aesthetics to some degree, but I don’t think it is a trend. I think more and more young artists are genuinely interested in making art that connects to a community.”
My friend Molly Crabapple, 29, is very much a community (i.e., Occupy) artist, and it’s not coincidence that her work falls totally outside the contemporary sphere as defined by fairs and by magazines like Frieze. Molly grew up working-class and stayed that way, learning to paint by doing murals for nightclubs in high-heeled Doc Martens, or as performance at a “terribly fancy” Hollywood party, where she was forbidden from speaking to the guests.
“The thing that angers me,” Molly tells me over gchat, “is the educational barrier set up to entry into the fine art world. Saying that you need a Yale MFA is just saying you need 80K to be an artist.”
Soon, if the students do not have their way, it will mean the same to say you need a Cooper Union degree. Then there will be no free art schools in New York, yet New York will remain the capital of our art world, the place where creation meets and is mediated by capital. Where—as the artist Richard Wentworth pointed out in a talk held at a Burberry store, which by now doesn’t even seem weird—going to an ostensibly open-to-all gallery is actually a rite and a privilege, requiring education (he did not say educational barrier; I am saying educational barrier). Where Jeff Koons is on the cover of New York Magazine, the headline already declaring this his age. And where, next to New York, there’s TIME, and that cover story calls us, the “millennials,” once again a generation “lazy, entitled, narcissistic, and still living with [our] parents.”
Yes, our parents, who are the same age as the allegedly age-defining Koons. Koons, who sells overgrown toys made by wage labourers for 1.5 times the cost of a year at art school, who before that sold paintings of himself having sex with a porn star, and who once called his human infant son his greatest “sculpture.”
And whose infamous stupid balloon dog, the world’s largest self-portrait, is the most publicly visible part of this whole fair.
When I reach the actual green grounds of Frieze, I reluctantly, ineluctably, approach the thing. Then I see it. A real, red, dog-shaped 80-foot-high balloon, not the shiny intractability of a Koons. The publicist, laughing, tells me it’s by Los Angeles artist Paul McCarthy. I laugh too. It’s funny: McCarthy’s replica returns, with maximum irony, the form to its function, deflating—if we’re lucky—the entire mute conceit.
But from public space, all you can see is a Koons, a balloon dog. You can’t see the vastly smaller, sadder balloon rat, held up in protest by the teamsters. It’s almost as good a joke, if not good art, but anyway it does not matter, because it is on the other side of the gated entrance, and therefore, is not art at all.
The magazine is made of titanium; the party, of tin foil. Still, the launch of Visionaire 63: FOREVER is as lavishly tricky to get into as if its cover model, this millennium’s Dorian Gray, were really there. No Kate Moss, I text a friend who’s asking for herself. Only Kate Upton? I squint harder. When every last surface is mirrored, it becomes almost impossible to see. Only a Kate Upton look-a-like.
In the long halls and tall staircases of the Clock Tower, below Canal, every person could pass for a famous person. This is partly the effect of a dress code: Whether guests dressed to match titanium or tinfoil, it all looks, in the halls, like a long series of Who Wore it Best? Metallics. (I’d give the gold to my friend, Visionaire and V designer Berkeley Poole, in borrowed Dior the color of a Nestle-egg wrapper, but the champagne-named Patricia Van Der Vliet has a very commendable Gwyneth-circa-Shakespeare-in-
It’s also the effect of the décor. Silver coats the place, from coat check to ceiling, bannister to the Belvedere and Chandon bar. In a silver room full of silver balloons, a flash photographer makes glossy interns feel like silver-screen queens. Next door, a silver machine makes silver confetti fly to the silver sky. A girl who looks like a blonde Leigh Lezark floats by, and later I realize it is a blonde Leigh Lezark. New York’s going Hollywood. Confetti lands like shrapnel in the gold of my glass. I cannot, when I climb more silvered stairs to the starry roof, shake the feeling that it’ll cut my feet.
FOREVER. An aureate staircase spirals to nowhere, and the room fills slowly to just below capacity, as all smart parties do. Smoke drifts in from the stone ledge. I’m taking iPhotos without flash, beguiled by the eternal poses of partiers: An interested woman whispering close to her conquest, silver being the best conductor of electricity; a girl leaning skinny-armed, hand on hip, near one of the guys from BFA. Nobody can dance to Sebastian Perrier. The Dutch models all move like mercury. There is an untarnishable cast to the whole tableau, as though we’re frozen, Moss-like, in titanium. But the next morning I want to Instagram something, and the photo seems to have greyed overnight, the accrual of silver turned to ash. There’s a scrap of tin foil in my bag, and no cigarettes.
So many queendoms, Margaret Atwood has, and so few rivals. Every Western reader knows her name, and nobody’s wrong, when they hear it, to think of feminism or futurism or environmental activism. Atwood might have devoted her life’s work to any one of these spheres, so highly does she rank in each. And yet, it’s the collision—and collusion—of all these worlds that makes her novels, stories, poems, essays, and even tweets endlessly compelling. Now 73, the Toronto-based literary legend laughs at retirement. She has just penned a new serial, Positron, for the longform fiction site Byliner, and like most of her bestknown work, it’s a sharply dystopian piece of speculative storytelling. Next spring, her first chamber opera, Pauline, premieres in Vancouver. Meanwhile, Atwood is always thinking of her next story, actively supporting her various causes, and dreaming up new inventions—like the LongPen, a remote book-signing device she patented in 2004. Will Atwood still be inscribing her Jane Hancock into copies of The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, or The Blind Assassin for tomorrow’s orange-eyed cyborgs? Let’s hope so. Here, over the course of two telephone conversations, Atwood considers the past, takes stock of the present, and praises the future (Hint: It’s the new BlackBerry 10).
I was recently thinking about your first novel, The Edible Woman , and how it shaped many of the ideas I now have about women and bodies and food and sex and survival.
It’s funny that people say that. I wasn’t even a feminist when I wrote that—that was years before feminism, as a movement, began. People also say that the book feels much more contemporary than it is.
Maybe that’s because not enough has changed for women.
Some things never will. I think we expect things to change more than they do.
When you write into the near future, thinking about how things might change, do you ever psych yourself out?
I spend a lot of time researching the basis for any prediction, whether it’s social or environmental or in some other way speculative. By the time I begin writing, there’s usually enough out there that makes my scenario a distinct possibility—but it’s only one of a set of possibilities, which is why nobody can ever predict the future. Most things are either not predictable, or not predictable from where any one individual is standing. You may think you’re basing your future on careful planning and wisdom, but then there’s a hurricane, or there’s an earthquake, or somebody flies a plane into a building
How far ahead do you plan for your own life?
Oh, not far at all—and partly for that reason. I have a will, of course, but you can’t predict every eventuality that may come along. I always have another book in me, but I can’t tell you what I’m doing next week.
Can you tell me what you’re doing after this phone call?
I’m drawing zombies.
I’m co-writing a book for Wattpad with Naomi Alderman. It’s called The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home.
What is Wattpad?
It’s an online community for writers. You can be anybody you want on Wattpad. You can have a pseudonym. For young people just starting out—especially those who may have confidence issues and may not want to put it out there—I think it’s really good. If we don’t have young people writing, pretty soon we’re not going to have anybody writing.
What other advice would you give to a young writer?
Read and read and read and write and write and write. And get a day job.
In Positron, your new series for Byliner, the economy has become so dire that civilians are convinced to join prison colonies.
Well, it’s not very far from reality. I researched private prisons in America, and am very concerned that Canada, under [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper, wants to begin privatizing prisons here.
Positron’s male and female narrators are given equal “screen time,” as it were. Beyond that, the female—the wife—in the story has a higher ranking position in this prison colony than her husband. That felt like a shift in your thinking.
I haven’t written as much in the female voice as people seem to think I have. There have been male narrators. But yeah, her job is actually a bit more senior than his. He’s working in the chicken enclave, and she’s working pretty high up in the eradication enclave. [Laughs.] There is a lot of talk right now about the gender gap and where it exists and where it doesn’t. We just got our first female premier [Kathleen Wynne] in Ontario, Canada. It was very interesting that Hillary Clinton actually ran [for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008]. I don’t think any woman had run for the presidency in any serious way until then. Now Germany has a female leader [Angela Merkel, the country’s chancellor since 2005]. So things have shifted, and it’s an ongoing conversation. Another issue people are focusing on is the current gender imbalance in universities, where there are more females enrolled than males. Are young males giving up, or do they have more lucrative work elsewhere? Is it true that when women get into a field, suddenly men don’t want to do it anymore?
It’s fascinating to watch certain themes of yours evolve over decades. Do you remember the first thing you wrote?
My first pieces would have been in comic book form. Then I wrote a play when I was about 7 years old. Around the same time I wrote a chapter book about an aunt.
Was she your aunt?
An ant. A-N-T. Unfortunately, ants don’t do much in the first three stages of their lives, so it was quite boring in the beginning. That was probably a lesson in getting things started a bit earlier in a book.
At what point in writing a new work does the plot become clear to you?
I think it just develops from the setup. Basically, if it were a video game, you have the rules and then you write people inside those rules.
Do you play video games?
I played board games as a child, which is, believe it or not, the same kind of thing. Games of all kinds have a set of rules, and the action takes place within them. In narrative things, you can open that up by having somebody break the rules, or by having it so that the rules aren’t what you thought they were.
What is your own set of rules for writing?
They’re more like habits, and they’ve varied over time. I don’t think much about it, and the reason for that is this: Anybody who’s ever done any downhill skiing knows that if you stop in the middle and say, How am I doing this? you will fall over. The goal is to assimilate it to such an extent that you’re not consciously thinking about it.
What are you reading next?
What’s on my pile? I’m re-reading something called Explosion in a Cathedral by a wonderful novelist named Alejo Carpentier. I’m also reading the galleys of a book by Eduardo Galeano called Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History. It’s like a daybook in that it goes through the year and for each day there’s this weird thing that happened on it. And, as you might expect, I’m reading Jared Diamond’s The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? I’m also reading this interesting book of stories by Drago Jančar called Joyce’s Pupil.
Do you read one after the other?
All at once. I’m a multiple type of person.
What about the future? Is it one thing, or many?
If we consider the present a dot, then the future is a number of different dots.
I thought so. Thanks for doing this—twice! I promise never again to record an interview on my phone and then leave my phone in a cab.
[Laughs] If you don’t mind my asking, what sort of new phone did you get? Because you might look at the new BlackBerry that just launched. I’m due for a new phone and am considering possibly doing that.
Is this a sponsored tweet?
No! Nobody pays me to say anything. If anything, they might pay me not to say things, but that doesn’t work either.
Photography by Mark Zibert
If you have ever a) met someone in a hotel, someone of whom you would say “I met someone,” and found them alluring and self-possessed and maybe a little mysterious under the amber lights of that hotel lobby, and b) after an hour and vodka, gotten into the elevator with them and watched them shrink and wrinkle in the too-bright, too-mirrored trap, then you know exactly the difference between seeing art in a museum and seeing art at a fair. Last night the annual, centenarian Armory Show opened at Piers 92 and 94, and again it was so flagrantly commercial it felt almost… radical? Illusions, meet solvent: The only myth made here is money.
“The artist works a lot with books, and here she has worked in a cut-out mode, using book covers to form a pattern,” one UK dealer told me. “Yes,” I said, staring at cut-out book covers forming a pattern. “I can see that.” Later, I overheard a man explain a giant, holographic Damien Hirst rendering of a skull to his assistant: “It’s a meditation on death.” Steps away, two white women commented on the “complementary” colour scheme of my favourite Mickalene Thomas collage, “Deux Femmes Noir.”
In a booth full of Bjarne Melgaard installations, which felt like parodies or stoop sales of a New York artist’s life, there was one work containing a Chanel suit. My roommate was wearing a tweed jacket, so I told her to pose. It made for a good picture.
“It’s not Chanel,” said the real Bill Cunningham, materializing behind me to take a better one. “But it’s close enough. I thought I’d just wait here—somebody would eventually come along with a Chanel jacket, and it would be funny.”
It was funny, and it was not funny. It was the VIP opening, but everybody was a VIP, and on the cards, Liz Magic Laser had printed the guest’s number “… out of 12,365,” as if to confirm that nobody was a VIP. That was funny. On staff T-shirts, the average income of an Armory attendee was printed in white on Wal-Mart blue: $334,000. That again was funny and not funny. What’s the value in such radical transparency, or is it just disclosure? What I want to know about Armory attendees is What class are they? And what colour? And how do they make their money? And can they be honest for a sec about why they buy art, or what they think it will mean when they die?
A plump woman stood, perplexed, in front of this ingenious Michael Wolf photograph. “It must be Photoshop,” she said. Her husband shrugged.
It must be Photoshop. The art fair makes certain things I worship so difficult to believe; that’s why I go, and why I can’t stay long. After an hour I wanted to go back to that hotel feeling, and after two hours, we did.
The MoMA at 9 p.m. was dazzling and rose-lit and illusory, a relief. Everything was beautiful, nothing for sale. Upstairs, I followed a woman into a roomful of Louise Bourgeois because she was all face and no makeup and so amazing and maybe–no definitely–French; she turned out to be Jessica Biel. Downstairs, Klaus Biesenbach talked to Liz Magic Laser, while Rashaad Newsome looked confused about Stacy Engman’s hat. “Everybody here is an artist,” said a pretty tranny named Julie. “I’m a makeup artist.” I gave her two cigarettes.
Meanwhile, on the Confetti System-decked stage, DJ Harley Viera Newton played Mariah Carey and Robyn while Alexa Chung hung out with her babe-force. Jenna Sauers, the best babe, was wearing a dress she’d made herself. It’s not Chanel, but it’s close enough.
When the crowd hit its peak, Solange played. This was excellent for several reasons: a) Solange is excellent; b) a lot of people who can’t dance tried anyway; and c) I got to overhear six wildly different versions of the rumour that Beyonce was coming (she did come, but nobody saw her, sorry). The old people might have gone home, or maybe they were hiding behind a Rodin, but halfway through the show I looked around and thought, Whoa, this is really not boring, which is the highest praise afforded to any fundraiser of practically any kind.
It wasn’t late, and it didn’t feel late. A painter named Adrian went to get me a vodka soda. The seventeenth guy asked me what my back tattoo said, or meant. It’s a meditation on death.
Then I got into an elevator.
It’s New York Fashion Week! I can tell because I’m wearing sneakers, eating only refined grains, and refusing to leave Chinatown. Fortuitous, then, that last night’s VFiles party was held at Bow on the Bowery, exactly one and a half cigarettes from my apartment. It would have taken half a pack to get through the desperate door-side mosh pit (statistically speaking, how many of you guys can be named Scott Lipps?) had it not been for another lucky thing, to wit, the sweeping arrival of Visionaire’s boss femme, Cecilia Dean. A nod, a shrug, we’re in. I want to pay Cecilia Dean to walk in front of me at Trader Joe’s.
At first, the only thing that makes this night different from all other nights at Bow is the number of guests loudly reminding us that they hate fashion parties. But wait, are those rainbow lights? IS THAT A .GIF BOOTH? Yeppppp. VFiles, still not officially off the ground, has yet to put a foot wrong in its quest for the clicks and faves of New York’s kids. I have not the cluest of clues how they’re making money, but I do like how they spend it.
As for those kids, they’re wearing tiaras over toques, snapchatting surreptitious pics of Jeanette Hayes, marvelling over the fact that Jourdan Dunn, a model, is tall, paying crisp twenties to the bathroom boss for the privilege of sharing a stall (and straw), and dancing like it’s the last, not the first, night of New York’s most decadent week.
There is a German word for the concrete-perceptual feeling one gets at the precise moment of cognizance that a movie being watched is now not a movie, but a musical.
The word is areyoufuckingkiddingmegeist.
Bud Townsend’s 1976 retelling of Alice in Wonderland, produced by Bill Osco and recommended by eleven out of ten vintage porn aficionados, is prima facie such a film. Originally rated X and subtitled either “A Musical Fantasy” or “A Musical Comedy,” Townsend’s Alice seems more like the latter. Surely, he must be taking the golden shower. In what adult’s fantasy, for one, is a robust sexual awakening undertaken via song and dance? And for another, is it not hard to sing with all that dick in your mouth?
First, one will argue Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is not an adult fantasy, but is in fact a children’s story, no matter how X-rated the retelling. Yet the retellings tell us truths (and not simply about Carroll’s putative pedophilia). Unlike a fairy tale or fable, Alice isn’t about how to be or behave as a child. Its tricks don’t trade in mores or morals, but in choices, consequences, twisted by the curious logic of caprice. In lieu of punishment, pleasure is the only accepted law. Thus, Alice is about how to be a grown-up, at least in the way children perceive these big Others, colloquially known as “Mom” and “Dad:” The magical giants who make up rules.
And so more than any children’s story, this child’s fantasy of adulthood has had lasting significance for art (see: Surrealism, all of it), for psychoanalysis (from Lacan to Luce Irigaray), and for cinema. In Czechoslovakia alone, two cult classics are culled from Alice: the stop-motion necroromance Neco z Alenky (1988), and the more loosely inspired Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970).
Still, no film pursues the pleasure principle with as deep a phenomenological commitment to double entendres as Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Sexual Fantasy.
Consider an early salvo between the titular Alice (Kristine DeBell), a librarian who does not have sex, and the White Rabbit. “I’m so confused,” says our stereotype-defying heroine. “One minute I’m in a real world and the next thing I know I’m here in a make-believe one.”
“Alice,” retorts Rabbit, “what makes you think your world is real and our is imaginary?
“Is this the real world?”
“It is if you want it to be.”
Here, the Rabbit reveals his heritage masculinity (waistcoat; pocket-watch) to be mere drag, as beneath it, he is neither authoritarian nor dualist. Also, he is naked. Soon, Alice will be too, as her adventures lead her to an immanent collapse of the imaginary and the real, the spiritual and the “big naturals.” As Deleuze wrote, this synthesis leads to “not the myth of a past people, but the story-telling of a people to come”—and come everywhere.
Alice, however, hardly knows what “come” is. Like our Valerie of the Czech New Wave, she is a sexual neophyte, borne into her bodily awakening on a stream of extremely altered consciousness. Like Valerie, she touches herself for the very first time, alone, in some enchanted forest of the real. The scene is all woods, and yet, woodless.
One wonders: Does she even need wood?
One girl’s dream may be Andrea Dworkin’s nightmare, and so it seems with this sweet, pliable woman-child—played with Golden Globes-worthy ingenue-ity by de Bell—as men do curious and curioser things to/with her, with dubious and dubiouser consent. But then, so do women, and women do it better. In the end, as though in a world dreamed by men’s rights activists, the patriarchy does not exist. It is the evil, gothic Queen who demands not Alice’s head, but head from Alice. And if the Queen demands head, one guesses that cunt’s gettin’ eaten.
Jouissance is the Frenchest word. It is impossible to translate exactly, but signifies an intolerable enjoyment, a pleasure on the pain of near-death. The holy motor of jouissance is what Lacan called lalangue, or “mother tongue,” and described as an unconscious “knowing how to do things.”
When the girl meets her Queen’s demand, lalangue meets jouissance. The English word for this is “muff-diving,” and when it happens, one forgets this was ever a musical. There is hardly a more perverse achievement.
Then, there’s this: Alice leaves wonderland, returning mermaid-like through the river back to the “real” world, to the man who wants to have sex with her, and with whom she is now awakened and willing enough to please. Having gained the whole world, she’s now losing her virginity. It is, of course, the film’s most boring scene.
8:48 a.m. Morning, azure blur. My feet all-over blistered. From the balcony of a cheap chain hotel in downtown Miami I can see tennis courts on the roof next door, and a bridge.
11:58 a.m. The Rubell Family Collection, one of the largest private stockpiles of contemporary art in America and most-visited exhibits during Art Basel Miami Beach, is conveniently located near Sir Pizza. I get a personal-size margarita and eat it all at a long stoplight. No pizza in New York ever tasted so right.
12:04 a.m. So I am walking and thinking and here is my thing with painting, to pick up where I left off at NADA. This “painting is dead” vs. “painting forever” (see: the new Kaleidoscope, with John Currin on the cover) is a reductive and linear argument. Painting has never been about the future. It is always about making history, and some histories are more realized—in and by the West—than others. Some artists still have much more to make. If you’re Kehinde Wiley, you can paint black youth in florid, monarchical portraits, and it’s a beautiful fresh challenge to the recent past. But if you’re a white guy, you can’t just do ’70s minimalism but with neon, which appears to be a trend now? Yeah, that shit looks like Barnett Newman for Asics.
12:15 p.m. This year, the Rubell’s artist in residence was Oscar Murillo (also prominently featured in this Kaleidoscope, which I picked up at OH-WOW and do recommend). I had never heard of him, but now that I google, I realize I saw him on the stairs at the A$AP Rocky party. I remember because I almost tripped, startled. He looks so much like Basquiat.
Murillo, born in 1986, was given five months to work from a 60-by-60 feet gallery plus sculpture garden at the Rubell Family Collection. Rumour says he was placed there by Stuart Shave, one of his former dealers (he’s already had three). In interviews, Murillo says the Rubells happened to come to his solo show at a New York fair last March. You decide what to believe. What we know is that almost nobody was talking about, or buying, his work last March. Now that he’s in the Rubell, everybody is talking, and prices will soar.
The Rubells are not simply buying work they believe to be good and important. The Rubells are buying artists whose work will then be “good” and “important” because it has been bought by the Rubells.
Of everything Murillo created here, five pieces—all paintings, all enormous, none particularly distinguishable—were chosen. Here, form matches intent. These paintings, three of which feature banal words (“yoga,” “chorizo”) painted over an accumulation of Twombly-ish paint and debris, are overwhelmingly large not because they’re improved by largeness, but because they are the product of largesse; they are huge because the space is huge. These paintings say you can own me only if your space is huge, too. I say maybe you can swallow that elitism but I cannot, not at the cost of the work. Because these paintings are the gigantic fruits of the non-organic supermarket: They look so good, so colourful, so fucking impressive, but you must know the smaller ones taste better.
From the statement: “Murillo’s paintings are a function of the process that creates them.”
Shut up. Really?
In the next room the paintings, by Chinese artist Zhu Jinshi, are also huge, but I think they deserve to be. They’re monumental. It seems many young painters went to the Abstract Expressionism show at the MoMa last year and got like really inspired, but Jinshi’s new work is insane. It’s more like Abstract Extinctionism, like he’s saying, you want paint? I’ll give you paint, I’ll give you all the goddamn paint. If Pollock was a drip, this guy is a cannonball. Paint, applied with both aggression and precision, gobs and globs and piles up topographically until you’re looking at a battlefield or love.
12:58 p.m. This Thomas Houseago sculpture got booty.
1:05 p.m. Out in the sculpture garden, I talk to a man whose job it is, this weekend, to keep immaculate the surface of a Bugatti designed by French artist Bernar Venet. This man is actually a Bugatti technician. A Bugatti technician is spending his weekend sham-wowing an art car because one speck of dust might betray it as something below pure creation.
I need a cigarette.
1:21 p.m. Richard Jackson’s artist statement includes the indelible maxim, “Some things are just funny.” To wit: A whole room is taken up by a silver, spinning Daffy Duck with a paint-hose for a nose; the paint is Disney-yellow, splashed and splattered everywhere. For this, Jackson filled Daffy with yellow paint and flipped a switch. Haaaaaaaaa. I’m sure he’s laughing, probably while driving a Bugatti to the bank, but the rest of us, most of us, want to feel or know or believe something.
The tiny rich children in front of me love it, but that’s because it is made for them.
1:35 p.m. I’ve seen this Cady Noland piece before. The Rubells curate a new selection every year, ostensibly according to theme, but more likely according to which investments need the most maintenance. In this case, Noland’s This Piece Has No Title Yet (1989) is so impossible to install—if you touch one of the hundreds of Budweiser cans, it will explode—that maybe it’s always here. I wouldn’t mind that. Although, since Noland’s work deals with American power, structures, and conformity, I think she should remake this one for the new Millennium, you know, with Pabst cans.
1:52 p.m. Middle-aged white guy John Miller has cast a bunch of fake old things in gold leaf and called it “A Refusal to Accept Limits.” I bet.
1:55 p.m. Gen-X white guy Nate Lowman has painted his first check ever, which just happens to be from the Rubells in the amount of $3000, and called it “First Check.” You know what, Nate Lowman? Why don’t you just cum directly on my face? It would be a better painting, and a less offensive work.
2:01 p.m. There is one major piece of craft-like art in this year’s exhibit: A pretty, discombobulatory sculpture made from braided straw, rope, and pearls. Of course it’s made by a woman. Of course. Like I said yesterday, new art made by women (and sought by buyers) is so often, so much, like craft. Whether this movement is overdue or regressive, I don’t know yet, but I can tell you this artist’s name is Maria Nepomuceno.
2:22 p.m. The pieces that get to me, in the end, are probably the smallest: Andro Wakua‘s Sun of the Sleepless II, a black mask on a stick, leaning in a corner as if to casually haunt you, and his 4:52 a.m. (Orange).
2:30 p.m. On the walls near the Rubell are posters made by Tigermilk Films. Aping perfectly the design of the Art Basel Miami Beach posters, they say, New York Rapes Miami Beach.
2:51 p.m. The new Prada store, in the Design District, appears to be made entirely out of perspex and candy. It opened, conveniently, two days before the fair.
3:12 p.m. I have under an hour to see the de la Cruz, second to the Rubell in importance, and even less desire. But it’s the “Miami model,” in which private collections become the new public museums. I can’t pretend that’s not true (especially because I’ve already said it). Besides, the old museums often house private collections, and donations, and those who collect and donate often sit on the boards of those old museums, making decisions that purport to be, but cannot be entirely, in the public interest.
So it’s important for me to see the de la Cruz, but it’s also enervating as fuck. On the first floor, I adore Felix Gonzalez-Torres, even though his string of light bulbs no longer looks new. I dig Glenn Ligon, with his coal dust where Warhol used diamond dust. But the most space is given to Rudolf Stingel, whose silver enamel paintings look like he copied them directly from the Premium Royal Deluxe American Home Wallpaper catalog at Lowe’s.
3:28 p.m. The second floor is worse. As you can see from my text messages to Dani, my roommate, I may or may not have a small aneurysm.
3:31 p.m. A fancy old woman snips at me for walking on the edge on a slightly raised platform, made from exactly the same material as the floor, because in doing so I walked within two feet of some hideous pastel styrofoam assemblages. “You don’t want to hurt the art,” she says. “Okay,” I say. She seems to be waiting for an apology, which is not forthcoming. Who is this woman?
“That woman,” says a delightful de la Cruz staffer named Layla, “is the owner.”
Layla has seashell-pink hair and gold glitter smeared around her eyes. She looks a little like Grimes. We talk. She makes music in her basement and works here during the fair because the money’s good. How good, I ask her. OK, she says. Not that good.
Layla likes romantic art. She can’t remember most artist’s names but she knows when art means something, she says, because her whole body reacts.
3:58 p.m. The place is closing but I climb quick to the third and last floor, where, in the very back corner, there is a roomful of Ana Mendieta. I love Ana Mendieta. I don’t love her just because she died tragically, at age 36, in the year and the month I was born, but that must be part of it.
I love Ana Mendieta because she buried herself alive.
Here is a series of her “earth body” works, her silhouette etched onto land, or entombed, and there is the small triptych from Untitled (Body Tracks), in which she dragged her carmine-painted carcass, frame by frame, down the pure white studio wall. I don’t know whether it’s the exhaustion, or the enervation, or the relief at being suddenly alone with an artist, but now I’m crying. I think the boy doing security is about to call me ma’am, but I don’t care. This work is why I’m here, and I do not mean “here” as in the de la Cruz.
5:45 p.m. One of the Morgan Hotel planes flies over the Delano. It bears the John Baldessari banner, and the fair’s truest slogan: “Ads imitate art. Art imitates life. Life imitates ads.”
6:00 p.m. The NADA pool party looks wicked-fun on my friends’ Instagrams, all DIS Magazine-type performance jokes and Ryan Trecartin selfies, but I am not in a participatory mood. I meant to go to two more fairs, but after the Mendietas I just didn’t. You understand.
7:30 p.m. At the Standard Hotel, where I eat with Dani and then drink with Jenna and Davey, a certain guest named, uh, Jay-Z??? is due to arrive. You can feel the social unrest. People afraid to sit. It’s the launch party for a new book, by the artists J.R. and Jose Parla, Wrinkles of the City, the city being Havana, Cuba. A pop-up cafe is selling Cuban food, which I find annoyingly co-opty until I learn it’s made by David’s (see: Friday’s lunch) and not expensive.
J.R. and Jose refuse to be associated with brands, the Standard excepted because the Standard Press is their publisher, so this party is the only unsponsored event I’ve seen all week. It doesn’t take a lot to be radical anymore.
I want to see Beyonce, but I don’t really look.
8:29 p.m. I’m drinking aureate tequila in the faded heat, happy. My friends Steph and Olivia, owners of my favourite neighbourhood store American Two Shot, are hosting a dinner at Steph’s parents’ house. We are on the very edge of the water. Light makes it poison green. Fish glimmer. Either it feels, or I feel, Gatsbyish.
All the girls and some of the boys are wearing crowns of daisies and roses, made fresh for the party this morning.
10:15 p.m. Walking across the Venetian Causeway, back to the hotel, Jenna says the bridges are too low to jump from. On a dock, a sign says “Idle Speed.” Miami in two words.
11:03 p.m. We were going to the Miami Art Museum but now we’re not. Text messages on Davey’s phone say it is like “something out of a Tom Wolfe novel.” I change. I’ve been wearing Nikes all day, and now I want leather, platforms, to not be so comfortable.
11:29 p.m. “What do you think about December 21?” asks the cab driver. I have been trying not to think about December 21. I tell him it is already the end of a world, if not the world.
“I think nothing will happen,” he says. “Unfortunately.”
12:45 p.m. The Journal thing, at the Hotel Victor, has the highest ratio of people-I-like to people-who-make-me-question-life of any party so far. Mostly I chain smoke and drink prosecco with Alice and Colin on the patio, but Colin wants to go swimming and Alice disappears, too, or I do.
One photographer, a pretty girl who’s there with the Journal, walks around snapping candids. I get nervy. I haven’t seen a candid photo in three years and I don’t want to see mine now.
Another photographer approaches Aurel Schmidt. “You think I’m going to tell you, like, I’m wearing this designer or that designer?” she snaps. “It’s all vintage. My shirt’s vintage. These shorts are vintage. I don’t care.”
1:56 p.m. Upstairs there is or has been a party for James Murphy. He has a book now, or something. Projections play noiselessly on the walls. The floor is strewn with the shards of white balloons. In one empty room, a disco ball spins.
So yes, the LCD Soundsystem party feels exactly like an LCD Soundsystem song
Like the end of a world.
3:01 a.m. I lost more friends. I found Karley. Now I’m on the roof, thinking that MDMA crystals are like adult Pop Rocks, when I should be on the beach, alone. But Karley has the best friends. Matthew, especially, I could listen to for hours, talking in his shamanic and patient way about the possibility of nothingness, the nothingness of existence, the existence of evil, the evil of capitalism, the capitalism of… everything, except he never says the word art, I think because he’s an artist. I am not sure it hasn’t been hours. I’m not tired. Or, I’m the least tired I’ve been all day.
6:05 p.m. All day I have been in a participatory art project on the phenomenology of veisalgia in the contemporary beachscape, but now it’s time to get up. Or first, to take a codeine. Then to get up. Did you know that The Hangover II was shot in Miami? Well, I think what I’ve had is The Hangover LXXXVIII. Between the near-total immobility and the hallucinations whenever I half-close my eyes, it’s like being in a k-hole at a rave but also having open-head surgery, except worse.
6:41 p.m. Codeeeeeeeine.
8:23 p.m. Enriqueta’s, the Cuban sandwich shop, is closed, so we go to Rincon Escondido around the corner. My problem was that I didn’t eat dinner last night. I say that like I only have one problem. We’re in Edgewater, but feel lost, and Rincon Escondido is right there. It turns out to be magic, one of those holes-in-the-wall that opens into exactly what you didn’t know you needed. In this case, what I need is cafe con leche and many Spanish fish dishes served by the owner herself. This is secret Miami, native Miami.
8:55 p.m. A soccer field lit white with halogen, the turf unearthly green, the boys in their shirts or no shirts, tanned skin incandescent too: This is performance in the public space at its perfectest. I love this night that feels like morning.
9:01 p.m. Between Edgewater and Wynwood even the residential streets have the mood of alleyways. Dogs bark and I believe them. All cars are black. I take a photo of a house I like, all covered in vegetation and mini lights, and two dudes yell something about “rare cactuses” that seems like code for “go back to Manhattan.”
9:04 p.m. Ten, maybe twenty steps from me there is a grown man with a giant toy gun, except the gun is not a toy, and the man, not more than 19. By the time I have processed this image from simulacrum to physical threat it’s too late to be scared. Anyway, the man doesn’t look scary and he doesn’t look at me. He gets into a black SUV and the black SUV drives on.
9:13 p.m. Here is the party for Tumblr, Paddle8, and Milk Studios’ .gif expo, Moving the Still. The .gif is 25, almost as old as I am, and I should hate it for being so much more successful but I don’t. A board of curators, including Rodarte, Richard Phillips, and Ryan Trecartin, selected the best .gifs submitted through an open call. They also made their own (or got an intern to do it, I don’t know). I love the one Inez & Vinoodh made—of a banshee suddenly appearing outside a bodega—because it looks both like an outtake from a high-concept fashion shoot and like a weird thing that happened in fleshspace two years ago and you just found it on Reddit.
The .gifs are projected in various sizes onto a cluster of white walls in a huge, blacked-out room. It is the best viewing experience I’ve had at the fair, because it is so dark, you see, that nobody looks at each other.
9:38 p.m. I hear a girl explain to her boyfriend that she likes art “with colours in it.” Well, she is the right place. Wynwood is a graphic novel-esque scene: Girls wearing plastic shark’s heads eat margarita popsicles and loiter outside palaces of graffiti; boys drive classic cars from loft to loft. On a wall, someone has painted new life mottos: “Failure is an option,” says one. “I’m never going to be famous,” says another. It is not Jenny Holzer and I feel heartened for real.
9:41 p.m. Basically a feminist martyr: I didn’t go see Azealia Banks because the party she’s playing is for that guy, Terry Richardson.
9:55 p.m. The cab driver asks me if it is always busy like this in New York, and I say it is busy but not like this, and then I say, but isn’t it just like this because of Basel? As if Miami does not exist when there are no New Yorkers to tweet about it.
10:10 p.m. I can drink again, slowly. The Maison Kitsune party is in and outside The Alchemist, on the fifth floor of the Herzog & de Meuron parking garage. There is grapefruit and Pernod in a punch bowl. There are people I know from Montreal. By this point in the fair, most parties have dropped the art, or the pretense thereof, and turned up the French electro. It sounds better with your back to it, the beach city throbbing below.
11:00 p.m. The Moncler party is at capacity. When I hear the dazed, easily confused PR girls say this to more than one person who actually works at Moncler, I believe them. I stand there because maybe we’ll get in, but also, nothing is more revealing of a certain type of person than what they’ll say to get into a party. Everybody knows the owner. Or has six friends up there and there’s no cell reception so… Or was invited by Nadine. (Where’s Nadine? Where is the owner?) Or knows the owner’s girlfriend. Or left a jacket up there. Or left and came back, was just having a cigarette, what is the problem. There is always going to be a major problem, sweetheart, if this person does not get into this party. These people are so ambitious. Imagine if they had jobs.
11:39 p.m. The night is warm and ideal and yet everybody leaving the Moncler party is wearing their new, white, quilted duvet coats, as though they just got a touch cold, how lucky to be gifted these, what a casual addition to this head-to-toe Pucci ensemble, no big deal, yeah, we were at this little party and they had these lying around and also Uma Thurman was there too bad you couldn’t make it ciao!
11:49 p.m. I really don’t need to see any more nouveau-tanned French people, but I will, because here I am, undergoing the ritual humiliation of getting into Silencio. It is, for your info, an extremely liberal interpretation of the David Lynch-inspired nightclub in Paris. It is also extraordinarily bad. There are more people waiting outside than inside, and maybe four people dancing, and although you can smoke inside and that never gets stale for me, you can smoke inside anyway, because Miami has no rule higher than fuck everybody.
12:31 a.m. A bartender at Silencio writes down a set of directions. There are the words “Free Spirits.” There is a name. My friend is trying to get coke, which I’m into, although I would never try myself. I know that I am drawing lines in the beach sand, but I don’t really believe in “finding drugs.” If drugs find me, I do them. That’s all.
1:50 a.m. So when we don’t find them it’s kind of a relief. At Westway again, where my friends Olivia and Steph of American Two Shot are having a party, I buy Jack Daniels and barely drink it and spend uncountable time just wandering. Thing begin to loop. One by one I lose my friends or vice versa. Over and over I see the same strangers, or different strangers in the same outfits, or the same strangers in different outfits. There is a girl selling cigarettes but she turns out to be a man. There are kids wearing glowsticks as jewellery; should I tell them? Should I walk up to somebody, to anybody, and say “What are you doing?” Would somebody or anybody know?
9 a.m. HAHAHAHA just kidding.
12:40 p.m. Actually, I’ve been awake this whole time. I rarely sleep in and sometimes I don’t sleep at all, and now there’s too much to think about maybe doing later. This is the first we’ve eaten. I’m with four of the other eight girls thrown into one house, ’00s MTV-styles, and we’re at David’s Cuban, a place that makes you believe there might actually be a David around. I order half a roast chicken with black beans and rice and fried plantains and a cafe con leche and I almost, almost finish it. Karley orders a salad, probably because she’s going to spend six hours of her night performing naked and painted while other people eat dinner. None of us want to miss it, but also, none of us are invited. Lauren is going to the Kurt Cobain thing. I do too, but can’t imagine crippling Weltschmerz will be conducive to my official afterparty experience.
2:05 p.m. Consider the facts: Right now, at an art fair near me, Diane von Furstenberg is having a luncheon to fete the launch of a limited-edition Evian water bottle.
3:12 p.m. NADA Miami is organized by the not-for-profit New Art Dealer’s Association and held every year at the Deauville, a hotel that feels more Sunset Boulevard than Miami Beach. It is traditionally my favourite, because can you establish a tradition by doing something twice? In nu-nu-nu Miami the answer’s yes.
3:30 p.m. It takes me exactly fifteen minutes to find a work I love and a work I can’t understand why anybody would love. Worst first: A vertical, rectangular painting, rendered in South Fla. retirement home pastels. It resembles sheets of cellophane cut and layered in oversized, overlapping patterns to create secondary, but still cheap, colours. It looks like a baby graphic designer did a gouache decoupes-inspired wedding shower invite. This can’t be explained even by my theory of art-made-for-Miami (see: yesterday’s post), because even that stuff is usually still made from something. Here I cannot see the faintest pencil-tracing of an idea. What possesses an artist to create emptiness? Nothingness is necessary, relatable, but not emptiness. This painting’s really got me down.
Soon, however, I chat up the delightful owner of Kansas Gallery, which I’ve never heard of but is blocks from my apartment in New York. I instinctively like a series of David J. Merritt’s works; well, I say instinctively, but it is also true that I’ve developed a Jasper Johns/Margiela taste for plaster. Merritt sculpts, roughly, clay shapes that recall human parts: Intestines? A vagina? Vaginas are a little been-there-bought-the-Slutever-t-shirt, but the more amorphous bits fascinate me. The gallerist, who is really from Kansas, decribes them as “organic.” Now I love. Organic is a word used to make lazy processes sound thoughtful, but here it takes on another entendre. These plasterworks whisper to you about your insides, then from them.
4:07 p.m. On the high dais, darkly clad art workers smoke. I borrow a yellow lighter from a table on which there are two yellow lighters. The guy with the first yellow lighter says to the girl with the second yellow lighter, as she hands it to me: “Hey! That’s my lighter!” Who says the art world doesn’t have a sense of humour???
5:14 p.m. “u here?” I assume Alice knows I am here, as in NADA, but it turns out she’s just landed and wants to know if I’m in Miami Beach. It also turns out she’s staying upstairs at the Deauville and feels like listening to me bitch about decorative art. Alice is a little bit magic, I think.
5:25 p.m. I tell Alice I think I wished a little too hard for the return of painting. For years it was gone, dead, simply not done. Same with drawing, says Alice. Now it’s back—but in a mostly not-new way. One of the best painters in America is Miami’s own Hernan Bas, and yet little I’m seeing here approaches his depth. My favourite painting at NADA, chez the Journal Gallery, is a huge-ass Eddie Martinez in Mondrian reds and blues with brilliant white space. The rest are mostly either: Graphic or abstract low-viscerality condo studies that render “contemporary” a genre, not an era, or paintings that think it’s really funny to be a painting in 2012, i.e. this garish question-mark series by an artist whose name I forgot on purpose.
Alice says that she went to art school, she was told not to draw. What she finds to hate is this cloying, prevalent “new” craft aesthetic; I’ve noticed it particularly, and without pleasure, in works made by women. Katharine Bernhadt’s painted portraits of rugs sold for like $20,000, despite being… painted portraits of rugs. Michelle Grabner’s gingham and needlepoint paintings were out-Pinterested only by Karin Gulbran’s ceramics. Speaking of ceramics, let’s not and say we did. This shit is like the kitten heel of art trends.
Since when was the great use of art to be useful?
5:42 p.m. Alice wants a cigarette. We step out onto the dais and into the whole diorama of Miami: The pastel sunset, glowing as if backlit, silhouetting tall palms not native to the scene. The acrylic-paint aqua pool below, and nobody swimming. The ocean coruscating beyond. For no reason at all, a carnival-type cart blaring psychedelic yacht rock. No reasons are needed. Just a minute.
6:37 p.m. If you hold the ocean up to your ear, you hear seashells.
8:00 p.m. OH-WOW Gallery‘s It Ain’t Fair, launched five years ago in then-sketchy Wynwood as the altiest of alternatives to Basel, holds its fifth and final edition in a rented space on South Beach, as if to scream, we give up! I’ve discovered some favourite artists through OH-WOW, including the tattoo artist-slash-art-artist Scott Campbell, the Puerto Rican painter Angel Otero, and Hanna Liden. I haven’t discovered a lot of favourite work. Tonight will not be the exception, although I would be curious to see Cyprien Gaillard’s work—what he calls “archeology of the future”—in public space.
8:29 p.m. A seapunk mated with a glamazon and produced the startling creature next to me, a tall blonde baby-babe made even taller by her ponytail plus acid-green scrunchie. She’s wearing vintage clothes with literal eye patches sewn onto them by her friend Jacques, and her shoes would be too much for most truck-stop strip joints. “Ever since I got to Miami,” she breathes, “I’ve just felt like sex.” Accurate. Also, her name is Signe and she doesn’t want to call her art “performance,” although it’s not “reality” either. Girl I feel you.
8:35 p.m. A very drunk-or-something young female has slumped to the floor outside the gallery. Alice and I are smoking. We try to help her, offer water. Her eyes are very blue and very kohl’d. I feel like she’s on a drug I wouldn’t do.
8:37 p.m. Some skinny cool witch with a half-shaved head is taking pictures of the slumped young female. I physically (gently!!!) stop her. “What?” she says. “I like her hat.”
I look at the hat, which is a black oversized trucker hat barnacled in big bad metal studs.
“Nobody likes that hat,” I say, and the pictures stop.
9:01 p.m. Only now do I discover the alleyway that runs north to Espanola Way from 8th, or maybe lower, saving me from literally hundreds on people on both Washington and Collins. I still have the wine we bought for the beach but didn’t drink so I down it now, all the red, feeling unconscionably euphoric. It’s bath-warm. I want.
9:44 p.m. In my preview to the fair, I said I would feel guilty if I were invited to the Visionaire/Net-a-Porter/Mr. Porter party. Then I was invited. Now I am. Artist Jonathan Horowitz has set up one of his “free stores,” in which people bring something they don’t want, or can’t use, and take away something they do and can. This is for fun, or maybe anarchist practice, and works on an honour system. It’s also about fair (not equal) trade, which only works when the disparities among the trading group are mostly imagined. Right? I’ve brought a copy of The Prophet that my friend Julia forced me to read, except I didn’t really, and take away Andrew Kuo’s What, Me Worry? still in its shrink-wrap.
I don’t take away the stack of VIP cards to this year’s new UNTITLED art fair, which is either a sick burn or extremely ill-considered marketing.
9:54 p.m. Riccardo Tisci is here, so Marina Abramovic must be too. Like, she’s probably in the bathroom, lavishly cursing the Floridian humidity and its effects on her hair.
9:56 p.m. Marina Abramovic is not in the bathroom. What is art, even?
9:57 p.m. I want to walk up to Dita Von Teese and say “Danny DeVito, I love your work!” but instead I just get some champagne.
10:40.p.m. At the obviously really fun BULLETT and OH WOW party at The Webster, our indispensable Noah W. gets caught taking photos of surprise guest Kanye, who showed up with Kim, a bulldog, and a bodyguard. The latter was none too impressed. Uh… but it’s for an Instagram retrospective?
11:20 p.m. It’s a good thing I didn’t say “I’m never going back to the Soho House again,” even though I definitively meant it, because here I am for the AmFAR party. There is a beautiful silent auction in the main room, but I am vibrating on an entirely different frequency, and my friends are at the beach. Annie is one of the hosts (also, the Rock Goddess Of Our Time).
I say hi. Then I look at the ocean and at nothing else and without thinking why I run all the way into it in my whole beautiful dress. So, that’s a party tip for you.
3:13 a.m. At the Shore Club, where the Westway is having its Miami parties, it’s a long walk from the dance floor to the bathrooms. On the last such walk I find myself just behind Terry Richardson. It’s closer than I’ve ever wanted to be. A laughing brunette says things to him I can hear, and he says things to her I can’t. “Terry,” she says, “good night. You never saw me.”
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 Art.sy 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.