Bienvenidos a Miami...
This week CityBeat sent me into the field to cover Art Basel in the beautiful 80-degree Miami, Fla. They opted to spring for the direct first class flight down along with a rented Lamborghini to ride up and down South Beach, but in order to keep my reporting low key I decided to drive my 2000 Toyota Camry from Cincinnati to SOBE in 18 hours straight. I met up with 1/3 of the Publico gang to escort me to all the hippest and kewlest parties in town. Art Basel is basically a million art fairs going on in Miami and the South Beach area. It is the cream of the crop for international art dealers, curators, collectors, movie stars and fashion designers, which also means a clusterfuck of weirdoes. It was as if the most beautiful people in the world mated with all the wacky willies in the world and came to South Beach to give birth to their successful freak offspring. After breaking out of the womb they immediately started to speak as if they are better than the best and harshly judge everyone and everything that intrudes their radius.
Opening night consisted of a group of truck crates that had been converted into art pieces from different galleries around the world and then placed onto the beach to attract the artist like ravers to glow sticks. Accompanied by massive styrofoam art pieces/couches and six-dollar beers made for a good atmosphere. Behind the crates a stage was erected about 100 feet from the Atlantic Ocean on which Yelle preformed some mediocre dance songs. As the crowd stood like statues, Yelle screamed in broken English to "start dancing and not be a poop."
Cincinnati's own Country Club had work at NADA, which was one of the better collections of art at the fair. One of my favorite pieces was a stainless steel ping-pong table complete with a mirror tabletop. The reflective top totally fucks with your mind and you never knew which way the ball was going. After getting some dinner at an amazing brick oven pizza restaurant where the waiter was trying to show off his pocket artwork to the Country Club members it was off to the Deitch Projects Party. Like most of the art galleries in Cincinnati, this one was in a rough neighborhood. The party was in a rented warehouse painted in zigzag black and white stripes and filled with Queer As Folk referenced artwork, sliced up dollar bills and a dance floor complete with dressed up, matching DJs.
After a couple free Grolsch beers and nasty Campari mixed drinks it was time for Karaoke. Yours truly rocked "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls and even got a complement from Le Tigre's JD Samson. Only about seven people got a chance to sing until Cincinnati's own Jimmy Baker broke the sound system due to his rocking rendition of Aerosmith's "Don't Wanna Miss A Thing." Besides the planned art parties, the nightlife in South Beach is rather ridiculous. There were movie stars like Kirsten Dunst and Mary-Kate Olson slutting it up at dive bars and old creepy locals pretending to be Keith Richards. The drink prices were bonkers — two buds and a shot of whiskey was $23, which is almost 1/4 of my per diem from CityBeat. When all else fails and your bank account is empty there is always the sketchy store clerks who sell weed from under the counter and beer after hours to take to the beach and get weird.
At the Aqua Hotel art show there was more free Grolsch and Campari, which I was sick of by then, but when it's free you keep on drinking 'til you don't mind the taste of rancid socks. The art gallery was an old art deco hotel that with each room converted into its own little art space. The colors followed along with the name and there was even a miniature pool in the middle of the garden area complete with half naked hipsters with ironic tattoos.
At Art Damage (I made the front page!) we waited in line for what seemed to be more than an hour to see Panda Bear. We were on "The List" but so was everyone so we all just stood in line and watched people get sent to the back of the line with disgruntled looks on their faces. There was a nice guy with an afro who handed out free ice-cream sandwiches while we waited. Thanks to Nike promos we were forced to listen to the same song being blasted over the outdoor speakers non-stop. After we were hoarded inside like a bunch of badly dressed cattle and given more free drinks, the bands finally started. The Sads lived up to their names, depressing the hell out of everyone and luckily only played for about 20 minutes. No Age made me relive my Punk Rock roots with their fast pace power Indie Rock about fun that made the crowd get nuts and got me a head to head collision with some other Rock dude. During the Panda Bear set we got into a scuffle with a group of young flamboyant hipsters who like to shove to soft music. I escaped with only a scratch and after the grabbing, one of the tall dudes said "Sorry Obama Won" and I asked him what he meant, and as he struggled for words I giggled and kept on grooving.
After the show it was off to the Vogue after party at the ritzy Raleigh Hotel, which offered sexy models, $9 Heinekens and a vacant pool. Within 15 minutes Britni and I were down to our Wal-Mart undergarments and doing cannonballs into the deep end. We were accompanied by a hairy Saudi man who was a bit of a character at first. Once he found out we where from Ohio the look of joy went off his face. I guess if you're not from a big city or somewhere exotic you're not worth talking to. As we were leaving the pool we were denied towels by the staff of the hotel. So we dried off with just about anything we could find, mainly napkins. The hotel attendant glared at me as I wiped my balls with the napkin.
On Saturday we finally got to the big deal Art Basel show at the Miami Beach Convention Center, which had a rock concert feel to it complete with overweight ticket scalpers standing down the street. The $35 cover charge was well worth it for more than four hours of amazing art. One of the most amazing things I saw was a mold of a man's bust that looked completely lifelike. Here are some pictures of some more work. More here from Joe Lamb.
After my mind had been blown by the incredible art and the odd amount of photos being taken non-stop, it was time to head home. It was almost depressing to drive away from the 80-degree weather and the non-stop party lifestyle, but it was time to step back into reality and come back to a winter wonderland Cincinnati. But when I did roll down the I-75 cut in the hill from Kentucky and saw that wonderful skyline it sure felt good to be home.