The New York Times
Fashion & Style
December 11, 2011
Riding, Artfully, Into The Sunset
By Guy Trebay
IT was an honest gesture at the moment Kris gave it to me, so I feel the ring is mine," said Kim Kardashian, or anyway Metisha Larocca, who happened at that particular moment to be channeling the tabloid staple at an art party staged by MoMA P.S. 1 in the waning hours of Art Basel Miami Beach, the art world's version of a reality television show.
"I think Kris is a little bit divorced from reality," added Ms. Larocca, whose resemblance, in her little bandage dress, to the actual Ms. Kardashian was eerily authentic.
This was a week ago Saturday, on the pool deck of the Mondrian South Beach. There, against a backdrop of the Miami skyline's Technicolor dusk theatrics, a lineup of more than two dozen Kim Kardashians struck poses for an invited mob of collectors, journalists, curators, photographers and the usual assortment of art-world peripherals, like the transvestite D.J. Honey Dijon.
Rumps proffered, tube tops strained to the D-cup limit, complexions a uniform spray-on hue characteristic of the citrus state, the faux Kardashians gave the crowd their pneumatic all.
But why say faux? Is an imitation Kardashian any phonier than the real? It's the kind of question that finds a natural setting at Art Basel Miami Beach, the annual art fair slash millionaire mosh pit slash cross-platform branding frenzy that provided the pretext for the P.S. 1 event.
The backdrop was a party celebrating the artists Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin. Rather than rest on their laurels drinking cucumber vodka cocktails, Ms. Fitch and Mr. Trecartin turned over the evening to the editors of DIS, a multimedia art magazine whose stated mission is to "dissolve conventions, distort realities and disturb ideologies."
The extent to which ideologies are critiqued at Art Basel Miami Beach is seriously open to question. Now in its 10th year, the fair has stealthily evolved from a simple trade fair into a holy gathering on the annual pilgrimage route of the super rich. (It's old news by now that the number of private jets landing this time each year at the Opa-Locka Airport for Art Basel Miami Beach rivals those at the Super Bowl.)
The art for Art Basel Miami Beach, which ran from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, was provided by 260 galleries from 30 countries spread across 5 of the 7 continents. (No galleries in Antarctica yet.) By every account, the art sold well.
Significantly, much of it sold to prosperous Americans who, having poked their noses out of the austerity closet, are back and buying again. "We sold 90 percent to American collections," said Arne Ehmann, of the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, noting that this marked a shift from recent years, when the fair tended to rely on buyers from the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), or at least from the first two letters of that acronym.
More than 50,000 visitors turned out this year, among them elite collectors who arrived early to partake of the V.I.P. viewings widely characterized as Black Friday for the 0.001 percent. Most were apparently well versed in the customs and folkways of contemporary art. In other words, they seemed fully subscribed to Andy Warhol's dictum that business art is the best art. And they made it clear that the shock tactics of an earlier era now barely elicited a yawn.
Thus many visitors ambled along the aisles without glancing up at the artist Ryan McGinley's immense photograph "Turken and Tampon," a disturbing image of a naked woman on her back, a string dangling from her genitals and a turkey alongside her.
Thus a group from the prestigious Gulliver school looked less titillated than bored as an instructor led them through a booth featuring "Amigos," an installation by the artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset that recreated a gay sauna.
Thus those who made the trek from Miami Beach into the nearby Design District to catch the artist Miru Kim's installation "The Pig That Therefore I Am" tended not to linger long on the sight of Ms. Kim bedded down in a pen with live porcine companions. And that was understandable, in a way. Parking is hard to find in that part of town.
The parties that are one of the main reasons this fair gained traction over the last decade are now so numerous that multiple events compete for the same restaurants, time slots, guest lists, D.J.'s and even - in the case of a new Herzog & de Meuron structure built last year on a dodgy part of Lincoln Road - the same parking garage.
At a party Ferrari gave at 1111 Lincoln Road, the conga line of semi-socialites and faded celebrities like Val Kilmer was almost but not quite as impressive as the line of quarter-million-dollar cars idling while their owners waited for a parking valet.
How often, after all, does one see 25 Ferraris all in a row? How often does one find impossible pairings like Paris Hilton seated in the same room as the elegant Princess Firyal of Jordan, as happened at a party given the next night by the real estate developer Aby Rosen at the Dutch, a new restaurant in the W South Beach. "I bought a Currin today," Mr. Rosen told a reporter, referring to John Currin, a modish painter who specializes in sexualized images of women clad in art historical reference and very little else.
As Mr. Rosen said that, Catherine Zeta-Jones squeezed past, followed in short order by the billionaire collector Eli Broad, the arts impresario Yvonne Force Villareal, the model Stephanie Seymour, the Miami Heat team president Pat Riley and the artist Damien Hirst. The boldface parade brought to mind the title of one of Mr. Hirst's publications: "I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, With Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now."
And, while Art Basel Miami Beach takes place in a city where nearly a third of the population lives below the poverty line, the economic woes besetting much of the world seemed far off this week. It was coincidence, of course, that the main fair saw peak crowds on World AIDS Day, also known since 1989 as "Day Without Art." And it was a further coincidence that, on the night of a dinner party given at the Raleigh hotel by the Kingdom of Morocco (an event where a Maybach had been placed on a platform in the middle of the pool), Maybach's parent company announced it was discontinuing the brand.
And it may also have been a coincidence that reports filtered through Twitter and Facebook of an Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach were hard to confirm. True, there was a gallery in a building not far from the Miami Convention Center where protest art of some sort could be seen if one peered through a window. But every time a reporter stopped by, it was closed.
"We're in crazy times," Mr. Hirst said early in the week. "I've been arrogant, and I've been humble in my career. And at this point, you can't tell where we're heading, so I'm just going to ride it wherever it goes."