Last year sad old party boy Jay McInerney went to Art Basel Miami Beach, the American version of the fabulous Swiss art fair, and dutifully chronicled the schmoozy, hideous glitz of its high-end billionaire clientele, its so-un-self-aware-it's-almost-hip pretension, its insanely high sales figures. What a horror show it was! A horror show that stands to be repeated this year (December 4th - 7th) except for one tiny problem: ain't but nobody buyin' art in these penurious and precarious times. So what will the champagne and caviar-dribbled festivities look like compared to last year? We'll take some of our favorite McInerney anecdotes from last year and reimagine them for this ruined age after the jump.
That Was Then: "'It’s a feeding frenzy,' he says. He mentions some big sales. 'Larry sold that Prince in like the first 10 minutes for one point seven,' he says, referring to Richard Prince’s new De Kooning homage/appropriation at dealer Larry Gagosian’s booth."
This Is Now: First, "one point seven" means a buck seventy. The feeding frenzy means that everyone is desperately trying to cram fancy hors d'oeuvres in their pockets and purses to spirit them away to their hotel room fridge. There they'll stay until it's time to go and they eat them furtively on the plane ride home, too scared to pay $7 for onboard snacks. The only "De Kooning homage/appropriations" will be the blurry Women that dot Collins Avenue, a far cry from...
That Was Then: "'Buddy of mine just called me. He wants to send over this sensational hooker,' he says. 'I don’t know. I can’t make up my mind. She’s only $1,500, but I was out all night last night, and I’ve got a big day tomorrow.'"
This Is Now: That buddy got hisself in a whole mess of trouble and illicit hooker sex just isn't what it used to be. Plus, $1,500??? For one night? Puhhleeze. Go see one of the blurries on Collins and get de Pooning of your now destroyed life.
That Was Then: "In 2005, Cohen bought Damien Hirst’s shark in formaldehyde—one of the great icons of our era and a too-perfect übercapitalist totem—for the then-spectacular sum of $8 million. (It now seems like a bargain.) Hirst himself isn’t present, as far as I know (last year Paul McCarthy famously remarked that attending the fair as an artist was like watching your parents fuck), though I suspect he would approve of the spectacle, with its monumental scale and exuberant commercialism. One booth features $1,500 silk-screen prints of Hirst’s diamond-studded platinum skull, which recently set a record price for a work sold by a living artist, going for a reported $100 million."
This Is Now: Um, basically just none of that will happen. Damien Hirst and his robo glasses will go sulk it up with the rest of his YBA buddies (I hope at least). Diamond-studded platinum skulls will be picked apart for pawn shop scrap and everyone will buy nice little cheery paintings of seasides and wooded glens and stuff instead. And our übercapitalist totem shark friend, submerged in formaldehyde? Well unfortunately he came alive a couple months back and pretty much devoured everyone. $8 million doesn't feel like a bargain, all over again!
That Was Then: "'This is the coolest installation here,' he says. 'ShanghART, which is the top gallery in Shanghai, has reproduced an actual Chinese supermarket, right down to the cash register.' Lynne shows me his receipt, the authenticating document. 'Three bucks,' he says. 'You’ve got to check it out.' Needless to say, I rush right over to admire this gleaming faux mini-mart, with its orderly rows of empty noodle packets and empty soda cans. It’s a slick opportunity to bust my cherry at Miami Basel: buying a few empty cigarette packs along with an empty Durex condom box embroidered with Chinese characters, saving my receipt, and getting 50 cents change for my fiver. It costs half of what I paid for my mango smoothie at the Raleigh hotel this morning."
This Is Now: Haha! Kitschy China chic! Isn't it clever to think that just one short year ago, we were such young saplings that we hadn't yet started cowering in our Olympic boots over the prospect of China's plan to become an übercapitalist totem and stomp us all into subservient bits! I suspect there will be a little more fear of non-God this year toward the Chinese and their cutesy endeavors. This year, look for such artsy items as: Job In Beijing, and Every Product Ever Made.
That Was Then: "She has prepared a breakfast of 2,000 peeled eggs, 2,000 croissants, 2,000 strips of bacon—and no utensils. Guests are advised to don the surgical gloves laid out at the tables, and many do, digging into the trough of bacon. It has to count as one of the better moments of the week: hundreds of wealthy, cultured Babelites eating breakfast with their hands."
This Is Now: Oh man. After so many dangerous years spent digging into the trough of bacon, our art-collecting captains of industry will probably feel just a little bit silly (but in a smug way!) about pretending to be poor animals. Maybe as an act of deference, they'll forgo the gloves this year.
That Was Then: "'The feeling that you’re missing things,' Jennifer Rubell [niece of Studio 54 impresario Steve] tells me, 'has become the defining Art Basel Miami emotion.'"
This Is Now: Actually, that'll stay the same. Except it will mean something completely different.