Kaitlin Phillips around the 20th Art Basel Miami Beach

LARRY GAGOSIAN DIDN’T FLY DOWN for the twentieth anniversary of Art Basel Miami Beach.This was described to me by Vanity Fair’s art reporter Nate Freeman as “gossip.” And perhaps, were I an art reporter, it would strike me as such.

At a cocktail party for the gallery, Derek Blasberg—Gagosian employee and career walker to underweight celebrities—was in his element, padding around Karlie Kloss’s twenty-three-million-dollar mansion barefoot. He joked about accidentally picking up plantar warts from the floor. “Europeans say it in a sexier way: verruca.” (Whether this is suspicious or not, I shan’t comment on, but he’s correct: It’s Verruca plantaris.)

The tech artist Sarah Meyohas—who once joked on Instagram that her banker siblings, after buying British Steel, were “great steel sculptors!”—wore an eyelet white dress and pageboy haircut, a combination that enhanced her naïveté, evoking a girl on her confirmation day. She admitted that last year’s party at Karlie Kloss’s was a bit dull. I wondered aloud if last year it still seemed uncouth, politically, to rub shoulders with a member of the Trump clan. Meyohas assured me Kloss doesn’t have “anything” to do with that. I didn’t invite her to explain since I don’t like to ask people questions I know the answer to. I imagined Kloss would agree that she didn’t have anything to do with all that and it’s polite to maintain the delusions of your hostess while you’re in her living room. (It has been reported in most major newspapers that Kloss’s infamous sister-in-law lives a few minutes down the road.)

The model RJ King, wearing two shirts by Dior, was fresh off the runway for Dolce & Gabbana. He said he refused to tag the brand on Instagram. “Male models. They get to be themselves,” he explained, after hugging Gagosian’s Antwaun Sargent.

I wandered past Gagosian artist and American filmmaker Harmony Korine—who used to have a once-in-a-generation talent for portraying poor people as the most interesting people you’ll never meet—out to look at the knife-edge pool, a design popular for creating a perfect mirror reflection, a metaphor too rich for me.

I had a few glasses of champagne in a water glass. The bartender apologized. “Champagne,” he said, “is popular at this party.” Waiting for an Uber outside, I watched Serena Williams glide out of an SUV in a skin-tight pop pink mini and stomper Gucci boots.

“St. Barths was horrible this year,” said collector Eleanor Cayre, in four-inch stiletto heels, and bedazzled jorts and a black tank top with enough cutouts to be mistaken for a swimsuit. “But at least Beeple was nice.” She had tried to get Beeple interested in collecting art, but Beeple was not interested in collecting art.

Eleanor had invited me to a dinner at an Italian restaurant with a few dealers. (She didn’t throw her annual dealer’s party because she’d been on a plane to or from Israel, which she assured me I could visit “and still be a hater.”) As with everything Eleanor hosts, the table of twenty or so had a convivial if not flat-out familial vibe, most everyone having just left the gauntlet of the fair. (She had promised, correctly, a “cute crowd” of friends, not a “gallery dinner.”)

The table lapsed into a discussion, probably my fault, of everyone’s reputation in the art world. It quickly became apparent that no one there was going to accuse another of having a good reputation. My client Alexander Shulan, of Lomex Gallery, accused Peter Currie of Galerie Buchholz, who sat across the table, of being “lawful evil.” Eleanor said that this reporter’s reputation was much, much worse, and smartly suggested that Peter is actually known for being extremely “well mannered . . . despite breaking many hearts.” Peter said, in a stylish retort, that he wasn’t ambitious. It was agreed by all that having the reputation of being ambitious is the worst kind of reputation. Eleanor says she has warned her children—in an object lesson in social life—that so-and-so is “too ambitious.”

“My reputation is in the cellar!” Daniel Buchholz shouted amiably. His mock guileless affect is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the most winning in the art world. He was, for the rest of the night, the only person who seemed to be having, without reservation, a good time. (His reputation was described to me as that of “a killer.”)

Artist Jamian Juliano-Villani—whom, technically, I represent, in exchange for a handshake deal for a painting of horse heads that hasn’t materialized—handed me her phone to read. (“Two things I hate,” texted Larry Gagosian. “Art fairs and Miami.”) She was slack-jawed, in order that Fernando Mesta, of Gaga Gallery, could get a look at her dental situation. “I see the rot,” he confirmed. “Are you in pain?” “Constant pain,” she confirmed.

I was roundly admonished for not going to the fairs. Whatever. I used to rep art fairs, and I’ll never step foot in an art fair again for reasons that I imagine I signed an NDA not to print here.

What can I report? The furniture designer Ben Ganz, whose bubblegum-colored storage units on wheels are at Design Miami, said that he saw a “sad-looking” Raf Simons getting too close to artworks at the fair. A friend, reading the tabloids on the beach, texted to say that Pink, the singer, bought a painting by a monkey that benefitted other monkeys. I’ll admit I would have liked to see the giant bowl of eggs, by Jeff Koons, which Jamian said was 7.5 million. “It’s meaningless but urgent and horny,” said Daniel. Jamian wants to put it in O’Flaherty’s, her gallery that is (for now) without four walls.

“People can put gum on it when they walk in, like a good-luck charm,” she said, laughing.

“Well, Venus is here,” said Jed Moch, who works at Hauser & Wirth, when I said I’d seen Serena at Gagosian’s party. He encouraged me to eat food off a tray, and then said, archly, “Now you’ve eaten Carbone.” He was correct that I’ve never bothered to eat at Carbone, which was half the reason I stopped by—that and the gallery was throwing a party for Henry Taylor, and I’ve always thought of Henry Taylor as fun. This was somewhat put into perspective when I asked Henry’s artist liaison if Henry is easy to liaise. She paused so long I thought she forgot the question, only to tactfully respond, “All artists are hard to liaise.”

I’m drinking water at this point and within ten minutes I’m in a car to Twist—the best bar in the world, people like to say, when they mean it’s the best bar if where you are is working as an art worker at Art Basel Miami Beach—with Jed and a gallerist and her artist, neither of whom I’d heard of. They were excited about a woman they’d met at Carbone, and whom they were affectionately referring to as the “NBA fucker.” “She boned Tom before Gisele. She wants to invite us to her ex’s business meeting,” said the gallerist. The artist nodded plaintively. “You never know what happens and where.”

They were looking for the “street version” of cocaine. For a few minutes they tried to do this by not saying the word cocaine. Eventually, due in part to Jed pretending not to understand what they wanted, they acquiesced to saying it over and over.

At the concierge desk of the Four Seasons in North Beach an art-world professional was complaining about a “low buzzing sound” coming from inside his room. His room may or may not have cost the average $1,839, depending on whether he sprung for an ocean view or a view of the city. “It was unacceptable,” he explained, because he had “clients coming in and out.” I was glad it wasn’t my job to “investigate” the sound of what was probably the air conditioner. At my place in South Beach—$187 a night, plus an unexpected surcharge of $70—I was offered a complimentary drink upon arrival. When handed the red slush, I asked what it was. “A mixture of fruit and alcohol,” the front desk clerk told me cheerfully. I drank it, thirsty from my flight.

It seems obvious now that I’m writing up an inane two days of my life where I barely had any fun; if you’re staying in a hotel room that isn’t as nice as your apartment, you shouldn’t be on vacation.

On Wednesday night, stashing a pair of Jimmy Choos in her purse, the writer Natasha Stagg suggested we do something outré and walk forty minutes through a posh section of residential Miami. We were disappointed to learn the definition of mansion is subjective (“a large, impressive house”), but we marveled at the piles anyway, by pool light or porch lamp, not an owner in sight, no one wobbling on a grotesquely modern chair under harsh lighting (why do the superrich opt for track lights?), their presence felt only in the pains they’ve taken to keep interlopers like us from banjaxing their peace (a uniformed security guard in a lawn chair said he didn’t speak English) and their quest for expansion (Latino construction workers in empty lots).

“I guess Miami is a place where you come to make your dreams come true,” said Natasha evenly. “But how? Basketball? Drugs?”

The guard manning the bridge to the Sunset Islands, a “luxury community . . . of gated homes,” let us through with a blurry glance at the invitation on my iPhone to a dinner hosted by Pilar Corrias and Eva Presenhuber celebrating Tschabalala Self, which turned out to be a seated buffet at the home of a couple who owns six of her works. The PR girls at the door wielded neither iPads nor a list, assuming (correctly, as is often the case) that if we’d made it this far we would not be turned away from this “historically significant” Miami house, overlooking Biscayne Bay.

Tony Tamer gave the house tour himself. Like the homes of rich people all over the world the toilet bowl was avant-garde (hot to the ass cheeks, etc.), the bookshelves intellectually modest (Water for Elephants, Bill Bryson) and the art collection enviable only for its supreme legibility (Yayoi Kusama chess set, Richard Prince nurse, Damien Hirst butterflies).

“It’s a Joe Bradley,” Tony said, of an artwork in his bedroom. “It’s a nice Joe Bradley,” said someone with garish man highlights à la 2002. “It’s a great Joe Bradley,” echoed another.

One of his daughters had a text sculpture on her wall that read NEVER ENOUGH. (When I pointed this out to a woman at dinner she said, “Well, there are four daughters, so one of them inevitably is a Never Enough daughter.”)

I marveled at a freestanding sculpture of a head sitting atop the bayside pool, then I ate some salmon.

Vogue’s Tonne Goodman looked like a cult leader in white silk cargo pants and a billowy white blazer and a giant plastic chain for her iPhone. We were at a cocktail party to hear about the Met’s plans for Modern and Contemporary Art. All I heard about the future of modern and contemporary art at the Met is that Cecily Brown will have a show there, which makes the future seem brighter than it is.

What else? It was a crowded cocktail party, anyone I bothered to listen to was saying something stupid:

A guy I see at every party—in New York, in Miami, in Los Angeles—whom I can only describe as not a brain, said he had thought about buying something at the fair. He said he was going to a party later that was at TBC. (I didn’t enlighten him.)

A drone “exhibit”—at Sky Yard? by Studio Drift? It was hard to tell—was organized across from the Met party. I’m assuming there wasn’t an affiliation. A star constellation spelled out SUPPORT in the sky, the rest was obscured by a building. “Support what?” said the man in front of me in a polo, taking a picture anyway. “I can’t support it if I don’t know what it is.”

A woman talking to a Black artist noted, at the bar, “It’s so crazy that you have integrity of the mind,” to which the artist replied, “. . . I have friends too.” She wasn’t even being sarcastic.

At the door of the Karma party was a burly man, holding a stapled paper list, with a tattoo that read IF IT IS TO BE IT IS UP TO ME.

I wasn’t on the list. He let me in when I showed him a text from Brendan Dugan.

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