The big chill

netjets-alex-katzUnusually cold weather for Miami lent the opening night festivities a somewhat spooky and sinister air. “I though it was a celebrity, but then I realized it was just some people around the space heater,” said one reveler at the Art Basel opening party, at the Delano Hotel, as a group of half naked Brazilian dancers braved the chilly December winds. Then again, it could have been Antonio Banderas.

Yet despite the cold, the crowd pressed on, like a group of tourists who had booked a late season cruise and were determined to make the most of the amenities on board.

And fancy amenities were everywhere in evidence–gifts from a recent, happier past, when ambitious plans for this week were being hatched. Netjets invited people to celebrate Alex Katz at the Raleigh hotel, posting a giant Hollywood-style sign in the sand in the hotel’s garden. Not to be outdone by the Art Basel event down the street, the dancers at this party added juggled burning torches. Mini cupcakes were emblazoned with tiny marzipan Netjets logos–a sweet touch.

Earlier in the day, in the Design District, preparations were going on for the rollout of Design Miami. Under a tent that resembled a giant lace curtain, it was all business as usual. Takashi Murakami’s operation opened up a store to sell a new line of Murakami household objets, including three giant balls, the largest almost eight feet in diamater, festooned with technicolor flowers constructed out of soft and fluffy teddy bear fur. “Is it furniture or is it art?” I inquired. “It can be anything,” the friendly Japanese PR lady obliged.

The big art opening of the evening was “The Station.” It took place in one of those sections of Miami that was a wasteland only yesterday and is suddenly a new neighborhood full of condos and shopping centers.The “exciting array of artworks,” assembled by Whitney Biennial curator Shamim Momim and the artist Nate Lowman, were presented in a building so new that our car’s navigation device couldn’t find it. The “vestiges of construction,” said the press release, lent “the event a sense of flux.”

Terence Koh’s headliner performance for the evening followed the exhibit’s flux-like — or perhaps, Fluxus-like — theme. It consisted of the artist walking around in a checkered hoodie, doing nothing. “His performance is about him not performing music,” the exuberant curatress explained. And there he was, the artist, walking around with a glass in hand, seemingly doing nothing but having a good time. “Are you performing right now?” we asked. “Yes,” he said.

There was nothing low key about the promotion of the event, however. The party and its accountrements were among the slickest, even by Miami standards. On our way out we got a goodie bag with everything a visitor might need for Art Basel weekend: a pair of rubber flip-flops, a bottle of vodka with a cocktail tumbler, and an artist-designed wallet.

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