Art Basel Miami Beach at 10
Ten years ago, organizer Samuel Keller persuaded Miami Beach to welcome a crowd of Swiss art freaks to town, transforming overnight a city derided as a cultural desert into the contemporary art world's version of Vegas.
It's hard to believe Art Basel has already been landing in the Big Mango every December for a decade. The tenth-anniversary edition, which runs Thursday through Sunday, is bigger than anything at MGM Grand or the Bellagio, with 250 of the world's top galleries packing the Miami Beach Convention Center and more than a dozen satellite fairs across town — from Wynwood to the Design District to South Beach and points in between — luring hundreds of others.
As the Magic City's only full-time art critic, I've survived every edition of Basel except the inaugural event. The fair's anniversary is the perfect hook to revisit a decade of my fondest Basel memories — and most lingering art fair nightmares — and to hear the recollections of Miami's top artists, dealers, and curators who have lived through the past eye-opening, debauched, frantic years of high-art madness.
While we look back at the best and worst of Basel, don't forget to check out the guide to this year's best events on page 10 or online at bit.ly/baselevents.
Impractical Jokers "Where's Larry" Tour Starring The Tenderloins
TicketsSat., May. 7, 10:00pm
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
TicketsTue., May. 10, 8:00pm
A Subtle Bent On Deconstruction By Cliff Burgess
TicketsWed., May. 11, 7:30pm
Rupaul's Drag Race: Battle Of The Seasons
TicketsWed., May. 11, 9:00pm
Spin Moves by Ken Weitzman
TicketsThu., May. 12, 7:30pm
Best Basel Bargains: Vodou Steals and Shepard Fairey
Last year the art world was stunned when a California man learned that two boxes he had purchased for $45 at a garage sale were worth $200 million. Rick Norsigian, a commercial house painter, had accidentally bought 65 glass plates of Ansel Adams's photographic negatives — the wet dream of any Antiques Roadshow addict.
Steals like that might seem as realistic as unicorn sightings amid the million-dollar sales at Basel, but believe me, they do happen. Six years ago, I hit the jackpot for less than the $35 cost of a Basel ticket.
I was slumming in Wynwood when I stopped outside Grubstake Good Works, a nonprofit thrift shop, to grab a bite from a hotdog cart. In the window, I spied what appeared to be the work of local artist Edouard Duval-Carrié, whose works are in the permanent collections of the Miami Art Museum, the Bass, and the Frost.
The asking price was $30, but short on funds, I yakked owner Heather Klinker down to $20. Later I took the piece down the road to the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery. "It's one of Edouard's sculptures of the vodou god of the sea," Steinbaum said, adding it was worth at least $500. "Boy, you did great!"
Afterward I asked Duval-Carrié how he felt about his work being sold at a thrift shop. "I was wondering where that thing went. One of them was missing from my studio and I thought maybe a delivery person or one of the creepy characters around here might have walked off with it," he cracked.
Klinker later told me the sculpture came from the estate of an elderly woman in North Miami Beach.
I'm not alone in finding good fortune amid the craven overspending. Local dealer Anthony Spinello nabbed a nifty Shepard Fairey piece at the Blueprint for Space show at ArtCenter/South Florida in 2009.
"I bought one of his amazing silkscreen-on-wood pieces called Defiant Youth, with a picture of Martha Cooper," he says. "It was one of an edition of two, and the image had been displayed outside Deitch's last exhibit in New York. I paid $1,500 for it."
Spinello doesn't know what it's worth today, but the image has become one of Fairey's best-known works after being plastered on T-shirts. The dealer's copy is one of only two original images.
Price aside, sometimes Basel's mind-blowing array of works yields the right gift for Miami collectors. Take Grela Orihuela, co-originator of Miami's Wet Heat Project, who found just what she needed to hearten partner Bill Bilowit one year when he was too ill to attend Basel.
"I saw a drawing by Miami's Beatriz Monteavaro with a little guy and a lizard creature and knew it would cheer him up," she says. "I paid several hundred dollars for the drawing, and Bill fell in love with it."
Best Satellite Fair Debuts: Blow This Mother Fucker Up
With renegade street projects mushrooming from every nook and cranny during Basel week, the highlights often aren't actually inside the Miami Beach Convention Center but at the dozens of satellites. Some of those fair's debuts have laser-engraved themselves in our memory.
Take 2007. Wynwood was bursting at the seams. Art Miami had thrown in the towel, abandoning its traditional January date to join the Basel fray.
And Primary Flight, a curated mural project by more than 20 local and visiting artists, had its breakout edition. The idea of graffiti artists taking over Wynwood has in many ways shaped the district to this day, says Primary Flight's founder, BooksIIII Bischof. "It was like five guys showing up with their parents' car and a ladder, and now fast-forward five years later and every bomber and tagger wants to paint here."
Spinello, the local dealer, meanwhile, raised eyebrows the same year with his freshly minted Littlest Sister 07, a microfair version of Basel replete with booths created by the same folks who outfit the Miami Beach mega-edition. The dealer also hijacked Basel's colors and branding and featured tons of small-scale works by local talent that quickly flew off the shelves. "It was a pain in the ass to organize but turned out very successful," he says.
My favorite debut also happened in 2007, right down the street from Primary Flight: the inaugural, "guerrilla-style" Fountain Fair.
When I first walked inside, artists Melissa Lockwood and Rachel Hoffman were shimmying in their scanties to a Madonna tune. Lockwood dangled inside a silvery cocoon suspended from the ceiling on heavy chains. In front of her, Hoffman, clad in a red bikini and pointy devil horns jutting from her breasts, swayed hypnotically.
As Hoffman whirled like a dervish, North Carolina artist Sean Pace stared at her from across the room. The stupefied Pace was standing in front of his Super Natural, a Louisville slugger with a sawed-off shotgun affixed to it. "I wish I would have brought my machine-gun sculpture that shoots rubber chickens into walls at 90 miles an hour," he croaked.
Suddenly Greg Haberny pulled me over to his booth to show me a rejection letter from New York's Museum of Modern Art, pooh-poohing his proposal for an installation called Blow This Mother Fucker Up.
The letter was authentic, signed by a MOMA trustee who rails against Haberny's plans to piss on a Monet masterpiece and paint a "hairy beaver" between the legs of Lautrec's The Seated Clowness and then declines to accept the artist's offer to pay for booze and hookers for museum janitors. Haberny pointed to the line calling his project "revolting" and beamed.
Worst Exhibits: Norwegian Hand Thieves and Ghetto Cruisers
Amid all the eye-poppingly amazing work on display, there is always an exhibit (or two or three) that makes your eyes bleed instead.
"The weirdest thing I've seen was this taxidermy sculpture of life-size horses having crazy sex," recalls Chris Oh of Primary Projects.
I've seen weirder. Take 2006, when I encountered Norwegian artist Morten Viskum dressed in full Catholic priest regalia at Edge Zones. When I asked him if he was a real priest, Viskum said he had dressed that way to attract people to his show. Then Viskum told me he had become famous in Norway for emptying olive jars and replacing the contents with dead baby rats before returning them to grocery shelves. The pseudo holy man went on to crucify rodents as part of his bizarre oeuvre.
The conceptual kook led me over to a series of sinfully horrid abstract works that looked like preschoolers' messy finger paintings. Viskum sidled up to me and whipped out a picture of a severed hand. "Ten years ago, I found a human hand and started making abstract paintings with it," he whispered.
Creepy? Hell, yeah. But guys like Viskum also annoy the more serious practitioners at Basel. "The hoopla, artists looking for that moment of fame, those artists desperate to find spaces to become part of Art Basel Week... it's sad to see," says Adalberto Delgado, cofounder and curator of the alternative space 6th Street Container in Little Havana.
Another classic catastrophe came in 2007 with a car-wreck-cum-jungle installation by local artist Maitejosune Urrechaga called Mind the Snails. Urrechaga took a 1995 Mazda MX-3, planted ficus, ferns, and palms in the jalopy's trunk, and slathered on copious coats of acid cranberry, cobalt, and lemon-yellow hues. Then she unceremoniously plopped it next to Gallery Diet and across from the much-trumpeted Wynwood debut of Art Miami.
The only people who embraced her project were the homeless who encamped in it overnight, leaving the car full of empty beer bottles and the smell of urine. When Diet's owner, Nina Johnson, found the piece, she begged Urrechaga not to leave the wreck in front of her gallery. "It was out here for a couple of nights, and homeless people were sleeping and doing drugs inside," Johnson protested.
Three squad cars soon arrived and a crowd gathered. Artist Beatriz Monteavaro, who has a studio next to Diet, shook her head. "It's becoming a free-for-all here. This is unacceptable. It's like someone taking a shit in front of your house. You know it's funny, yet sad," Monteavaro said.
The cops were also unimpressed. They ticketed Urrechaga's tagless rattletrap and had it impounded.
Worst Money Woes: College Tuition for Hotel Rooms
If Art Basel had a theme song, the O'Jays' "For the Love of Money" would be a frontrunner.
When a half-billion smackers are up for grabs during the fair every year, artistic ambition often takes a back seat to cutthroat capitalism gone wild.
That financial madness starts at the top; if you've ever wondered why so many satellite fairs have emerged or why dealers jack up prices into the stratosphere inside Basel's main fair, here's the answer: A booth inside the Miami Beach Convention Center commands at least $30,000 for about 540 square feet. That's beyond Tokyo-real-estate pricey.
Side costs, meanwhile, have ratcheted up every year to match, peaking in the years before the real estate bubble popped in 2008. In December 2005, for instance, one night in the Ritz-Carlton's Lanai Room ran $989; a penthouse during Basel weekend, meanwhile, went for a staggering five grand a night — a $2,000 markup from normal weeks; and a bungalow at the Shore Club cost $3,500 per night, with a four-day minimum stay. Yes, that was a $14,000 bill for the mini art break.
(The recession hasn't killed the madness. A standard ocean-view room at the Ritz runs $1,300, with a four-day minimum this year. A Sky Terrace Suite at the Mondrian costs $5,100 per night. Hotels on the Beach are already sold out.)
Beginning in 2006, those prices ignited a mad dash to the cheaper rents of Wynwood, where a rapid gentrification left its own casualties behind. I saw it firsthand that year.
I lived in an apartment on NW 23rd Street, around the corner from the Fredric Snitzer Gallery and down the block from Locust Projects. Two months before Basel, my landlords told me that someone was purchasing their building to convert one of the apartments into a gallery.
For weeks, workers hammered and drilled around the clock to ready the space, called Lemon Sky Projects. The new owner was a budding artist who bought the building for more than $500,000 — twice the amount the previous owners had paid a few years earlier.
It turned out Lemon Sky's one and only exhibit next door to my pad was a decent show called "Toffee Armistice." I even enjoyed seeing a work by Banksy outside my window for a while.
But the art reverie was shattered the week before Basel when my landlady told me a French dealer was desperate to rent my place. Apparently she had been offered enough cash to ask if I would stay at a hotel during Basel and have my belongings placed in storage. She added she would give me two months of free rent if I agreed.
The problem of rising rents and the onset of gentrification have also affected dealers such as Spinello, who has undergone several relocations. Instead of letting the local art scene evolve organically, the explosion of Basel wealth has let one-and-done carpetbaggers jack up rates, buy up neighborhoods, and then abandon the scene.
"They ended up cutting the strings too soon," Spinello observes. "You had these people unaware of the local landscape thinking they would make money because of Basel's presence here."
Best Local Artists to Emerge: FriendsWithYou
Is it possible for a local artist to rise above the sheer cacophony of Basel? Look no further than 2006's "Skywalker Parade," when the Magic City's biggest Basel breakout stars, FriendsWithYou, burst onto the national scene.
They weren't the first to smash the Basel ceiling. Locals such as Hernan Bas had rocketed to international stardom at earlier fairs. And they haven't been the last. Just last year, street artist Typoe drilled eye sockets with his sculpture of a skull vomiting confetti, which earned him a spot alongside artists such as Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat in a new book titled Skull Style.
But it was FriendsWithYou's conceptual tag team — Sam Borkson and Arturo "Tury" Sandoval III — that made my favorite Basel ascent with their procession of 18 hot-air balloons, some as large as 60 feet long, along the shoreline on South Beach. Their "Skywalkers" included a towering volcano, a fanged 20-foot rabbit, and a constellation of cosmic shapes that looked like wacky black beans.
Borne aloft by art collaborators, family, friends, and tourists who jumped in at the last moment, the duo's parade was led by the Hialeah Senior High School marching band blaring a tune composed by Tury's father, jazz saxophonist Arturo Sandoval.
"I love seeing Miami heads getting shine, especially in these supersaturated art happenings," local street artist Ahol Sniffs Glue says. "FriendsWithYou represent pretty hard every year for this town."
Borkson and Sandoval's parade nearly didn't come off, though. The pair was left scrambling to fill their balloons with gas after one of the few helium outlets in the nation folded that year. "It was a crazy mission," Borkson recalls. "We found out that the helium supply is mostly reserved for hospital use, and what was available had almost been used up for the Macy's parade." At the last moment, they found a company willing to sell 20,000 cubic feet of the gas.
Borkson and Sandoval started Friends-WithYou in 2002 when they made a line of plush toys with names like Bubble Gump, Malfi, and Albino Squid that they created as "amulets to bring people luck."
But since moving into the realm of interactive installations, they've taken off. "They are inventive and playful and continue to intrigue me with their interventions into everyday life," says the Museum of Contemporary Art's executive director, Bonnie Clearwater, who gave them their first museum show.
Their trajectory shows that the Magic City's homegrown talent can use Basel to grow their audience, Spinello says. "When you have put at least 10,000 hours of work into doing what you love to become successful, part of it can be credited by Basel's presence here, but we work hard year-round in Miami."
Best Celebrity Sightings: Porn Midgets and Keanu
Although the 305 can be as snooty as invading Eurotrash when it comes to the tide of poseurs lapping up on our shores every December, Miami is a starfucker at heart. Deep down, seeing the likes of Russell Simmons, Jay-Z, the Beastie Boys, and Adrien Brody buying art gets the most cynical paint-slinger's blood pumping. Exhibits, artists, and owners every year swap sightings of celebs — from Sly Stallone and Jennifer Flavin to Pharrell Williams and Brad Pitt.
"Isabella Rossellini came to my show at Dorsch," brags local experimental filmmaker Clifton Childree.
Adds Kevin Arrow, a Miami artist who has worked at the Museum of Contemporary Art for 15 years: "Last year I was wandering through the Miami Beach Convention Center and I bumped into Mike D of the Beastie Boys. We spoke for a minute, and I gave him a copy of my zine."
Keanu Reeves is the star who most impressed the Wet Heat Project's Orihuela, "just because he was genuinely interested in the art, not just going through for the photo op."
My pick for Basel's single greatest celebrity moment, though, goes to porn star Bridget the Midget, whom I literally stumbled upon at Crobar during Basel 2003.
Bridget is famous for starring in movies such as Mechanical Elf, Little Fuckers, Pint Size Pussy, and Only the A-Hole 7. Her claim to fame is squirting eggs out of her rump.
I was out on the town with local performance artist Jasmine Kastel, who was costumed in her "Montos 3000" getup, consisting of a Mexican wrestling mask and a ballet tutu. Earlier in the day, Kastel had ventured into the Bass Museum of Art in the garb inspired by luchador El Santo. A Russian TV crew followed her while she put chokeholds on unsuspecting collectors until, red-faced, they begged her to let them go.
After a surreal, drunken evening winding from Miami Beach to Wynwood, we ended up at the now-defunct South Beach nightclub Crobar. At one point, a certain local artist who demands to remain unnamed stuck her hand up Bridget's skirt and screamed, "Look, I can make my puppet talk and dance!" while a moaning Bridget hopped onto the bar with her eyes bugged and legs kicking out like a frog's.
Ten Most Memorable Exhibits: Sweatshops and Hickeys Galore
Distilling a decade of art into ten pieces is impossible. So the following aren't the best exhibits ever to visit the Magic City — just the ones that stuck most firmly in my brain:
1. In 2003, not only did Miami artist George Sanchez Calderon's "Midnight Midtown Midway" convert the Buena Vista rail yard into a carnival-esque playground replete with a giant Ferris wheel, performances, and a dazzling fireworks display, but also he proposed to his wife on one of the rides that night — all while presaging what a circus Art Basel would become.
2. At OmniArt in 2004, Tania Bruguera's Autobiografía was a sound installation comprising a solitary microphone dangling over a platform in a spare room. Spectators were invited to speak into the mike, while on opposing walls, speakers blared excerpts of speeches by Fidel Castro, creating a moving commentary on the illusory aspects of power.
3. The same year, Kader Attia at Galerie Kamel Mennour created a stir at Basel's shipping container space with his working sweatshop called "Illegal Studio Hallal," delivering a Muslim riff on capitalism's garment-industry model by employing Hispanic seamstresses to crank out trademarked "Hallal" urban gear inside a stifling metal container.
4. In 2005, Cuban conceptual duo Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla flipped the script on Basel with their piece "Download," for which they simply flattened an Art Positions shipping container until it looked like a sardine tin put through a trash compactor.
5. Also in 2005, at Miami Art Central, William Kentridge's sprawling solo show featured a broad range of the South African's work dating from 1979, including drawings, animated films, sculptures, and animated videos transferred to DVD. The piece transformed a first-floor gallery into a virtual cineplex, reflecting the tumultuous events he experienced following apartheid.
6. If only because she got under the skin, Marlene Haring makes the grade for her "Sucking Marks" performance at Scope Miami 2006, where the Austrian blonde gave hickeys to anyone willing to perch on her stool, pony up ten bucks, and swap DNA.
7. At the Freedom Tower in 2009, "Invasion 68 Prague" was an eye-opening exhibition of the photography of Josef Koudelka, who documented the 1968 invasion of Prague by Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces. The arresting photos captured Koudelka's street-level perspective of a seminal 20th-century moment and featured 60 images, many of which had never before been publicly displayed.
8. That year was also memorable for "Dark Night of the Soul" at OHWOW. The collaboration between Danger Mouse and Sparkle Horse showcased visuals by director David Lynch. It struck a discomfiting chord with brain-searing images such as Lynch's take on a Norman Rockwell-like Thanksgiving feast featuring an Eisenhower-era family gorging on a human head.
9. At the Frost Art Museum last year, Arnold Mesches's 15 large-format canvases, called "Selections From Anomie 1492-2006," combined surreal juxtapositions of disparate symbols and historical figures against dark, brooding landscapes. One of his garage-door-size nightmares, Anomie 1980: Nancy Reagan's Dream, depicted a downward-spiraling autopsy of the former first lady's dreams of governing the nation by supernatural force.
10. Also in 2010, Bert Rodriguez, Miami's inimitable conceptual quipster, knocked art off the altar and delivered it to the masses when he graced the cover of Miami New Times with his re-creation of W magazine's "Art Issue" — which featured a nude, spray-painted Kim Kardashian — by painting his own, less voluptuous ass silver for a photo shoot.
Basel's Worst Feuds: Graffiti Wars and Selection Envy
Miami artist, curator, and critic Gean Moreno hit the nail on the head in 2004 when he described the "Kafkaesque machinations" of dealers and artists desperate to catch on with Basel's deep-pocketed cognoscenti. Blood pressure levels rise across the 305 during the fair, leaving many a palm sweaty over fears of missing out on the $500 million swapped each year.
Take 2004, when local dealer Gary Nader was miffed about Basel handing him yet another rejection letter for a display space. "Art Basel is great for the city," Nader said at the time. "My problem is... the whole process is arrogant and unfair. They can't just come to our city and insult us like the Mafia."
Then Nader went rabid on competitors such as Fredric Snitzer, a member of the Basel selection committee, snarling that "people go to war for oil and they go to war for art."
Snitzer objected that "the only criterion is the quality of work," but the fair threw gas on the fire the next year by dropping Bernice Steinbaum — one of the few locals awarded a spot in the convention center during Basel's early years and famous for wearing bedroom slippers while greeting collectors visiting her booth.
Nader thumbed his nose at Basel by opening his own massive, 50,000-square-foot bunker in a former brick factory in Wynwood to house a collection he claims is worth $100 million. Steinbaum, meanwhile, had her revenge by handing out slippers stamped with her gallery name to fairgoers.
More sniping broke out that year, when Edge Zones' Charo Oquet accused gallerist Marina Kessler of sabotaging her operation by purposely misprinting her phone number on the Wynwood Arts District map for a second year in a row. "This has become like an art war, and we are under an enormous invasion from outsiders opening spaces and outside artists coming here to compete," Oquet fumed.
Kessler, meanwhile, called Oquet a "deadbeat who bounced a check on us for the listings. She is just upset over not having any sales."
By 2008, the feuding spilled onto the pavement when street artists such as Shepard Fairey arrived to paint murals for Primary Flight. As Basel week came to a close, a crew of New York graffiti rats vandalized Fairey's mural and filmed their act in a desperate stab at street cred.
"They destroyed it that Sunday before leaving," Bischof, Primary Flight's organizer, says. "Shepard's people asked us if the paint they covered it with was still fresh and said that he had put a protective coat over his work. We ended up working all night to remove the paint and restore his mural."
The dolts put their film on the Internet and ended up looking like idiots instead. "When these people have beef, it's hard to contain the culture of the street," Bischof says.
Local Artists' Favorite Memories: Cat's Balls and Neon Chairs
Who better to remember a decade of Basel than the artists who have lived it? In their own words:
Clifton Childree, an artist known for his carnival-esque installations: "I was helping a friend hang work at his gallery booth at NADA one year, and a gnarly street cat with huge nuts came into the fair and wandered around. No one confronted him because of how mean he looked, so people followed him around hoping he wouldn't spray any of the artwork that was still on the floor. Later, at the same booth, when my friend left the area, I hung a horrible painting I found in a thrift store early that morning and then watched people looking at it. [The friend] came back and was beside himself and couldn't do anything until all the people left."
FriendsWithYou's Sam Borkson: "We performed with Ben Jones from Paper Rad [a Rhode Island collective]... one year. We made crazy fake instruments and we all went crazy, drunk off of joy and hysteria. There were a few major injuries, but definitely it was a seriously funny highlight."
Adalberto Delgado, owner and curator of Little Havana's 6th Street Container: "My funniest memory was when I put together the dumpster project. Five dumpsters were placed strategically around Wynwood, having been worked on by five Miami artists. Cat Dove and Kyle Chapman dressed up theirs to look like a general. Their dumpster was covered with tassels and wearing a purple robe. To everyone's surprise, all the fabric adorning the dumpster was first tagged with graffiti and then stolen by the second day."
Chris Oh, one of three partners at Primary Projects: "I met [graffiti artist] Mr. Brainwash and told him he sucked in 2008, the year he did the Obama Superman poster. The look of disappointment on his face was priceless."
Kevin Arrow, Miami experimental artist: "When MOCA was exhibiting work at the Goldman Warehouse, there was an exhibition called 'Artificial Light' which had two beautiful purple neon chairs by Chilean artist Iván Navarro. These were very dangerous-looking, buzzing, and crackling chairs fashioned out of neon gas and glass. One of the visitors to the exhibition climbed up on the platform on which they were displayed and attempted to sit on one of the chairs, thereby crushing it and falling down hard on her ass! It was both hilarious and infuriating."
Basel's Best Parties: Penis Cannons and Versace Bacchanalia
When the notoriously conservative Swiss first parachuted into town in 2002, they thought they would teach us a thing or two about high culture. As it turned out, we educated Baselites on how to transform party into a verb.
In 2003, Casa Casuarina on Ocean Drive (the former Versace mansion) put on a Miami-style clinic on the art of partying. At the unofficial Basel bash, themed for the Hieronymus Bosch painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, revelers watched nude, snake-entwined Adam and Eve models serving canapés and decadent desserts, enjoyed an aphrodisiac raw bar, and slobbered over scantily clad dancers writhing to tribal beats.
By 2004, seeking street cred with locals, the motto for Basel's happy hour at the Art Positions installation officially became Fuck Art, Let's Drink .
"I love the anything-goes mentality that Basel brings, the street-drinking mania. It's like a more socially accepted Calle Ocho without the baby chongas," says local artist Alouishous San Gomma, AKA Ahol Sniffs Glue.
Perhaps the most amazing recent party — a fete at the Raleigh last year featuring a jaw-dropping live LCD Soundsystem show — is recounted by the Wet Heat Project's Grela Orihuela: "Yes, we throw the best parties... but it's about the art. Even after the fair packs up and goes, Miami will be making art."
Hands down, my favorite Basel party was the Fredric Snitzer Gallery's 30th anniversary fiesta in 2007.
Snitzer had splurged on a pig roast, and the band Ache Caribe was entertaining hundreds with a raucous guaguanco. Smartly attired women swayed their hips and ripped up divots of grass with their spiked heels in a fenced-off lot. Outside on the curb, an unwashed and smelly Jacquelyn Jackson Johnston was selling "nickel bags" of art. She held a cardboard sign that read, "Will trade art for beer." At her feet, Phluffy Danger, her Doberman pinscher, was destroying a stuffed toy.
The shindig was amped up further when Brooklyn's Black Label Bike Gang showed up on custom wheels. After climbing down from his mutant bike that looked like a rolling praying mantis, Doyle Shuge, sporting a Frankenstein T-shirt and a chapeau, ambled over. He then torched a joint laced with hash, quickly attracting a crowd.
As Shuge's spiked butt was passed around, Moss Nowheir of the Black Label crew removed a four-foot carved-foam penis, which he called "the Squizzer," from his bike. Scooping up the cotton guts from Phluffy's mangled plush toy and adding a mixture of beer and oatmeal whipped into a sticky gruel, he stuffed the phallus's end.
Nowheir used a bicycle pump to fill his bizarre pink contraption with air before offering me the honor of pressing the trigger and launching the contents over the partygoers. A gallery attendant emerged from the sudsy fog, smiled at me politely, and then turned to ask the bikers to zip it up.
"We just got shut down because we didn't ask first," Shuge laughed before sparking another bone and taking a puff.
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