Art Basel Miami Beach

Watch Artist Todd Gray Paint a Naked Model While You Eat Your Chicken Wings at Tootsie's Cabaret

Los Angeles-based artist Todd Gray gave the dolphin sculpture outside Tootsie's Cabaret a pop-art makeover.
Los Angeles-based artist Todd Gray gave the dolphin sculpture outside Tootsie's Cabaret a pop-art makeover. Photo courtesy of RCI Hospitality Holdings
This week, you won't need an excuse to visit Tootsie's Cabaret in Miami Gardens.

If you aren't going for the girls, the bar, or the jumbo chicken wings served up at the club's Knocker sports bar, just tell everyone you're going to an art exhibit.

This year, Miami's famed Art Week has extended north with the first-ever show inside the self-proclaimed world's largest gentleman's club.

While South Beach and the surrounding areas are engulfed in a plethora of art fairs, Los Angeles-based contemporary artist Todd Gray will be taking his party north to Tootsie's.

After an introduction to the group behind Rick's Cabaret International (Tootsie's owner), Gray settled on the venue as the perfect space to showcase his latest works. During the event, he'll take over a portion of the adult club's "75,000 SQ FT of Miami's sexiest girls," which also houses four liquor bars, three stages, a full restaurant, and the aforementioned Knockers.

"Tootsie’s has been part of the Miami community for decades and has attracted many art fans over the years. We're delighted to expand our involvement in the art world with this event," Tootsie’s general manager Mehall Ledwith said in a press release.

In case you didn't know, Gray is recognized internationally for Flabbergast, the 100-foot-long mural he created in 2018 at the site of the World Trade Center (WTC). This year, he was the only artist to be invited by the WTC owners to refresh his work in advance of the 20th anniversary of September 11.
click to enlarge Tootsie's Cabaret, which offers a full restaurant and sports bar, will host its first Art Basel event this year. - PHOTO COURTESY OF TOOTSIE'S CABARET MIAMI
Tootsie's Cabaret, which offers a full restaurant and sports bar, will host its first Art Basel event this year.
Photo courtesy of Tootsie's Cabaret Miami
Before he became a professional artist, though, Gray made a living as a cabinetmaker. Today, he uses the same shapes he assembled as a craftsman — boxes and cubes — transforming them into sculptures adorned with colorful polka dots, stripes, and social media-influenced emojis and hashtags.

Although he's used to working in 3D, Gray has never had the chance to paint on his canvas of choice for the Art Basel party: one of the club's unclad entertainers.

"It will be the first time he's painted a live model," Jackie Markham, marketing consultant for Todd Gray Studios, imparts to New Times.

During a preview party on Thursday, December 2, guests can watch in person as the artist body-paints one of the dancers. A preview of Gray's most recent original works will also be on display at Tootsie's.

That includes the dolphin sculpture that greets guests at the entrance. The massive sculpture was recently treated to a repainting by Gray and will now be displayed full-time outside the Miami Gardens club.

This week, Gray’s work can also be seen in Miami at Context Art Miami (One Herald Pl. at NE 14th St.), where more of his wall sculptures and paintings are on display.

Tootsie’s Cabaret Miami. 150 NW 183rd St., Miami Gardens; the preview event is open to the public on Thursday, December 2 from 9 p.m. to late; tootsiescabaret.com.
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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna