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Paul Laster’s Art Basel Miami Diary & Photo Album: Day One

Because we can’t all escape from our desks to enjoy 72 degree weather and international contemporary art, Flavorpill’s resident guru Paul Laster will be bringing you daily bold-name littered updates and photos from Art Basel Miami all week. Enjoy!

VIEW THE IMAGE GALLERY OF HIS EXPLOITS HERE

Miami Basel’s six days of art and design events officially kicked off with Design Miami, housed in a stunning new pavilion, designed by Aranda/Lasch. First on the agenda was lunch with Design Miami’s 2008 Designer of the Year, Fernando and Humberto Campana, Miami Design District guru Craig Robins, and HSBC Private Bank execs in the VIP lounge, which the Campana Brothers sensuously constructed from raffia, freshly transported from their native Brazil.

After a whirlwind tour of the Design Miami, which Jeffrey Deitch praised as having “the best fair design I’ve seen,” my companion-in-fun, curator Renee Riccardo, and I headed over to the Nada preview, where we were wowed by Ryan Johnson’s distorted, historical figures at Guild & Greyshkul and Chris Caccamise’s whimsical paper sculptures at Eleven Rivington and Cerealart. Nada lacked the fast-and-furious feeding-frenzy atmosphere of last year, but collectors, including Bed Bath and Beyond’s Marty Eisenberg, New York real estate heiress Beth Rudin De Woody, and Warhol Foundation chief Joel Wachs, were making the rounds.

Back in the Design District, we jumped back into Design Miami for the VIP reception and hit some of its satellite exhibitions, where I chatted with the edgy Brit designer Tom Dixon, who was showing industrial steel furniture from his new Flame series, which included a medieval-looking cradle, and hot Miami architect Chad Oppenheim, who explained the elaborate creative route he took to eventually make a carved tree-stump for the Paperlove benefit exhibition at Luminaire. We ran into author Brian Antoni at a party at the Marni boutique nearby and then popped into David LaChapelle’s Jesus is my Homeboy exhibit, where I shared comments about the photographs with Lenny Kravitz and publisher Jason Binn, before getting a great snap of David and Jesus.

Bailing from the show’s mob-scene, we drove over to Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin for a seven-solo-show extravaganza, which included Gelitin’s giant found object assemblages that could be ridden around the gallery and Jeremy Deller’s performance, consisting of a high school marching band and cheerleading squad dancing to Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life.” Meanwhile, in another part of the momentous gallery, rapper and producer Pharrell Williams had two of his new chair designs on display. Pharrell politely answered questions about the surreal chairs, which have legs cast from women’s legs, in short “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” responses.

I still had one more celebrity indulgence before traveling across the bay to the New York Times T Magazine party at the Raleigh Penthouse, and that was the Naomi Campbell Retrospective at In Fashion Photo, staged in a parking lot under the freeway. While Naomi held court in a veiled VIP lounge and a black, gal singer belted out soulful tunes, we checked out the show of images of the diva by a bevy of famous photographers. The installation wove around like a maze, but the wildest aspect of the show, besides the many provocative poses, was the fact that the photos were presented on walls made of thick, fresh sod.

Stumbling out into the night, we quickly made our way to the Raleigh, where the party started out slowly but soon built into a lively affair. I talked to Sam Keller about past Art Basel Miami Beach times, when he headed the fair; art adviser and sometimes actor Manuel Gonzales about his role in Julian Schnabel’s film Before Night Falls; and Malcolm McLaren about his recent short films that were shown on MTV’s Time’s Square screen, thanks to Creative Time.

The energy of the party swelled when Takashi Murakami arrived wearing a Gigantic Plush Flowerball outfit — similar to one of the sculpture he’s exhibiting in his Kaikai Kiki Design Miami satellite show — and everyone clamored to get a picture of him. Thinking the party had peaked, we headed for the elevator and ran straight into Julian and Vito Schnabel, Tony Shafrazi, Naomi Cambpell, and Calvin Klein. They all stopped to greet one another in the crowded corridor to pose for photographers, provoking PR maverick Nadine Johnson to proclaim, “Now that was a moment!”

- Paul Laster

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