Art Basel Miami Beach 2015

Art Basel Jumps the Shark As DJ Lenny Kravitz Blasts Hit 1998 Single ‘Fly Away’ at Aby Rosen Party

DJ Lenny Kravitz, with friends.

DJ Lenny Kravitz, with friends.


At 9:00 p.m. on Thursday in Miami Beach, when a torrential thunderstorm caused flooding on much of Collins Avenue, the surge charge on an UberX had reached a rate of 9.9. A ride that would normally cost $10 now cost $99 dollars—a driver later mentioned he had never seen the surge price go above a rate of 3. The cars bounded through three-foot-deep wading pools that had formed on the road.

While the dealers at Art Basel Miami Beach, NADA, and the slew of other satellite fairs need to stalk their booths until the final hours on Sunday, many collectors choose to fly the coop come Friday morning, wrapped-up canvases in tow, which makes Thursday’s string of dinners dotting near-identical sprawling hotels that stretch off Collins toward the beach the last chance to schmooze before the year ends.

Biblical rainfall complicated things. A party for the magazine Visionaire was supposed to take place near an installation on the strip of sand now claimed by the Faena, this season’s new hotel that’s become the place to gawk at wealthy Russians holding court over drinks in the lobby. Instead, as the heavens opened up, attendees were stuffed into something called the the Collaboratory and eventually made a run for it, trudging through water that nearly came up to the waist.

Add to the mix the fact that a good chunk of people leaving that party and the many near-identical ones happening elsewhere were going not to other spots in Miami Beach but to the Pérez Art Museum Miami, across the water, in Miami proper, where the musician Devonté Hynes and the artist Ryan McNamara were premiering Dimensions, a performative installation that had been shrouded in some mystery. But given the cult of personality surrounding both Hynes and McNamara in their respective fields, the whole thing was roundly hyped, and after a slow crawl through traffic-clogged Miami causeways, the public opening was packed with people (the trustees of the institution and its new director, Franklin Sirmans, were ensconced on a top-floor VIP area off limits to others).

At Basel last year, McNamara scaled a much-praised ballet about Internet memes at the Playboy Theater. Hynes, for his part, is a dynamic musician who has fronted hardcore spazz-punk bands and written silky R&B ballads for Carly Rae Jepsen. Their performance was a series of small vignettes on tiny platforms—violinists in bodysuits, Hynes playing the slap bass, McNamara contorting himself on a platform in an orange onesie—that after a few hours slowly rolled toward each other, at which point the musicians performed a new composition by Hynes that McNamara engineered.

At one point, a woman near the patio by the bay appeared to faint and fall into the arms of her male companion.

“Is this…part of the performance?” someone asked.

Everyone stood around somewhat uncomfortably, not doing anything.

“Could I get some water over here?” the man asked.

Not part of the performance, it seems.

The last stop for collectors before they leave Miami Beach until the inevitable return next year is real-estate magnate Aby Rosen’s dinner at the W Hotel (a hotel he owns) and a party afterward at the Wall. It’s pretty much the same every year—same flaming Nebuchadnezzars of Dom Perignon, same awkward moments when old European collectors start table dancing, same random celebrities who seem awfully out of their element. When asked by a reporter if he had purchased anything at the fair, Alex Rodriguez said he had not gone to the fair. Ditto Venus Williams. Paris Hilton’s connection to all of this is still undefined, but there she was.

And yet, when special guest Lenny Kravitz, who actually was at the fair, took the stage as a DJ and played one of his more recognizable songs, a top 40 single from 1998, dealer Vito Schnabel raced up to him for a closer look. And Sam Keller, Art Basel Miami Beach’s founding director who now runs the Foundation Beyeler, was front and center, screaming along with the decidedly apropos lyrics: “I want to get away, I want to fly away, yeah yeah yeah.”

© 2019 ARTnews Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved. ARTnews® is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.