Bartering at Basel: The Art of the Trade

Art Basel Miami Beach is all about selling (while getting a tan), and judging by the ear-to-ear grins of Larry Gagosian at the just-wrapped fair, sales were brisk and gallery pockets were fat. Naturally, Swervewolf was on the prowl down in Miami and looking for a cut of the action. After quickly flipping our entire stock of priced-to-go Chinese contemporary at the convention center, we got down to our core business and opened up an Argentine-style pulpería and trading post in the lively Wynwood district in conjunction with the massive Art of Basketball exhibit (which also sold out early).

Swervewolf modeled its version of the trading post on the thousands of grassroots barter clubs that popped up during the Argentine economic meltdown of the early 00’s, when down-and-out citizens began bartering both goods and services to make ends meet during the chaos. The way the barter club concept works is simple: A farmer with a toothache comes to the barter club with, say, three chickens with a real market value of 15 barter club credits. A hungry dentist comes to the barter club and offers his dental services at 5 credits per hour. The barter club processes the transaction between both parties, and each goes home satisfied, the dentist with his chickens to eat and the farmer with a pulled molar. In the barter club system – at their apex in 2002 there were about 5,000 operating in Argentina – the currency unit is called the credit.

The Central Bank of Swervewolf printed its own unique currency, quantitatively easing 20,000 bills that bore a remarkable resemblance to the Argentine Patacon, one of the multiple banknotes that emerged when the official Peso flailed during the country’s economic crisis. The only difference between the Swervewolf Patacon and the old Argentine Patacon was that our currency was backed by a significant commodity, namely, tasty wine from Bodega Elena de Mendoza, whereas the Argentine government edition was backed by delicious air. Swervewolf does not get down with fiat money – as opposed to the Dollar or the Euro, to name a few, which are not backed by anything nearly as delicious as wine.

In the video above, watch Basel-goers immediately take to the trade concept. Notable street artists like Poster Boy, Shiro, Miguel Paredes, and Blanco swapped their creative services. Magazine writers bartered stories. Major art collectors traded inside art-world information for a number of goods, including Bodega Elena Malbec, empanadas, Shake Shack burgers, artist-designed gear, custom yerba mate gourds, and other items. One guy traded his Miami bus pass. Another girl traded her designer shoes. Photographers traded professional pictures. Someone traded a ride back to New York in their van. I traded a guy who wanted to take a picture with my girlfriend. Pimpin’ ain’t easy, but bartering with vino-soaked bills at Art Basel is.

Video above.

Video: deCODING Iceland’s Racially Pure Nordic Gene Pool

For over a decade, a cutting edge biotech company called deCODE genetics has been secretly classifying and mining Iceland’s ultra pure Nordic gene pool. Well, perhaps not so secretly, though a well-funded biotech company on a remote island nation in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean must have some ulterior motives. Years into the project, rumors began to circulate that in addition to a whole lot of blonde and blue-eyed Viking blood, deCODE researchers had discovered a mysterious sequence indicating a genetic link to a prehistoric whale shark.

This turned out to be a specimen contaminated by Iceland’s tasty national dish, Hákarl, or urine-brined Greenland shark. In 2009, the whole ambitious project crashed suddenly when the company – like Iceland itself – went belly up. Undeterred, Swervewolf’s crack bio-unit dispatched a crew to the quirky isle in the hopes of collecting even more cheek swabs of unsuspecting Icelanders to continue deCODE’s groundbreaking research in the prime of their mating season. Below, BlackBook’s chief video ace Kirk Larsen spliced together never-before-seen footage of the unit’s controversial research methods.

Photo Gallery: Icelandic Bottle Service at Airwaves Music Festival

In New York, there’s bottle service. In Iceland, there’s Elf Rock service. That’s right: a portable Elf Rock bar one totes around to strategic Icelandic destinations like the magnificent Gulfoss waterfalls, the world’s first geyser (called Geyser), and, of course, all the hottest venues at the Iceland Airwaves music festival, where you can even bring the mobile Elf Rock bar on stage with the band, pop it open, and start serving drinks during the show. For the uninitiated, actual elf rocks are those magical rocks found all over Iceland’s rugged terrain, where elves are believed to live. The mobile Elf Rock bar put together by the Swervewolf contingent for this year’s Airwaves festival was a particular hit with the Icelanders, stirring primal passions in their Viking souls at first sip.

The first night’s Elf Rock bar was stocked with the local Brennavin, Angostura bitters, ginger ale, brown sugar, a bar towel, and shot glasses. Then, for a rad snowmobiling trip to a glacier with Mountaineers of Iceland, the bar featured ultra pure Reyka vodka on the rocks and pristine glacier ice. Other times, the Elf Rock went with a Mexican tequila theme, including lemons and salt. This was a particular hit backstage at the Vandelles show at Idno, where the angelic Icelandic girls choir Karitur Islands kissed it for good luck before hitting the stage.

You can drink in the street in Reykjavik, and Icelandic rapper Blaz Roca played Elf Rock barkeep on the corner at 4am to a bevvy of his groupies after playing a packed show. You’d think in a country known for its astronomical drink prices, hip spots like Boston, Bakkus, Nasa, and others would frown on people rolling in with their very own bar. Instead, having an Elf Rock bar in tow allowed us to breeze past lines, walk right up to the bar, and start serving drinks for everyone. As our Icelandic friend Stella explained to us, this was “because nobody would dare offend the Huldufólk,” starting with the coolest mayor in the world Jón Gnarr, who’s down with the Moomin elves. Check out this gallery of shots the BlackBook and Swervewolf crew snapped of Icelanders enjoying Airwaves and the magical mobile Elf Rock bar. Wonder if this would work in New York…

Swervewolf: Purveyors of the Brand-Newest in Pulperías and Pop-Up Bars

Bars should either be super old, like the Ear Inn, or super new, like that Swervewolf Pulpería spot down in Tribeca. Have you been? It’s the bidness. Just opened a few weeks ago, and you should definitely go. Oh wait, it actually closed last week. Let’s go drink mind erasers at Katrinau instead – you know, that new Cajun-Polynesian cocktail bar in Inwood. I think it opened 8 seconds ago, making it new and exciting. Shall we?

You, the website-reading public, and New Yorkers in general, really like new things. As do we, especially when she’s in town for the weekend from Rio and heading home on Monday. But when it comes to going out, people have very short attention spans. Which explains why sites such as this one are constantly on the hunt for the latest and greatest spots. The public demands it.

Swervewolf, the organization I’m mixed up with (think Scientology with more money meets North Korea without a sense of humor), cannot and would not compete with BlackBook in this field. This is due to a very real fear of BlackBook overlord Chris Mohney, as well as the fact that I don’t remember half the places I go to, making writing about them that much harder. So I’ve decided, in the name of all things new and novel, to create temporary venues lasting for a brief and intense period of time. This is my promise to you, the now-loving public.

To that end, fresh off our rosé dome in Burningwolf, we set up Pulpería de Don Swervewolf, the 12 day pop-up in Tribeca loosely anchored around Fashion Week. The goal was to replicate a pulpería, those Argentine Pampas watering holes of yore that featured old Dutch genever guzzling, yerba mate drinking, Malbec sipping, guitar playing, and other wholesome gaucho activities. We then tricked some chic New York startenders from the likes of Dram and Death & Co. into working at the pulperia. Everything was – like all Swervewolf experiences – completely on the house. Keeping cash around makes the Swervewolf operatives a little nervous.

So, Swervewolf hereby promises to continue bringing you new and even newer places to congregate and make merry, always keeping the drinks flowing and on the house. If you happen to be in Iceland this week during the Airwaves festival, look for the most mobile bar ever created, the Swervewolf Elf Rock, popping up in a hotel room or Geyser near you. And come Halloween, we’ll be back in New York for a five-day voodoun bar downtown. We not only guarantee that it’ll be a new venue, but that there will be models sacrificing live chickens in the name of Baron Samedi.

Check out a little compilation of the pulpería above. Until then, enjoy that hot new spot down the block, and keep on Swervewolfing.