Wrap Basel: Criminal Intent, Sponsored by Apple.

Art Basel is one big, enticing, honey pot of rich folks, semi-rich folks, and broke folks posing as rich folks, and generally a lot of inebriated folks with expensive things. In other words: a grifter’s paradise.

Which brings us to the door of the Delano’s Florida Room, once again run by Paris boite Le Baron, and by an order of magnitude, the hottest spot to get into at, say, 4:32 am on a Wednesday night, after hitting off the more buttoned up affairs around town. The mob scene attracted a lot of pick pockets apparently, as desperate partygoers pushed, clawed, and pawed, each other to get in. Some were even grabbing wallets and purses, and scurrying off into the Miami night.

One very chic fashion chick whose phone was pilfered on her way into Le Baron last Saturday, told us she felt a hand groping her as she eased her way past the ropes, then looked down and saw her credit cards lying on the floor, while her well-dressed thief ran off toward the mess of people on Collins Ave. with her iPhone 4. When she reported the incident to hotel security, they informed her that iPhone thievery at the door was the number one security incident being reported to them.  Then again, the whole experience might have been a genius experiential marketing campaign by Apple, in which case, you got me. And her. And a bunch of other people, along with their phones.

Interestigly, when our fashion victim turned on Mobile Me, Apple’s device retrieval system, it pinpointed her phone’s precise whereabouts to a house in Hialeah, Florida, a relatively sketchy suburb of Miami. She and her fashion friends considered going over to confront the iPhone thieves before taking one look in the mirror and deciding that Basel vigilante wasn’t on their itinerary for the day. Instead, they went to get their nails did at Dzine’s Imperial Nails Presented by Perrier at The Standard Spa instead. 

Illustration by Fernando Cwilich Gil

The Best Party at Art Basel Was at a Place Called Purdy Lounge

"You down here working or partying?" was the most quoted line at Art Basel this year, and more often than not, the answer was a bemused shrug, and then the latter. 

As far as art world elites actually working were concerned, my pick for best party was the Art.sy party on the beach, at Soho Beach House. The mix of high-brow-low-brow-middle-brow-uni-brow (Both Hilton sisters bumping into ancient A-list collector Aby Rosen bumping into Will Smith bumping into Gagosian, then stumbling into the ocean) was commendable. I also pick this as a shining beacon of a great super art world insider party because, full disclosure, Art.sy is my brother’s company. But again, Basel is more about the hardcore party people these days than the legit art world people, so let’s move on to where the real party people were doing their thing this year.

French club Le Baron‘s annual Basel takeover of the Delano‘s Florida Room was so slammed, as expected,  that they did an offshoot next door at the Shelborne, called Paris Paris Cabaret, where the French party people rocked kook karaoke, and the always entertaining Simonez Wolf held down the entrance with typical aplomb and well timed fuck yous.On Saturday night, when the Le Baron DJ got fed up with the Florida Room management’s insistence on turning the sound down, they took the Le Baron spinoff next door and merged it with their Paris Paris offshoot, creating a French Miami art world party clusterfuck of epic proportions. In the picture above, the Le Baron crew hang poolside at the Shelborne on Sunday after the Delano debacle, and offer their advice to Florida Room management. 

All that said, the very best party of Basel was the Sunday night end-of-madness industry throwdown at the reliably sketchball Purdy Lounge, where true Miami hip-hop heads and Basel industry elites threw caution to the wind and went apeshit bananas on their last day in town. Le Baron went low-brow that night as well, taking over the Free Spirits dive off Collins, but there’s always something about Purdy’s Basel debaucherous finish that gets everyone dancing and going nuts. Perhaps it’s their Tony Montana room in the back? So our pick for best Basel party: Purdy Lounge, Sunday night. We’re looking forward to winding down our Basel down there next year as well.  


Photos by Eric Ervin

Stealing Murakami: The Plot Gets Still Thickerer

This was supposed to be a happy story, simple and just. Ring gets stolen. Ring gets recovered. Thief gets nabbed. Natural order is restored. Since the ring happened to be a rare, one-of-a-kind artwork from Takeshi Murakami, and that the theft happened during Art Basel, made it a story well worth telling. That the recovery took place in a pawn shop some two years later, just days before the ring was to be scrapped, and was only made possible by the keen eye of a certain David Tamargo, gave it a serendipitous slant — not to mention a storybook ending. Then the tale took turns no one could have envisioned.

First was the unequivocal “No Comment” from Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki studio, when by rights they should’ve been thanking their lucky stars the $72,500 ring was recovered. Then, as I reported Monday, it became clear that the bejeweled piece apparently wasn’t stolen from The Florida Room after all, but from the site of Basel satellite Design Miami, and rumor has it someone was paid a large chunk of change to keep mum. Worse, when Tamargo popped into Kaikai Kiki over Armory week in New York, he not only wasn’t thanked for what he’d so nobly done, but he was summarily booted from the studio.

Now I’ve learned that Kaikai Kiki has elected not to press charges, despite the due diligence of pawn shop owner Angel Parets and Miami Beach Police Department Detective Pete Rodriguez, who had a suspect in custody within 48 hours of the ring’s discovery. One would’ve thunk that Kaikai Kiki would be only to eager to prosecute; teach those crooks a hard lesson.

But don’t think for a moment that this case is closed. As the good Detective wrote last week when I asked for a copy of the original police report:

“The case is not closed as of yet due to my search for the actual thief of the ring has not concluded. The person who pawned the ring purchased or obtained the ring from another person. I am still looking for that person. I will advise you when the person is located.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I were the culprit and I saw that a dogged detective was dogging me, I’d be a little nervous. Granted, Kaikai Kiki’s inexplicable move leaves the cops without much leverage and makes the case more difficult to pursue. Yet that hasn’t seemed to have deterred Detective Rodriguez. Nor has it deterred me. If anything it only makes me even more curious about Kaikai Kiki’s actions — and of their motive.

Frankly I couldn’t care less whether Kaikai Kiki filed a false police report (if indeed they did) or even if they’d paid off someone to keep it on the QT (if indeed they did that too). I’m no goody two-shoes; far from it. And I’m a firm believer in letting folks do what they’ve gotta do. But when what they do impacts a pal of mine, well, then I get cranky, and I get curious, and then I get to work. Had Kaikai Kiki simply said “Thank You” to the man who saved the ring from oblivion, I’d have left it at that. Had they gone on and offered Tamargo a reward, I’d have sung their praises from here to proverbial eternity. I mean, Tamargo went well out of his way to behave righteously. And all he got for his trouble was the pointed heel of a very obtuse boot. Why so kooky, Kaikai Kiki?

Stealing Murakami: The Plot Thickens

Even before I broke the story last Wednesday, the plot revolving around the recovery of the stolen Takashi Murakami Doruku ring was getting thicker and thicker. First there was the unequivocal “No Comment” from the New York offices of Kaikai Kiki, the Japanese artist’s studio, when by any rights they should have at least expressed some joy over the piece being found.

Then there was the fact that Joshua Wagner, the GM of The Delano Hotel’s Florida Room, had never even heard the ring had been swiped from the club he runs, though that of course was what Kaikai Kiki claimed on the police report. Then, when Urban Hunter David Tamargo popped into Kaikai Kiki for a visit, they kicked him out, which isn’t how one would’ve expect the folks to treat the very man who saved their jewelry/art piece from being scrapped in the first place. Would a simple “Thank You” have been too much to ask? Apparently so.

Then, after the story broke, the plot got thicker still. It now seems the ring wasn’t stolen from The Florida Room after all, but from Kaikai Kiki’s booth at Design Miami. Furthermore, a certain “publicist” is rumored to have not only hushed up the theft, but he also reportedly (we’re still trying to confirm) took a rather large chunk of change to do so. Of course Kaikai Kiki isn’t talking. At the time of this writing the media reps of record haven’t replied to my query either. So if it turns out I’m casting unwarranted aspersions, I’ll apologize. I mean, I dig Murakami as much as the next cat. And I feel likewise about Design Miami. But if that part of the story is indeed true, it not only adds a rather sordid element to things, but it also begs the question: “Why?”

More importantly, why not reward Tamargo for the recovery? After all, it’s not every day that someone stumbles upon a stolen something worth $72,500 and then has the good character to notify the rightful owners. Instead, he gets summarily booted from the studio without so much as a fare-thee-well?

Of all the folks in Miami, Tamargo is perhaps the most uniquely suited to the discovery. Not only is his place of employ (The World Erotic Art Museum) upstairs from the very pawn shop where the ring was found, but he’s exhibited in several museums and galleries, both nationally and internationally, that have featured Murakami’s work. In addition, his girlfriend Lindsay Scoggins was part of the Guggenheim Museum’s Youtube Play Biennial last fall in which Murakami was a judge, and she will curate a show at the Royal/T Gallery in Culver City, California featuring Murakami artwork slated to open June 2011.

Add it up and it makes him very familiar with the artist’s work — and with the high prices the artworks fetch. Had he been a different kind of cat, he could easily have bought the ring, flipped it and reaped some great reward. Since Kaikai Kiki can’t even be bothered to thank the good man, maybe that’s just what he should’ve done.

Takashi Murakami Ring Recovered in South Beach Pawn Shop

Last month, a one-of-a-kind Doruko (“skull”) ring created by the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami was serendipitously recovered from Costa de Oro, a South Beach pawn shop just steps away from the Miami Beach Police Department’s Washington Avenue headquarters. The platinum and diamond artwork, which features Murakami’s iconic smiling daisies, had reportedly been stolen from the Delano Hotel’s Florida Room back in December 2008, after the conclusion of the Art Basel satellite fair, Design Miami.

It was spotted in the shop’s window by David Tamargo, the art director at the World Erotic Art Museum, and an upstairs neighbor to Costa de Oro. Tamargo, an artist in his own right, whose Urban Hunting has been featured here in BlackBook, stumbled upon the infamous ring purely by accident. He was surprised as anyone else to see it in a pawn shop window.

“First, I did a double take,” he told us. “Then I got closer to the window for a better look. Immediately I knew it was a Murakami. What I couldn’t imagine was why it was there. I mean, he’s one of the most famous artists on the planet!”

Murakami’s works are indeed collected by some of the world’s most recognizable names and generally sell for well into the six figures. Last month, at Christie’s auction house in London, a 2004 painting by the artist entitled “Skulls Rock” sold for 493,250 pounds (approximately $796, 651). According to police reports, the Dokuro ring’s value was estimated at $72,500. But neither Tamargo nor Costa de Oro’s Angel Parets knew that at the time.

“The shop owner told me he wanted $6000 for the ring,” continued Tamargo. “$6000! I couldn’t believe it! It was then that I knew something was wrong. So I immediately went upstairs and called Murakami’s New York office to tell them what I’d found.”

Unfortunately it was President’s Day, and the person who answered the telephone at Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki studio told Tamargo no one was in. So he left a message with his contact information and a word about his discovery. A few days later, Tamargo learned that the ring was about to be shipped to a Tokyo jewelry expo, to be either sold or scrapped, so he tried again, this time with some urgency.

“There was no way I was going to let this ring out of the country,” said Tamargo. “When no one from Murakami’s camp got in touch after the second call, I went to the bank and withdrew enough to buy it myself. By the time I got to the pawn shop I heard a Miami Beach detective had been by the museum to see me. That’s when I got the full story.”

That detective was 23-year veteran Pete Rodriguez, who handles pawn shops on Miami Beach. After Tamargo’s calls, Kaikai Kiki had contacted him regarding the theft. The detective wanted know how Tamargo had found something that was stolen over two years ago. image

“The people at Kaikai Kiki were understandably suspicious,” said Detective Rodriguez. “I think they’d long written off the loss. So when David phoned claiming to know the whereabouts of the ring, they called me.”

Together, Tamargo and Rodriguez went to Costa de Oro, where owner Angel Parets not only put the ring on hold, but provided Rodriguez with the name, address and photo of the man who’d pawned it. A suspect was in custody within 48 hours.

“If you sell stolen goods to Costa de Oro,” said Parets, “you not only will be prosecuted; you will be convicted.”

While the fate of the suspect in the Murakami theft is still in question, Parets does mention that since Rodriguez came on to the detail in January of 2010 there’s been a “one hundred percent conviction rate.” Considering the way pawn shop owners are often portrayed or considered, it is an achievement Parets is understandably proud to share. The 33-year veteran of the trade is equally proud of his relationship with the Miami Beach Police Department, specifically Detective Rodriquez, who he considers “exemplary” and “outstanding.”

“Without a good relationship,” says Parets, “there’s no retrieval, no returns and no conviction. Since Pete has come on board we’ve worked closely together. And between our documentation and his resources and talents, we’re able to favorably resolve any questionable transaction.”

The detective, in turn, is equally effusive about Parets, who he credits with due diligence and eager assistance. Rodriguez also says Parets is “an upstanding citizen” and “a pretty nice guy.”

Tamargo also received Rodriquez’s thanks, as well as some credit for his “vital role” in the ring’s recovery. As the detective would come to learn from Parets, had Tamargo not stumbled upon the ring, it’s likely no one would’ve ever seen it again.

“I didn’t know Takashi Murakami,” said Parets, who still sounded surprised by the whole ordeal. “I was going to sell it for scrap. That David happened to see the ring before I could was a one-in-a-million shot. One-in-a-million. I’m glad he did though.”

We can only assume Kaikai Kiki, who had “no comment” for the story, are happy with the results. Photo Credit: Robert Harbour

Art Basel’s 10 Most Prolific Art Flies

Art Flies are usually wannabes, socialites manqué who circle museum shows and gallery parties, networking in garish garb with the hope of getting noticed by Patrick McMullan. At Basel, however, the term means something entirely different, referring instead to art connoisseurs who make their presence known without seeming at all desperate or deplorable. Herewith, a list of the 10 most-seen personalities on the Miami scene, from an Oscar winner to the members of a fictional family.

image 1. Susan Sarandon The Academy Award winner, ping-pong enthusiast, and recent V cover “girl” was all over Basel this year, from the W magazine dinner hosted by Daphne Guinness at Soho Beach House, to the Pringle of Scotland and Serpentine Gallery dinner hosted by Tilda Swinton at The Webster. Her party blitzkrieg ended, appropriately, at the Delano, where Sarandon hosted the Art of Ping-Pong bash along with her New York venue, SPiN Galactic, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Pictures abound of her laughing with a faux-cop in spandex booty shorts and a matching sleeveless tank.

image 2. Brooke Geahan At the Standard Spa’s Playboy dinner and cocktail party on Saturday night, Geahan, the founder of the Accompanied Literary Society, worked the room in a red Marchesa pantsuit. Earlier that week, she was spotted throwing down at Assouline’s Art Game Book event, a screening of Marco Brambilla’s film, Evolution (also at the Standard), and the Interview, LVMH, and Fendi dinner at the Delano. It was hard to stay on topic while at the Playboy event, discussing with her the jam-packed week she’d had—we were surrounded by installations of naked models created by Terence Koh, Vanessa Beecroft, and Lola Schnabel, and the one word being thrown around most carelessly than “art” was “shrinkage.”

image 3. The Hilfigers In support of its new advertising blitz, Tommy Hilfiger sent its campaign family—“The Hilfigers”—to Miami in their all-American finery. They made appearances at the Standard Spa to celebrate 10 years of Bruce Weber’s All American book series (where the majority of guests looked like they’d been poached from Abercrombie catalogs), as well as the Paper magazine-hosted N.E.R.D performance, which was, yes, co-sponsored by Tommy Hilfiger.

image 4. Klaus Biesenbach Biesenbach is the current Director of MoMA PS1 and the Chief Curator at Large at MoMA, so it would do him a disservice to call him an art fly. Still, he buzzed through the fair like no one else. In addition to the Playboy party, Biesenbach touched down on the MoMA PS1 and Interview presentation at the Delano (where he cut a serious rug and drank directly from a bottle of Moet), the Interview, LVMH, and Fendi dinner, and the Maybach and MoCA-sponsored LCD Soundsystem performance at the Raleigh hotel (where civilized tippling quickly devolved into major Coyote Ugly-style table dancing).

image 5. Lorenzo Martone You couldn’t leave your hotel this year without running into Nycked swimwear designer and former (current?) Marc Jacobs arm candy, Lorenzo Martone. In addition to the Playboy, Bruce Weber, and Marco Brambilla parties, Martone was spotted at the Alchemist & Art Ruby Garage Party and the actual fair inside the Miami Convention Center. (He gets major art fly points for showing up in a tank top and warrior sandals.)

image 6. Lori Cheek I wasn’t previously familiar with Cheek, but I saw her everywhere—Bruce Weber, Assouline, and Andre Balazs-hosted unveiling of designer Marc Newson’s new Aquariva boat at the Standard Spa—and woke up one morning with a black business card in my pants that reminded me I’d been “Cheek’d.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, either, but it sounds fun.

image 7. Mia Moretti Of all the DJs on the Basel circuit—with, perhaps, the exception of the MisShapes, who were everywhere—Moretti was the most prolific. She provided the soundtrack to the Bruce Weber and Paper parties, and spun the Swarovski dinner—hell, I even saw her playing music at the Gansevoort’s Café Bustelo while en route to get my morning coffee.

image 8. Stefano Tonchi Since taking over W late last summer, Tonchi has made his presence very known to the worlds of film, fashion, and art. The editor stopped by the Swarovski dinner, the Marc Newson party, the main fair, the Vanity Fair-hosted dinner for Bruce Weber at MoCA, the Bruce Weber party at the Standard, and, yes, the W dinner—where, presumably, he finally found time to slow down and eat.

image 9. KAWS Brooklyn-based artist and designer Brian Donnelly, known professionally as KAWS, made cameos at every party, although in a subtle, baseball cap-wearing way so as to avoid getting shot on myriad step-and-repeats. Since he’s an actual artist, he can’t really be an art fly, but I saw him—not his works—everywhere, so he counts!

image 10. Aurel Schmidt The Purple-loved, New York-based, Waldo-bespectacled artist (whose name, from experience, is pronounced oh-rell, not oral) was never far from an open bar, as she made stops at the Interview, LVMH, and Fendi dinners, the Marco Brambilla screening, the Playboy party, and, naturally, Andre Saraiva’s Le Baron pop-up club at the Delano’s Florida Room, which is where most of Miami ended their nights, sweaty and bombed until well into the morning.

Midnight Mixologists: Tommy Merolla’s Toplist

Thomas Merolla has been mixing cocktails that transport his patrons beyond an average bar experience, and is currently developing his innovative ideas as the Mixologist and Creative Director at B Bar at the Betsy Hotel in Miami. Check out Tommy Merolla’s favorite spots to grab a cocktail in Miami, after the jump.

B Bar at the BetsyLiving RoomThe Florida RoomSra. MartinezSoleàHakkasanSunset LoungeClarke’sMercaditoCafeina Lounge

See more Midnight Mixologists toplists here.

Midnight Mixologists: Camille Austin’s Toplist

Steamy, sexy, and red-hot: three words that describe Camille Austin, the city where she works, and her signature cocktails. Austin trained under a master mixologist for her gig at haute Chinese boîte Hakkasan at the Fontainebleau in Miami, where the Mexico native lives, works, and pours. The Betty Page look-alike has a flair for all things retro, and she likes her cocktails with a kick—like her White Pom and muddled apple-infused Red-Hot Passion—as much as she likes Luis Miguel. Check out Camille Austin’s favorite places to grab a cocktail in Miami.

HakkasanB Bar at the BetsyBleau BarLIVSra. MartinezArea 31Love HateMichael’s Genuine Food & DrinkThe Florida RoomThe Living Room Lounge

See more Midnight Mixologists toplists here.

Midnight Mixologists: John Lermayer’s Toplist

This cocktail connoisseur has spent more time in a bar than your average wino. John Lermayer is now more than a decade deep into an illustrious career that’s seen him presiding over some of the hottest bars in America’s steamiest city, Miami. He currently graces the counter of The Florida Room at the Delano Hotel, tending, mixing, and pouring for an endless stream of VIPs. This dapper, manly mixologist—who Canton names the best bartender of 2010—also has lucrative side gigs, like consulting and designing for bars. Check out John Lermayer’s favorite spots to grab a cocktail in Miami.

The Florida RoomThe Living Room at the WMercadito MidtownSunset LoungeHakkasan Meat MarketSushi Samba DromoSra. Martinez The Forge

See more Midnight Mixologists toplists here.