The black walls inside the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami are glowing and buzzing with Tracey Emin's work. Lines like "People Like You Need to Fuck People Like Me" and "My Cunt Is Wet with Fear" become iconic when emanating flattering light from delicate neon tubes.
We met Jay Thomas, an attendee at the opening of "Angel Without You" who wasn't familiar with Emin's work. He observed that the interior "looked like a bar," and that "this is what the inside of Twitter looks like."
After briefly meeting her, we can assume that the British art star would contest this crass assessment. But if you take a look at what's hanging on the walls, he's not totally off. Neon does often signify something's for sale, and there was a sexy bar vibe at MOCA last night that's not typical for a museum. Also, re: the Twitter comment, the neon-sculpted phrases were intimate and seemingly scribbled -- some poetic, some about anal sex. (Hey, why not?). And there were those works showing a pretty bird or -- in true Tweeter fashion -- a woman's uncrossed legs, revealing a glowing crotch.
Like the Internet, there was nothing boring about the show and everything emotional. But unlike the Internet, it felt warm, personal, and memorable.
This year, the most popular person at the pre-Art Basel kickoff MOCA Vanity Fair party was the artist. You might think that's how it "should be" or how it actually is, but for artists, and those who attend art events, you know the more popular creature at an art party is not any human being. It is the booze. People crowd the free bars, drooling hungrily at Art Basel time. But Tracey Emin is one of those few artists who has herself become an actual celebrity. One that other celebrities come out to see.
Emin arrived at the opening a half hour before showtime. And though many from the media made it out even earlier in an attempt to speak with the artist, her energy and handlers kept most at bay. Like moths, folks circled her from a safe-from-swatting distance. But, we at New Times swooped in not long after Telemundo's cameras switched off, and asked about how the Knight Foundation-supported show came together.
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"It was a collaboration." Emin said of the exhibition of mostly original work commissioned specifically for this show. "Bonnie Clearwater (the former chief curator at MOCA) wanted to do a show with me like eight years ago, so it was like, what kind of show are we going to do? We wanted to do a show that'd never been done before. This much neon has never been shown in any museum space before and I've never shown in an American museum before. So double whammy!"
MOCA was also the first U.S. museum to purchase one of Emin's works, a 1998 video "Why I Never Became a Dancer," which was appropriately on display.
Usually, the backyard is the busiest spot at this annual party, but this year, the inside was packed. Cameras snapped shots of the work (or tried to; neon's not that easy to photograph with an iPhone) and not so many pics of booties dropping to the grass.
Though the word was both Madonna and Bianca Jagger were on the guest list, they didn't seem to show. But we saw enough eye candy and a few celebs, and drank enough Beluga vodka to whet our Basel-y palettes in preparation for a star-studded five days.
And when Kevin Spacey showed up as the doors opened to the public, the photo ops were on, baby. Kevin Spacey's, like, a real actor, not just a "Housewife" or a talk show host. He's the scary guy on House of Cards, he's the old perv in American Beauty. And he's adorable in real life. We also spotted photographer Bruce Weber in his signature head bandana chatting in the crowd.
If you're around this Basel or if you're anywhere within remote driving distance of Miami before the show's March 9, 2014, closing date, this is one exhibition you'd be as dumb as Twitter not to catch.
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