A trip through the mirage of Art Basel into the scarred face of Miami
I suggested that there were actually two different communities in Wynwood with potentially opposing interests. I told Robins I'd attended a community meeting held by the activist groups Power University and the Miami Workers Center. There, Wynwood residents discussed how their rents had doubled, how the city continued to neglect the facilities at Roberto Clemente Park, and how the increased presence of police escorting the art patrons to the new galleries had made them feel like they didn't belong in their own neighborhood.
Robins, who had been very loose and calm during the first 45 minutes of our talk, became visibly upset. He launched into a sustained rant. "Well, look, active communities are a good thing," he said, shaking his head. "But just because a community is active doesn't mean it is rational. You go and sit in these meetings and half the people are nuts. Half are just there because they are miserable people and they have some soapbox to go and rant about all these things that they think they have some entitlement to attack government about when they never do anything themselves for anyone. I find that 20 percent of these people are totally irrational, mean-spirited people who would never agree with anyone about anything good."
"What kind of people do you mean?" I asked.
"People who feel disenfranchised! They're very angry. They have psychological problems and they want a forum to vent. I'm not implying we should stifle democracy — I'm a big believer in it! I'm saying these people should not be taken seriously by enlightened people!"
Robins rose to look at a clock on his desk. Not surprisingly, our time was up. I politely excused myself to the restroom. When I returned it was like no tantrum had ever happened. Robins' impish grin even returned as I asked him to pose for a photo in front of one of his Baldessari prints. I had him stand in front of Cigar Smoke to Match Clouds That are Different (By Sight/ First Version), a 1972-3 triptych of photos. As the artist looks into a mirror at clouds over his shoulder in the sky, he blows out a mouthful of twisting cigar smoke, trying to match their elusive shape in the air.
Out on the streets of Wynwood, it was still mostly quiet, expectant, but the scene at David Lynch's art opening gave one a sense of what the coming weekend would be like. Lynch was presenting photos from a book of staged stills he is releasing with a CD of music by Danger Mouse. Hundreds of hipsters, mostly locals, guzzled free booze and gawked when new Miami resident Iggy Pop showed up, shirtless as usual, in a Miami Vice-style blue blazer. As I watched the Godfather of Punk pose for pictures with his arm around Danger Mouse, I thought of the city of art, the Jackson Pollacks and Donald Judds together at last, on the convention center floor. I had the eerie feeling that the Internet had come to life.
I left the opening and walked at random through the streets of Wynwood at 2:00 a.m. While looking at murals and thinking about the changes Art Basel had wrought, I unexpectedly came upon a small street party of people I knew. The side street intersection was lit up like a stage with an enormous floodlight. Street artist SWOON stood high on a scissor lift, painting a mural on a warehouse wall, while below a couple of kids dressed like old tramps wrestled with a big, brown stuffed bear.