The Essayist

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A Fair to Remember

Dave Hickey on Art Fairs

We ride downtown in a white stretch limo with yellow lights on the sides. Everyone in front of the Mandarin is disappointed when we step out. They were expecting P. Diddy, at least. To reach the Sotheby’s party, we must trudge down a Great Wall of Chinese post-modernism. When we are finally seated on our white leather poufs, we decide that Sotheby’s can lay claim to the ultimate example of Basel’s décor de jour: the square crystal vase. Each table has one of these tall, square vases. Albino goldfish swim in their lower depths. A curve of calla lilies cantilevers out of the top. Orchids and votive candles surround each crystal skyscraper.

Very too much, we think, but halfway through chef Pierre Gagnaire’s surrealist dinner, we notice that the votive candles are heating up the water so the albino goldfish are literally cooking before our eyes. Like good Romans, we sit there and watch. Then an orchid bursts into flame. Someone reaches to put it out. The vase tilts. Hot water and calla lilies splash all over our white asparagus and green mashed potatoes. The fish are rescued. Two Asian gentlemen flee the site of big-time bad karma. I casually wander over to talk with Dennis Hopper about getting his kid into the Crossroads School.

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