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Chasing Dash Snow

Snow’s work, for instance, is regularly trashed for being slapdash: a salad of Dada and psychedelia with sperm dressing. But at their best, his collages have a special, specific feel; as if Snow pulled the papers and backgrounds out of a flophouse on Haight Street in 1969 and has somehow magically updated the headlines. His compositions invoke a world you’ve seen pieces of but never all together. “I look at Dash’s work and I think of Joseph Cornell,” says Freire. “Not the ideas: I think the ideas behind the work are all fucked up. But there’s a handling of the materials that might mean that there’s a poet trapped within him.”

“There’s a Tinkerbell quality to him,” says Molly Logan. “You feel like his work is the only thing keeping him here. He’s just hanging on and … that’s it. If that’s not there, there is no Dash.”

At Art Basel Miami Beach, the hangover seemed to start before the party even began. It’s partly a function of where the art world is now, pumped full of cash, desperate for the next young thing to swallow whole. There were $13 drinks in plastic Dixie cups. Civilians feeling unworthy and asking dealers things like “Can I ask you—and if it’s too vulgar a question, just say so—how much is it?” ($90,000). Layers of hierarchy and constant status checks: whether you can get into the after-party or the collectors’ lounge or the VIP collectors’ lounge, the Delano at 8 p.m. or the Delano at 1 a.m., and on and on and on until you want to blow your own head off. An orgy of networking and commerce and cocktails.

It was a warm night and McGinley took me to a dinner that Mirabelle Marden and Melissa Bent were giving at the opulent home of one of their artists. Teeny-tiny sprinklers sent circles of waves across the aqua surface of the blue swimming pool. McGinley was squiring around Alexandre Melo, the cultural adviser to the government of Portugal and the chief curator of the Ellipse Foundation, who just acquired twelve of McGinley’s photographs. Melo had noticed Jay-Z and Beyoncé looking at the gallery booths that day. “It’s good for the artists,” he said.

“Not really,” said McGinley. “People will sell to him because he’s Jay-Z, but then he’ll get tired of art and flip everything at Sotheby’s.”

“No,” Melo replied. “It’s more interesting to have people from different backgrounds collecting, not just old rich people.”

“You’re right, you’re right. There’s just something about celebrity culture that freaks me out.”

Next, we went to an address on Michigan Avenue, where their friend, the artist Nate Lowman, had curated a show with pieces by Colen and McGinley and Snow. Lowman was ducking in a corner trying to avoid being spotted by someone. “Vonce Nate Lowman started to burn mark the ceiling ov ower gallery,” said Hans Ulrich Obrist, a director of London’s most prestigious gallery, the Serpentine. “It vas very exciting!”

And there was Dash, sitting by the bar in a black top hat, clinging to Jade, a lean girl with long, wavy hair. He was still mad at me for calling his grandmother, but he gave me a long hug. I asked him to point out which piece was his, and Snow said, “It’s fucked up. They were supposed to send something, but it never showed. I have a piece in the fair, though. Wherever those Rivington Arms girls have their thing.” He didn’t seem to care. From the looks of it, the only thing Snow did care about was staying in close physical proximity to Jade at every moment. Jade waved at Hope Atherton and rifled through her quilted Marc Jacobs bag, but mostly she just sat on the steps, holding Snow’s hand and looking dazed and foxy.

Though Snow had told me that they never speak, his sister, Caroline, was on hand, talking with Agathe, who seemed drunk and a little sad. Caroline had an Irak sticker on her leather jacket, and her face was covered in strange, sloppy yellow makeup and pink eyeshadow. “I’m an actress, you know,” she said and kicked a long leg in the air, on which she wore black La Perla stockings that laced in tight X’s up the back of her calves. “But my brother is an artist.”

Kunle was there, too; a camera crew making a show about him for the Sundance Channel trailed his every move. A little white kid in a baseball hat came up to him and Kunle said, “You had a smart mouth, and that’s why you got smacked the other day. I’m Earsnot and you’re Naw: Don’t forget it.” Simon Curtis, out of jail and in a tie-dyed T-shirt, laughed at this.