Give a Little, Take a Little
"Tonight we're dealing with people who don't need free stuff," chuckled the artist Jonathan Horowitz, scanning the well-heeled Art Basel-ites gathered poolside at South Beach's SLS Hotel for his Free Store installation. "Bring Stuff In You Can't Use, Take Stuff Away That You Can" read the event's invitation, one Horowitz said was partly inspired by 1960s anarchist group the Diggers, who—in between acts of guerrilla theater—helped establish a free soup kitchen, a free medical clinic, and yes, a free "store." Of course, as Horowitz conceded, "The Diggers never had a velvet rope outside their store."
Nevertheless, co-hosts Visionaire magazine and online fashion retailers Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter hoped Horowitz's handiwork would spark inspired thinking by attendees, including burlesque performer Dita Von Teese, Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci, and gallery owners Gavin Brown and Bill Powers. In case partygoers weren't all willing to play along, Visionaire co-founder Cecilia Dean solicited a number of items up front: The painter Marilyn Minter sent a pair of purple suede boots, R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe sent a stylish ceramic bowl still in its Museum of Modern Art gift shop box, and conceptual prankster Maurizio Cattelan contributed a Mickey Mouse cap. Elsewhere, the free-for-the-swapping wares ran from the kitschy (a pig-shaped piggy bank) to the luxe (a fur coat).
An hour into the event, most of the fashion goodies had been snapped up. The revolution, however, seemed none the closer. "The Diggers weren't just about politics; they were also performance artists," explained Horowitz. "I conceived of this as an artwork—it's a social experience." The Free Store's remaining items—including several attractive pieces of large furniture—will be donated to Miami's Lotus House, which provides services to homeless women. Horowitz himself was sending his entire $2,000 commission to New York's Rockaway Waterfront Alliance. "At the very least, some stuff will go to a good cause," he said.