Text: Jennifer Piejko
Once in a while, David Lynch must let slip his sense of humor. Silencio, the filmmaker’s opulent, deep-underground members-only club in Paris's second arrondissement, made an appearance at this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach. Commanding the after-after-hours scene last week, the pop-up Silencio came and went so fast one might remember it as a dream, just like in Mulholland Drive (the film in which the fictional Club Silencio originated).
The club, like so many celebrities of all levels and much of the art world, escaped to Miami for four days of debauchery, sunshine, and art, camping out at the Delano Hotel. But Miami’s Silencio was no mysterious, smoky Parisian speakeasy: If the Silencio on Rue Montmartre was modeled after the unsettling fictional Los Angeles spot Lynch first featured in Mulholland Drive, Miami’s Silencio was a movie set: an almost generic, hollow-feeling place, with seams exposed, constructed to appear luxurious from a distance (perhaps from behind a red velvet rope), but visibly precarious inside.
The oversized disco ball refused to spin under a red glow. The menu listed $25 cocktails and $5,000 bottles of champagne. Was this a setup, a decoy? Was the real club, the one that left assistants of assistants and socialites with enigmatic accents pleading for entry, located in a back room somewhere, where members could watch the scene unfold with knowing amusement through a double-sided mirror? After entering the hotel’s labyrinth hallways—we checked all the doors, looking for Silencio before realizing that we were already in it.
It was perfect: Everyone who was supposed to be in the scene made their cameos—fashion editors, MoMA curators, off-duty French models, power dealers from Cologne and London. The hours went by, and the crowd swelled. The scene was flush with the colors of midnight Miami: red neon, green exit signs, fake gold, gray cigarette smoke, sapphire-blue piping.
Perhaps it was just another symptom of brazen art-fair commercialism. If Westway, the former seedy strip club turned fashion-week playground on Manhattan’s West Side Highway, could transport itself for a Miami appearance, no doubt a glamorous, exclusive social club with an ambitiously curated cultural program wouldn’t be out of place here. Miami is Europe—not the Europe of civilized taste and refinement; it’s the Europe Americans remember from college summers: tip is included, cell service is nearly nonexistent, smoking is permitted everywhere, and the music is precisely a handful of years behind. Miami Silencio was a gilded mise-en-scène with an expiration date, a dark detail in the exponentially inflating art fair. And perhaps this was exactly what David Lynch would have wanted to see.