Art Basel: Miley Cyrus Gets High and Performs in a Silver Wig

Miley Cyrus Art Basel Opening - H 2014
AP Images

Miley Cyrus Art Basel Opening - H 2014

"Damn, I'm so high right now. But, you know, so is the whole front row!"

In its 13-year history, Art Basel Miami Beach has earned a reputation for its competitive partygoing, with a host of high-profile events sending would-be revelers scurrying for invites. No invite has more coveted than Wednesday night's Miley Cyrus performance at the Raleigh Hotel, the latest in Jeffrey Deitch’s series of concerts in the back garden of the resort (previous performers include Santigold, LCD Soundsystem and Devenda Banhart). This go-round, Deitch shared hosting duties with Tommy Hilfiger and V Magazine, which currently sports the pop starlet on its cover.

While the singer was scheduled to take the stage at 11 p.m. sharp, Miley-madness started at 5 p.m., when the 1,000 extra RVSPers required an early check-in for wristbands, starting a temporary fashion craze up and down the beach. By the time the doors opened at 10 p.m., there were already hordes lining 18th Street from the beach to Collins Avenue. Those lucky few who did make it into the garden found the trees colonized with babydolls wearing glow-in-the-dark raver necklaces, while the cabanas were converted into makeshift exhibition spaces for the pop star’s art work, which consists of a lot of playful Photoshopping and quotations from the singer’s online trolls.

At 11:01 pm, a hush fell over the crowd, the lights switched off, and Dave Chapelle’s voice crackled over the speakers: "I’m Rick James, bitch…!"

Just like that, the beat to James’ “Super Freak” kicked in. Cyrus bounded onto the stage in a long silver wig with a halter top and thong to match, and began to gyrate with a very tall, very shapely dancer, whose magnificent breasts were proudly on display as she and Cyrus took turns humping one another.

It was a raucous start to a night of mostly covers, as the singer belted out classic gems like Led Zeppelin’s “Babe, I’m Going to Leave You” and Johnny Cash’s “Boy Named Sue.” The latter found her prancing and posturing over the stage, throwing in the occasional hillbilly kick for good measure. While the crowd was eating up her every move, not so many were singing along. “What, you guys don’t like Johnny Cash?” Cyrus hollered. “Who are you people?”

“Y’all thought you were all coming here to this respected place, but you can’t get away from me,” she teased, before taking a more somber moment to address some “shitty things” that had happened to her over the past year, namely the death of her beloved dog. “This year has constantly challenged me,” she confessed. “I know you just want me to shake my ass, but I just want to say, I’m here today because it’s meant so much that my friend Jeffrey has been so open to my work as an artist.”

During her performance, band members and other more ambiguous figures bobbed around the stage in big plush costumes, including a mushroom, a shark and a giant penis. At one point, Wayne Coyne, frontman of the Flaming Lips, appeared onstage, his head poking out of one end of a giant rainbow. Cyrus slipped into the other, and together they let loose with “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” as the song was meant to be performed, replete with strobe lights and cannons pelting the audience with sparkling confetti, bubbles and fake dollar bills minted with her face pasted over George Washington’s, her tongue stretched out almost all the way down to the elder statesman’s frilly collar.

“I don’t normally drink or smoke weed before a performance,” Cyrus admitted to the audience during one break. “Buuutttttt … you guys seem chill.”  She then lit up a spliff, passing it around to the fans in the front row while Coyne started in on the first lines of  another Beatles standard, “A Day in the Life.” After the song, she confessed, “Damn, I’m so high right now. But, you know, so is the whole front row!”

The set rounded out with the Flaming Lips’ “Evil” and Cyrus’ “Love Money Party,” after which Coyne came out to unloose a giant silver balloon reading "FUCK YEAH BASEL." If that doesn’t sum up this year’s Art Basel zeitgeist, what does?