Lepore at The Setai for
David LaChapelle’s book
party during Art Basel Miami
Beach, December 2005
Daphne Guinness at David
LaChapelle’s From Darkness to Light,
Manhattan, June 2011
Karl Lagerfeld at Mynt Lounge
during Art Basel Miami Beach, 2002
at Live Earth in Rio, July 2007
Terence Koh at the New York Fashion
Week afterparty for Jeremy Scott at Le
Bain, September 15, 2010
Browarnik shooting Diddy at LIV at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach during this year’s Winter Music Conference.
As a longtime chronicler of all things nightlife, 32-year-old photographer Seth Browarnik tends to think fast and on his feet, but at his offices at Red Eye Productions one afternoon, he is taking the long view while contemplating his retrospective, "Art of Night." The exhibition, on through December 4 at the Shelborne South Beach resort, features some 45 photographs culled from the thousands of photos Browarnik has taken over the last 10 years, in London, Rio, Paris, and, of course, Miami, particularly during the whirl of Art Basel Miami Beach. Many of the subjects in the show—who span Yoko Ono to Michael Jackson—also frequently appeared on pages here in Ocean Drive, where Browarnik has worked as a contributor since 1999. “I’m known for my work documenting young Hollywood on South Beach, people like Paris Hilton, but I like to profile all aspects of a city. We’re using huge prints—sometimes six feet tall—and they’re all over the lobby and downstairs at the Shelborne. My curator, Rachel K. Ward, did a great job distilling the images in the show from around 290 photographs.”
Browarnik has had some fun along the way, such as traveling down to Rio with Lenny Kravitz and Macy Gray for a Live Earth concert, hitting samba clubs at five in the morning. In a sense, each photo in the show represents a different social adventure.
The Art Basel shots, in particular, span the sociocultural gamut. In 2002, he shot Karl Lagerfeld at Mynt Lounge: “He was surrounded by bodyguards, because he thought he might be killed like Gianni Versace.” In 2003, Art Loves Ali celebrated the launch of Taschen’s book GOAT—A Tribute to Muhammad Ali. The Greatest of All Time appeared onstage at the Miami Beach Convention Center, and Browarnik captured Ali in his trademark pose, fists up in a reflexive fighting posture.
In 2005, he shot a launch party at The Setai for a David LaChapelle book, Artists and Prostitutes. Browarnik captured a nude Amanda Lepore perched inside a Lucite house suspended above a pool: “That was sick—this strange, calm moment with Amanda, reading David’s book in this floating house, right in the middle of this major crazy party, with everyone jumping in the pool.”
From there, the show moves on to assorted non-Basel moments: Lady Gaga, appearing at a New Year’s Eve show at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, drenched in fake blood; fashion icon Daphne Guinness in a moment of reverie, her eyes closed, at New York’s Lever House.
The Shelborne South Beach—which has had a $20 million makeover—will be the site of numerous celebrations during Art of Night, from a dinner at the hotel’s Vesper Café—hosted by Jason and Haley Binn of Ocean Drive—to a bash styled by Susanne Bartsch. Film production company Rakontur’s Limelight, a documentary on Peter Gatien and his iconic New York nightclub, will be screened by the pool and feature an appearance by Gatien’s daughter, Jen. On Saturday, December 3, there will be a 10-year anniversary celebration for Art Basel Miami Beach magazine.
Browarnik, no longer just a bright-eyed kid with a camera, is balancing all sorts of agendas with Art of Night. “I want everything to appeal to an older and more sophisticated crowd—Tony Shafrazi, Julian Schnabel, Terence Koh, Mr. Brainwash. But it will be fun too, and it’s going to show how nightlife drives this city.”