Gianni Versace’s time in Miami Beach ended in tragedy.
For artist Kevin Arrow, it started in tragedy as well.
The late fashion designer purchased the by-then seedy Amsterdam Palace in 1992 to turn into his Ocean Drive villa Casa Casuarina. He then had the Revere Hotel next door – a home to elderly and retired tenants – torn down with city approval to make room for a swimming pool.
“The city saw him a great person to have living in Miami Beach,” says Arrow. “So they said, ‘Let’s just roll out the red carpet.’ Maybe the Revere wasn’t an Art Deco masterpiece, but it was part of the fabric of the city.”
Arrow has created a short film titled “Gianni Versace” that mashes together footage of the demolition of the Revere with the aggressive music of the now-defunct Miami rock band Harry Pussy.
The film will be presented at the Bass Museum of Art, 2100 Collins Ave., in Miami Beach Friday, July 19 from 7 to 9 p.m. There will also be a special performance by heavy metal band Holly Hunt. The show is part of the Museum's "tc: temporary contemporary" series.
The event open to the public and is free for museum members and BassPass holders. Non-members will pay $10.
“They didn’t demolish it like they do with big buildings and an explosion,” explains Arrow, remembering the day in 1993 that the hotel was leveled. “They picked it apart. There was a wrecking ball, but they tore it down the old fashioned way. It was kind of shocking to think that all it took was money and clout and prestige. I remember it was sunrise on Miami Beach and it was a beautiful morning. I had the really good Miami Beach light. The building was bathed in that light. It was a beautiful sight.”
Arrow, 50, also remembers July 15, 1997 – the day Versace was shot on the front steps of Casa Casuarina.
“I was awoken by police helicopters. I lived a few blocks from the Versace Mansion. It was a sound that seems to have lasted for the entire week.”
But at the time he didn’t have an inkling of doing this art piece.
“The way I work is I accumulate materials and I maintain a slide archive. I shoot film. I collect ephemera. And these things sit around. Eventually some things make their way to the top of the stack. I can’t say I recall the exact thought process…I didn’t make notes.”
Although he is friends with Harry Pussy’s Bill Orcutt and Adris Hoyos, it was serendipity that sparked the idea of matching the visuals of the Revere Hotel destruction with their chaotic, violent, confusion-imbued music.
“Having Harry Pussy on the soundtrack just seemed right. The film and some of their singles, these vinyl records both appeared at the top of the stack at the same time. I thought, ‘Why don’t I put them together?’ When I do my work I usually take the path of least resistance to do something. I allow things to ferment for a long time.”
The piece was re-edited by film archivist and curator Barron Sherer, who added footage of the destruction in reverse with another side from the Harry Pussy recording.
Arrow chose Holly Hunt for the debut event because he is – as with Harry Pussy – particularly “interested in duos. And Holly Hunter is a duo and Harry Pussy were also a duo. I just feel the spirit of what they do is very much in line with Harry Pussy. They are dark and loud and chaotic.”