Sex in a silver gallery nestled on the glittering sands of South Beach? Don’t mind if we do. On the occasion of Art Basel Miami 2022, Saint Laurent Rive Droite has reissued 800 copies of Madonna’s controversial 1992 book, 30 years after its original publication. The re-release was staged in an ephemeral oceanfront exhibition pavilion that featured framed outsized images from the Steven Meisel-lensed project, most of which was shot in Miami.
Packaged in silver and blue mylar, like the pornographic magazines of yesteryear, the Fabien Baron-designed tome played (and plays) with themes surrounding deviance, consent, and queerdom, all while exploring the fetishization of celebrity in the most literal way. Behind the metallic cover, Madonna poses nude on a palm tree-lined street, pisses in the mouth of a leather-clad lesbian, and waxes poetic on pornography and pussy eating under the pseudonym Mistress Dita.
All of this helped normalize queer subcultures at a time when outward displays of sexual self-expression were considered perverse, yet the work today is still transgressive. Take the gallery space, for example. Sitting on the beach like millennial cousin of the Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, it is affixed with metallic walls designed to look like the cover of Sex. The Saint Laurent-produced installation seductively encases pornographic images taken during the AIDS crisis, back when South Beach was considered a safe haven for the queer community, long before Art Basel, and the extraordinary wealth and elitism that came with it, even existed. Exiting the sultry silver space, my kitten heels sinking in the sand, I smile, shake my head, and remind myself that Madonna still has it.