Flaunt Magazine Didn't Pay Its Art Basel Bills, Locals Say
Well, that didn't take long. The dust hasn't even settled yet on this year's Art Basel but already accusations of broken promises and unpaid bills are emerging.
photo by Marta Xochilt Perez Kendrick Lamar performed at Flaunt's Mana warehouse party during Art Basel
Los Angeles-based fashionistas Flaunt Magazine, for instance, hosted a much-hyped party at Wynwood's Mana warehouses featuring Kendrick Lamar. But locals say Flaunt founder Luis Barajas flew in for Basel, berated them, and bounced without paying.
"I'm pissed," says Kerry McLaney, an event producer who estimates Barajas owes her and her crew $17,000. "I felt like I was coming onto this project as a favor. But instead, it turned into hell."
McLaney -- who has bright red hair and briefly freelanced for New Times several years ago -- was preparing for an already busy Basel schedule when she received an urgent call from a friend on Friday, November 29.
Event planner Stephanie Lobato told her that Flaunt Magazine needed a warehouse turned into an exhibition space in less than four days. McLaney had her doubts. Last year she had trouble getting paid for producing another Art Basel event for New York jetsetters. But she eventually agreed.
"They were in trouble if I didn't come onboard for this," McLaney says. "I was their last resort."
She examined the designs for 24 gallery-style walls and sent Barajas an estimate of $20,000. Barajas agreed and overnighted her a $10,000 deposit.
From Saturday through Tuesday, McLaney and her carpenters raced to ready the space. But McLaney says Barajas kept changing the plans, demanding retaining walls, even a stage on short notice. Some walls were built, then torn down, then built again.
Whenever McLaney asked for more money -- either to pay her employees or for new materials -- Barajas promised to pay her when the work was completed.
By Wednesday morning, hours before the Kendrick Lamar show, the project was nearly complete, McLaney says.
"Things weren't done on time but that was understandable because of all the changes Luis made," Lobato adds. "At end of the day, the show went off without a hitch."
But when McLaney went back to Mana on Thursday to pick up her check, Barajas blew up at her.
"He started freaking out on her and cussing at her and saying he wasn't paying for any of this," Lobato says. "He was super nasty." Lobato was so angry with Barajas's bullying that she stripped her name off of the 'Thank You' wall and walked out.
"I'm not going to give you your money," Barajas said to McLaney. "You're going to have to sue me."
Barajas then allegedly demanded security guards remove the woman from the space she helped construct. When they refused, he called Miami Police and had her escorted out.