Another party attracted a crowd to the Harmony Building at Third Street and Second Avenue North, where The Replacements were recording. About five hundred partygoers, including vice-squad members disguised in artist garb, allegedly attended. When “the party is over” came blaring through the police bullhorn, it was recorded for posterity on The Replacements’ Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash—and in the memories of those who lost their rent money or spent the night in jail (or both).
“Now the cops see artists as an economic entity, so they leave us alone. We weren’t bothering anybody,” said Moroni, who currently has a studio and runs a gallery in the California Building in Northeast Minneapolis. “But then, they didn’t know who we were—and we didn’t know who we were.”
He recalls days spent working at the Skunk House, which now houses Origami, the noted sushi restaurant, but then was the run-down home to Moroni and about ten other artists committed to living a “rustic, pirate life.” They’d work until 10:30 or so, head to the New French to see who was there, then swipe a couple of bottles of wine at closing time and go back to the building’s one chic amenity, a sauna, which by then was “full of poets, artists, and deadbeats. We’d go on until sunrise, then crash, then get up and do it all over again.”
As The Replacements could attest, art wasn’t a solo scene. The era’s creative outpouring spanned several genres. The “Minneapolis sound” emanating from First Avenue just down the street was making national waves; Prince recorded live tracks for his sixth album, Purple Rain, there in 1983. Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam Harris founded Flyte Tyme Productions in 1982 and scored their first Billboard top-ten hit in 1985. In 1984, the Utne Reader launched as an alternative publication that would eventually garner several nominations for National Magazine Awards. And throughout the entire decade, advertising agency Fallon McElligott Rice (now, as Fallon, celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary) was making a national splash by winning the country’s top creative advertising awards, thus focusing the spotlight on the broader Twin Cities commercial arts community.
Meanwhile, the art market was heating up across Europe and America, from Kansas City and San Francisco to Seattle and even Fargo. By the mid-80s, the U.S. economy had weathered the 1981-82 recession, inflation was dipping to a decade low of 1.9 percent, and Basquiat’s paintings were going for twenty-five thousand dollars. Some of his fellow “neo-expressionist” artists in New York, like Francesco Clemente and Julian Schnabel, were enjoying six-figure incomes while critics celebrated the waning of cool, cerebral minimalism and the waxing of this volatile and passionate style. The public, some claimed, had been bored and baffled by art for a decade and were ready for change. Not coincidentally, baby boomers who were at last making money were christened “yuppies”—just in time to hop aboard the art market’s bandwagon.
“It was a pretty artificial time in a lot of ways. Everything was blown way out of proportion,” said Thomas Barry, who long had a gallery in the Wyman Building, which he just relocated last May to 530 North Third Street, in the newly christened “North Loop” of the Warehouse District. Together with Fort Mango artist Dick Brewer, Barry had operated the Barry Richard Gallery in the early 80s before opening his own in 1984. “We were selling a lot of work in those years. There was something going on if not every day, then at least every week. It was by no means a normal situation. It was the gold rush,” he said.