Complexcon : The Art World's Best Contact High (pictures)

Complexcon : Long Beach Convention Center : Nov 4-5, 2017

Complexcon geared up for its second year in Long Beach to a sold out crowd at the Long Beach Convention Center. I think of Complexcon as a hybrid between Miami’s myriad art fairs, San Diego’s ComicCon and Blade Runner. Mix in both the crowds that frequent Wynwood Walls during Basel, and Melrose and you have the faces of Complexcon. Hip-Hop meets swag meets street art meets car culture. Within the halls of Complexcon are Hip-Hop concerts scheduled throughout the two day fair. Add in the aroma of Dutch Masters and other leafy greens and one experiences nearly complete sensory overload, some would say almost too much for the LA West Siders to handle.

I did think about making a major push to get my fine art bourgeois friends to attend the convention but after an hour in I realized, why bother. This fair is not for them. Don’t even bring your kids. With the millennials selling out the fair, Complexcon doesn’t need the art faculty types or coastal art world leisure types to validate them. Overall, Complexcon is cool, young and millennial. It runs amok of hashtag after hashtag. Long Beach and Southern California should be happy to add Complexcon to the healthy roster of annual events that enrich and celebrate our arts and culture.

Complexcon describes itself this way : “ComplexCon is an expertly curated convention and festival that brings the world of Complex to life. This is our generation’s World Fair. The minds behind Complex have come together with a Host Committee that includes Pharrell Williams and Takashi Murakami, Sarah Andelman, co-founder of the influential Paris concept fashion store Colette, designer and founder of Off-White, Virgil Abloh, reggaeton superstar J. Balvin, and actor/activist Jaden Smith to imagine a place where creators, curators and YOU converge to celebrate and shape our culture. Watch, Listen, Shop, Taste, and Experience the future…now.”

Highlights provided by Complexcon included on Day 1 :

Hundreds of fans camped out overnight to be among the first to cop the latest merch from Puma, Human Made, adidas, Neighborhood, Billionaire Boys Club, Colette, Nike, Kimoji, and dozens more at this year’s ComplexCon.

Fans got a special treat when Big Sean made a surprise appearance at the Puma booth. And when Desiigner stopped by the Foot Locker booth to visit The Foundation. And when Virgil Abloh and Takashi Murakami screen printed T-shirts for fans. And when G-Star revealed the new G-Star Raw suit with Pharrell. And when Pusha T unveiled his latest collaboration with adidas. And when A$AP Fergrevealed he once lined up for two days to cop the Nike Air Yeezy shoes. And when eBay raffled custom pairs of Nike shoes with proceeds going to benefit families in need from recent NorCal fires.

Other surprises included appearance by Lavar and Lonzo Ball, Chad “Ocho Cinco” Johnson, Andre 3000, Pharrell, Riff Raff, SuperDuperKyle, Wiz Khalifa, Rich the Kid, Pusha T, Ty Dolla $ign, Travis Barker during Ronnie J’s set, professional skateboarder Erik Koston, and Rotimi.

Virgil Abloh, designer & founder of Off-White keynoted ComplexCon(versations), the speaking track that tackles the topics that concern today’s Complex generation, and was followed by panels that included a “who’s who” lineup of Charles D. King, Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan, A$AP Ferg, Jerry Lorenzo, Chris Gibbs, Deon Point, Racks Hogan, Karizza Sanchez, Kevin Le, Bradford Shellhammer, Lavar Ball, Takashi Murakami, Hiroshi Fujiwara, Don C., Yoon Ambush, J Balvin, Lonzo Ball, Wale, DJ Clark Kent, Aleali May, Joe La Puma, Russ Bengtson, Victor Cruz and more.

During the day, Fool’s Gold Day Off took over the Pigeons & Planes Stage with Smokepurpp and Fool’s Gold artists G-Worthy, along with A-Trak & Friends, SuperDuperKyle, A$AP Ferg, Ski Mask the Slump God, Wifisfuneral, Dreezy, and Ronnie J. The crowd went crazy when K$ace ran through the crowd to perform his Pigeons and Planes’ performance on the roof of the Fool’s Gold booth hundreds of feet away from the stage.

The day culminated with a concert style listening party of N*E*R*D's new album "No_One Ever Really Dies."

Day 2 highlights :

In a floor stopping moment, Kobe Bryant and Kendrick Lamar took over the court at the Nike experience center to discuss how basketball and music influenced their lives.

· DJ Khaled brought out G-Eazy to introduce a new G-Eazy song; DJ Khaled also tossed boxes of coveted Air Jordans into the crowd and even removed his own and threw them to fans to end the set.

· After yesterday’s appearances by Hello Kitty herself, today featured Sanrio characters Keroppi and Chococat.

· Usher, Travis Barker, 2 Chainz, Michael B. Jordan, Victor Cruz, Rei Kawakubo and more shopped the floor Sunday evening.

· Steve Aoki screen printed T-shirts at the Dim Mak booth and then went to Vision Streetwear to make a surprise DJ set with secret guest badbunny.

André 3000 released 100 pairs of an exclusive sneaker he made in collaboration with Tretorn and unveiled the entire collection.

· Daniel Ashram from Snarkitecture made an appearance in his booth.

· Jerry Lorenzo and Jaden Smith checked out the latest gear at the Fear of God booth.

· Takashi Murakami signed his Black and White Flower bags at KaiKai KiKi booth for fans.

· Pharrell gave away the new adidas Hu NMD, a collaboration between adidas Originals and Pharrell’s N*E*R*D collective that dropped at ComplexCon. N*E*R*D also made a special appearance at the adidas experience at ComplexCon.

· SuperDuperKyle made an appearance at UGG’s booth.

· DRAM started his set at the Fool’s Gold booth, and moved his way through the audience to the Pigeons & Planes stage where he was joined by Trippy Red to perform their hit single ILL Nana.

· Cam’ron did a surprise meet & greet at the Old Spice’s Puppy Party when fans got to take photos of Cam’ron AND pooches.

· Pusha T hit the adidas booth to give out exclusive items from the fourth installment of his “Bodega Babies” line, a collaboration with adidas.

· David East made an appearance in the Puma booth before moving to the Polaroid booth for an activation.  

This article is part of an ongoing photojournalism survey of art exhibition openings titled EMS N(art)rative. Through my lens I document a photographic essay or visual “N(art)rative” that captures the happenings, personalities, collectors, gallerists, artists and the art itself; all elements that form the richly varied and textured fabric of the SoCal art world. This reconnaissance offers a unique view for serious art world players to obtain news and information on the current pulse of what’s in the now, yet capturing timeless indelible images for posterity and legacy. Here is EMS N(art)rative Sixty.

EMS can be reached at and Instagram @ericminhswenson

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