Everything You Need to Know About Art Basel Miami Beach
When is a cultural event not a cultural event? When it’s a damn party.
Yes, you might have to be Vito Schnabel to date Heidi Klum, Demi Moore, or whatever It Girl or über-cougar he’s squiring these days, but you don’t have to be an A-list art world scion to properly party down at Art Basel in Miami Beach (December 4–7). In fact, the true masterworks gracing this jet-set-saturated scenefest—with more than 260 galleries displaying roughly $2 billion worth of art—emerge at the endless array of Basel parties and the beautiful women who flock to them. Heading to Miami to experience it for yourself? Follow these Basel-tested tips, and you just might channel a little performance art of your own…
Party Like an Art Star
Basel’s most crash-worthy and babe-infested soiree is held every year at Wall in the W South Beach Hotel & Residences, cohosted by the aforementioned Schnabel and his modelizingwingmen: South African gallerist Alex Dellal and Greek shipping heir StavrosNiarchos. And it’s sponsored by—who else?—Dom Pérignon. Afterward, head to the W’s Living Room Lounge, where your handcrafted cocktails will be shaken, stirred, and served with a fresh sprig of scene. You’ll find yourself in the company of wannabe Basquiats, Euro-trashed collectors, and plenty of smoking-hot girls. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get some sexy spillage from the dutch, where New York real estate tycoon Aby Rosen hosts a super-private, invitation-only dinner party that’s a magnet for the likes of Sean Penn, Lenny Kravitz, and art-dealing demigod Larry Gagosian—and the hotel and garmento heiresses desperate to mingle with them.
Location, Location, Location
For a guaranteed Art Basel epicenter, head to Soho Beach House, where stilettoed stunners strut through the lobby day and night like a well-choreographed Beyoncé video. An exceptionally colorful crowd gathers here, the unofficial Basel canteen, for rehydrating, dehydrating, or just to be seen. You’ll be within walking distance of LIV, the cavernous yet chic superclub inside the Fontainebleau Hotel, with two confetti cannons and countless celebrity regulars. Then it’s just a short cab ride to the broken Shaker, Miami Beach’s reigning hipster haven, where facial hair isn’t just ironic; it, too, like all else this week, is another form of art. But even more masterful are the cocktails here. Throw back a Fireball Old Fashioned—Old Forester bourbon stirred with spicy cinnamon, bitters, and a flamed orange twist. And since the intimate, candlelit backdrop of the Shaker’s host, the FREEHAND MIAMI, is a perfect setting for chatting up Basel beauties, consider it the perfect canvas to create your very own late-night pièce de résistance.
Wynwood Walls, a six-building complex featuring murals by some of the world’s foremost graffiti masters, is an inland spot where art matters even more than in South Beach, so do some quick Wikipedia research on your smartphone of today’s edgiest street artists before rolling through. You’ll find a funkier crowd here (and maybe a cameo by avowed Basel fan Pharrell Williams). Down some craft brews at nearby Kush, where free-range fried chicken and Florida alligator bites soak up the suds flowing from 18 taps. At Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, chase your booze with ropaviejaempanadas or the WKBHamburguesita, a juicy blend of chorizo and chicken served with pickled jalapeños. Then hit the bar at Brick House to sip small-batch whiskey, chat up adorable gallery assistants, and judiciously name-drop Damien Hirst over the din of vintage rock, punk, and New Wave.
Basel by Design
Party-hop through the Design District, just south of Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood, where stretch limos full of boldface names shuttle between “spaces,” galleries, MC Kitchen (upscale Italian with a heavy side of Miami Heat players), Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink (local, seasonal, and always packed with heavy hitters and their requisite arm candy), Harry’s Pizzeria (craft beer and primo gourmet pies), and Oak Tavern (bustling bar scene and house-cured charcuterie), before rolling up Biscayne Boulevard to the swingingly retro Vagabond Hotel’s pool bar for a nightcap or three.
But What About the Damn Art?!
Oh right, we almost forgot: There’s art practically everywhere during Basel week. Command central is the Miami Beach Convention Center, a Willy Wonka–esque whirlwind of people, Plasticine, actual masterpieces, and almost-masterpieces that could be snapped up for millions. Take an $8 million Jeff Koons sculpture sold here in 2013, or an eight-by-eight glass shadow box with rows of dead—er, preserved—spiders that sold for $3 million last year. Astute collectors and curious celebs alike—ranging from Will Ferrell to Lindsay Lohan—have browsed the assembled works, looking for that perfect Banksy knock-off to hang over the fireplace at their Malibu beach house (just don’t forget your Black Card).
W South Beach Hotel & Residences: It’s no wonder the sleek and sultry W lures some of the biggest names (and fattest wallets) to Basel’s South Beach headquarters: It has one of Miami’s most debauched discos (Wall), a satellite of a molten-hot Manhattan eatery (the Dutch), and a pool scene straight outta the French Riviera, where bikinied beauties luxuriate in private cabanas with their German gallerist boyfriends. Vagabond Hotel: The newest—and most retro—retreat in town evokes the glory days of 1950s road-tripping with old-school aplomb. The 45-room hotel, risen from the ashes of time after a swell-egant makeover, is where pretty young things mix with aspiring wheeler-dealers on seedy-slash-sceney Biscayne Boulevard. Freehand Miami: A boho hostel with a grown-up summer-camp vibe, this cheeky hideaway offers both private and shared rooms (featuring twin-size bunk beds). Don’t miss the outdoor oasis, complete with pool and the Broken Shaker, where killer cocktails are works of art in their own right.