Art Basel Miami Begins, Awash With Money, Art, and Parties

You can always expect a bombastic Art Basel Miami—and this year’s star guests are set to include Cardi B, Sean Penn, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Eva Longoria.

There’s obvious, and then there’s Art Basel Miami obvious. This year, at the ultra-mega art fair famously attended by the super-wealthy, Perrotin Gallery’s booth features an interactive piece from the art collective MSCHF called ATM Leaderboard (2022): dip your banking card into the functional device, and your account balance will be cheekily broadcasted to attendees on an attached screen.

The Florida fair’s biggest-ever iteration promises to deliver big sales, celebrity appearances, gallery squabbles over big sales and more, as well as the looming possibility that climate protesters may show up, as they have done in many different art spaces recently, and throw a wrench in the proceedings.

Another destabilizing element is the splashy collapse of the crypto exchange FTX. On Thursday morning, Art Basel launched Arcual, a new platform intended to help popularize these types of digital crypto art transactions at a time when the public’s faith in the blockchain couldn’t possibly be any more expired.

This was bad timing, but attendees to the fair’s VIP preview like Venus Williams, Amar’e Stoudemire, Martha Stewart and Pharrell Williams probably didn’t mind. Wealth has a way of smoothing over newsy inconveniences.

In 2021, addressing Art Basel’s intent to renew their contract with the Miami Beach Convention Center through 2026, Miami Beach City Manager Alina Hudak wrote that economists estimate that Miami sees “$400 million to $500 million annually in related economic impact as a result of ABMB.”

Plus, media mogul James Murdoch, son of Rupert, took a controlling interest in Art Basel last year, meaning that the Miami edition likely has a lot of overcorrecting to do to make up for their 2020 slump (Basel Miami was cancelled that year due to Covid-19).

But things are looking up: think of the array of hotel bookings, restaurant meals, Uber rides and endless cocktails being charged to the AmExes of the fair’s tens of thousands of guests right this minute!

You can always expect a downright bombastic Art Basel Miami bash when you’re close to the beach, and this year is packed with them. E11even, arguably the city’s highest-profile nightclub, is hosting performances by 50 Cent, Travis Scott, Offset, and Machine Gun Kelly. Maddox Gallery, which last year sold a Banksy for $4 million on Basel Miami’s opening day, is back with more work by Banksy and other big names like George Condo and KAWS.

Eva Longoria’s Casa Del Sol Tequila brand is hosting a floating installation on a super-yacht that’s also being used for an exclusive Vogue party. Cardi B will perform at Story nightclub. Core Response is throwing a private dinner event hosted by Sean Penn that Leonardo DiCaprio is rumored to be attending.

This year’s edition of Miami Basel promises the participation of 283 galleries in total, and some of the biggest ones to look out are quite literally bringing the biggest work to the fair’s Unlimited section, which prioritizes large-scale projects and installations.

Sies + Höke is bringing a set of 21 signed drawings by the artist Gerhard Richter, who set an auction record in 2012 for a painting sold by a living when his Abstraktes Bild (809-4) (1994) sold for $34 million.

Gagosian is heading in with some reliable big names (Rudolf Stingel, Jonas Wood) but the real focal point should be newer acquisition Ashley Bickerton, whose bizarro Barbadian artwork lit up the hot East Village gallery O’Flaherty’s earlier this year. Bickerton passed away on Wednesday in Bali after being diagnosed with ALS last year, and his death will certainly only increase the hubbub and interest surrounding his work at Basel.

Under the umbrella of Pace Gallery, none other than big kahuna Jeff Koons will roll through Miami Basel with his 2020-2022 work Nike Sneakers (N110 D/MS/X) on offer (it’s exactly what you think it is, only made with bronze).

There are many attendees for whom seeing art at Art Basel is not at all a priority, and there are some who split the difference. For the more glamorous guests in attendance, luxury brands are increasing their Basel Miami presence.

According to Vanity Fair, Fendi is showing work by the designer Lukas Gschwandtner with their own booth at Design Miami, and Louis Vuitton is launching a VIP lounge at the Miami Beach convention center packed with works by Richard Prince and Alex Katz. LV will also be using their Basel slot to tout new luggage collaborations with Takashi Murakami and Yayoi Kusama.

And already, with a reliability akin to daylight savings or taxes, Basel regular DiCaprio was spotted partying with models at a fashion brand party at a Miami club on Tuesday evening. The combo of Leo, models, and the club feels quintessential Basel.

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