As the art world descended on Miami for Art Basel this week, they braved delays and canceled flights to get to sunny Miami—only to be greeted by cold temperatures and sleeting rain. But temperatures rose as Art Basel wears on—both by the pool and inside the Convention Center, where art has been selling well. Though foot traffic at the fair is reportedly lower this year than it was before the economic meltdown, there's a general sense here that people are in a good mood, and that of those who came, many are willing to buy. Several dealers, including Larry Gagosian, are spreading the word far and wide that their booths are selling out.
But everyone knows people don't come to Art Basel just for the art. The week is also a bacchanal for collectors and dealers (and people who have no connection to the art world, too) to schmooze through the art fairs by day and a slew of star-studded parties by night. Many of the week's festivities existed away from the windowless booths of the main Convention Center and the sun-drenched blocks of the Design District, where the smaller satellite fairs, like NADA and Scope, took place: They unfolded in Miami's splashy hotels—the Delano, the W, the Standard, and the brand new Soho Beach House, which has hosted a slew of the week's best parties at Cecconi's. Nights were late, and inevitably all roads lead to Le Baron, the outpost of the Parisian nightclub that took over the Delano's Florida Room. There, despite promises of a list and organization, the art world's heaviest hitters were at the mercy of a glowering Frenchman in a leather coat: It doesn't matter how much you spent on art. If you didn't look the part, you weren't getting in.
On Wednesday night, MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch continued a tradition he formed at Deitch Projects: hosting a raging concert to kick off the week. This year, it was LCD Soundsystem, who performed on the sandy beach behind the Raleigh. The party was such a madhouse that even art world A-listers couldn't get in: Artist/collector Johnny Pigozzi was seen trying to scale the back fence for access into the event, but ultimately was turned away.
Early the next morning, crowds shuttled between the De La Cruz and Rubell Family Collections, where Jennifer Rubell hosted her ninth annual "food installation" breakfast. This year, the theme was "Just Right," inspired loosely on the story of Goldilocks. Visitors ducked through a hole in the back wall of the garden and found their way into an abandoned house on the fringe of her property. There, they were presented with 40 crockpots of porridge; stacks of raisins, and piles of spoons. "The only place to sit and eat it is back through the hole, in the collection's courtyard," Rubell said. "So you find yourself back there with a bowl and a spoon and the porridge, and it's like, Where was I?! What just happened?! It's like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe… For me, the project is all about the audacity of art-making, with Goldilocks being a stand-in for the artist."
The following night, Julian Schnabel held a screening of Miral, his film on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict starring Freida Pinto. "But I'm just a Jewish guy from New York," he said. After the screening, the focus of the evening shifted to Haiti, as a blue-chip crowd gathered for the first event at the new Frank Gehry-designed building New Symphony Hall: a "Maybach Night," a formal dinner hosted by the luxury German carmaker. There, Deitch took the podium to announce a surprising new show at MOCA. "I am very happy to announce a great retrospective of Julian's work in Los Angeles in about two years," he said. "It will be an astonishing show. People will be floored to see Julian's work all together." Shortly thereafter, five works by Schnabel—large-scale paintings on maps of Haiti—were auctioned off to the highest bidders: Naomi Campbell, restaurateur Michel Chow, and Peter Brant, who raised almost $1 million for Sean Penn's J/P Haitian Relief Organization.
Not long after, the younger crowd, which included Schnabel's son Vito, Stavros Niarchos, and Alex Dellal, decamped to Wall at the W Hotel, where they celebrated a "Tribute to Andy Warhol by Dom Perignon," which drew everyone from Russian art princess Dasha Zhukova to Alex Rodruiguez; from artist Kehinde Wiley to Kelly Killoren Bensimon.
Gallery: Art and Parties at Miami Art Basel
But Yankees and Real Houswives aside, Art Basel saw big names in the fashion department as well: Daphne Guinness held court with Yves Saint Laurent designer Stefano Pilati at W Magazine's party at Cecconi's on Thursday night. And Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz, who did an installation of clothes and art at the Rubell Family Collection, joined Calvin Klein's Francisco Costa, Pilati, Peter Som, and Viktor & Rolf's design team Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren to celebrate the launch of Visionaire's 59 "Fairytale" issue, which brought over-the-top to a new level with a "Great Vodka River" of Beluga Noble Russian vodka flowing through the tropical garden grove at the W hotel. And, though not an obvious choice for South Beach, Scottish knitwear brand Pringle of Scotland brought Brits to Basel with Tilda Swinton hosting a dinner—which had Susan Sarandon and Ryan McGinley—to honor her collaboration with the brand on Friday night at Miami's chicest boutique, the Webster.
Isabel Wilkinson is an assistant editor at The Daily Beast.