Edie, the 73-year-old Viennese lady on my plane to Ft. Lauderdale, is confused. “There are a lot of young people on this flight,” she tells me, with a bit of apprehension.
She’s right. The population of the flight is split between retirees heading back to South Florida and L.A. party people. “Everyone’s heading to the art fair in Miami,” I tell her. She blinks. I begin explaining things the way I do to my grandmother, slowly and sweetly. “Galleries from all over the world go to sell art. Tons of people go. It’s basically a big party.”
I don’t really know too much more than that. I’ve never been to Miami for Basel so I’m feeling a mix of anxiety and excitement as I wait for the flight to take off. I’ve heard it’s one of the more socially competitive experiences that exists. Endless lists and RSVP-ing and publicists. Enough wealth to make you feel inferior no matter your earnings.
The annual event has turned into a major moment in the social calendar of the global elite and creative class—timed perfectly at the end of the year when people are rounding up 2014 trends and spotting 2015 ones, not only in art but in hospitality (Ian Schraeger’s new Edition Hotel is using Basel for its glamorous debut), fashion (endless pop-ups), music (Miley, Kelela and Brooke Candy are all performing), and branding (picture every brand doing something custom with every artist).
Increasingly, the city of Miami seems to revolve around Basel. The last time I visited it was early March, and Miami was dead. Everyone I spoke with applied the word “Basel” not just to the event but to a unit of time. “We opened two Basels ago,” a juice shop owner informed me. Others were waiting around for “next Basel” to open a shop or launch a new product.
It makes sense—Basel draws 75,000 visitors (many on private jets) and tourists who spend tens of millions of dollars. Celebrities and rich people descend. Branding, social media, strategies for exclusivity, and nightlight all follow. Spectacle is guaranteed.
I’ll be thinking about all of that as I live-blog the #ABMB experience through Sunday afternoon. Like my 73-year-old Austrian friend in Row 15, I also have some quesitons about Basel. What’s all the fuss about? What celebrities will use it to stunt and how? What’s the importance of the fair for the artists and gallerists who show up? What’s the real impact of Basel on Miami Beach, other than traffic?
Stay tuned with updates from the parties, the art, the parties, the beach, the parties, the pools, the parties, the partiesm and more.
Starting with Day 1: December 4.