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Hidden Billionaires Dominate The Miami Art Basel Landscape

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By Lieba Nesis Art Basel went off with a bang as more than 80,000 people from 36 countries and over 250 galleries descended on Miami for a five day extravaganza starting with a VIP preview November 30th and ending on Dec 4th. The stampede of billionaires were joined by ubiquitous celebrities including: Leo DiCaprio, Venus Williams, Karlie Kloss, Ricky Martin, Swizz Beatz and Marc Anthony. There were other luminaries who made one time cameos such as Jared, Ivanka, Kim, Kanye and Rihanna at Louis Vuitton. As hard as DiCaprio tries to keep out of the spotlight the press can’t stop writing about him. Whether it was the eco enthusiast’s private round trip one day flight to NYC or his dissing of “Wolf of Wall Street’s”Jordan Belfort it seems Leo drives headlines. Leo is the “King of Snubbing” having just given the brush off to Jeff Bezos and his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez two weeks ago-unless you are a 20-year-old model Leo has little interest. Even his long time model girlfriend Camila Morrone is looking exhausted-perhaps she realizes her shelf life is coming to an end. Leo has added a new tool of disguise to his low hat ensemble-the face mask-nice try Leo we know it’s you! Did DiCaprio actually buy any art or was he just here to ogle models, hang out with friends Richie Akiva and billionaire gallerist Helly Nahmad, and support friend Sean Penn at his Haiti charity event at Soho House on Wednesday-who knows? The only certainty is the art on the wall wasn’t the only thing he was eyeing.

On Sunday night Club Liv at the Fontainebleau was packed to see Meek Mill even though Art Basel was done(Lieba Nesis photo)
Eden Gallery the site of many art showings(photo: Lieba Nesis)

For the first time ever yacht makers, aircraft designers and automakers arrived to join the festivities and pursue high net worth clients according to Robb Report. As Yacht maker Sanlorenzo declared, “our owners are almost all art collectors.” Tempest Energy Platform showcased its futuristic $500,000 jet ski because according to lead designer J. David Weiss the “cosmopolitan and international presence” of the festival made it irresistible. The Real Deal similarly reported developers and brokers setting up shop in order to attract this high level clientele.


Alan Faena at his eponymous hotel which was a Basel hotspot(Lieba Nesis photo)


The trendiest nightspots in Basel 2021 were the Faena and Soho House while the Design Districts Superblue and Rubell Museum were venues for numerous events. The hottest topic of conversation was the endless traffic-where one block could take more than 45 minutes. However, considering the thousands of people crammed into the small area from the Setai Hotel to the Fontainebleau I was surprised by the ready availability of uber’s and the tolerable crowds. People-watching was epic over the week and the best spots were the Faena, The Fontainebleau, Soho House and the W- the level of fashion and beauty was astounding. The lobbies looked more like Victoria’s Secret runways than Miami Beach Hotels. The hottest restaurant continues to be Carbone where reservations are a near impossibility. However, the week saw restaurants Prime 112 and Komodo with less patrons as guests were busy attending events. Unfortunately, the food at soirees was both atrocious and scant-leaving partygoers scouring for food.

Celebrity Nurse Injector Jane Scher stands in front of the $100,000 painting she purchased from Billionaire art dealer Jeffrey Deitch(photo Lieba Nesis)

While Art Basel contained some great public events it was the private house parties that dominated the landscape. There are two problems-you have to be invited and even if you were they frequently closed down due to overcapacity. In the end the fair was all about the hidden billionaires who dominate the market and throw the best parties. The Zangrilo mansion the Wayne Boich party which closed out Basel and dozens of other shindigs we will never hear about were the highlight. A Lenny Kravitz performance for the likes of Alexandre Arnault, Leo, Barry Sternlicht, Harvey Spevak and other billionaires at the Boich mansion what could be better? Wayne Boich-an anonymous mining tycoon-is becoming the norm in star-studded Miami. Boich “stole” the three adjacent waterfront homes on 4700 North Bay Road in Miami for $19 million in 2012.

Cardi B arrived Friday night at Casa Tua and Club Eleven with the stunning announcement her dream of becoming Creative Director at Playboy was fulfilled-I am guessing the job entails wearing slutty outfits and showing up to their parties. The peak of the week was Wednesday and Thursday Dec 1st and 2nd where ten events a day were the norm. By Saturday the exhausted throngs had thinned out while billionaire Miami developer Moishe Mana held his disastrous Birthday party at the old RC Cola factory in the Design District-which he built. Some dealmaking was done at the Convention Center with 10-year-old prodigy Andres Valencia taking the art world and Sofia Vergara by storm;however, it was the private spaces where the big deals were made. Famed billionaire art dealers David Mugrabi,and Jeffrey Deitch were planted at the Setai engaging in back door art deals in the secrecy of locked rooms and covert venues.

The Rubell Museum was open by invitation only(photo Lieba Nesis)

With rooms being priced at $27,000 a night the level of wealth was unprecedented. Private planes, yachts and art were a portion of the weeks expenditures with tables at Liv and Eleven going for $15,000 and $75,000 respectively. There was also the bitcoin billionaire group including Brock Pierce and Peter Smith who celebrated the week with their own parties and events where NFT’s debuted and cryptocurrencies were discussed. Artist Narine Arakelian even sold her eggs as an NFT.

Art Basel exposed the international community to Miami as an epicenter of culture as an increasing amount of New Yorkers take up residence. There was little talk of Covid and even less precautions taken. Aside from the masks and vaccine cards required at the Convention Center Miami was open for business akin to pre-Covid days. With the exorbitant taxes and increasing crime of New York the bustling streets of a liberated Miami is making it an irresistible choice for setting up a household.

TJV News’ Lieba Nesis reporting live from Art Basel-here at the Dior event

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