By Lieba Nesis As a first time Art Basel attendee I had little idea what to expect. Was it all hype or was this actually the most exciting art event in the world? I arrived Sunday at the Fontainebleau Hotel nearly a week before the Thursday Art Basel opening of the Convention Center and was surprised by the thin crowds.
The Faena Hotel appears to be Ground Zero for the fair so I was excited to be a ten-minute walk away. Alan Faena, the developer of the Faena, celebrated his 58th birthday at his eponymous Hotel on Sunday night. The crowds were abundant, there were loads of cabaret acts and the palpable excitement in anticipation of the fair was contagious-celebrities such as Alicia Keys and Jonathan Cheban even stopped by.
Tuesday the place to be was on a 3 PM ferry headed to Miami Marine stadium for the late Virgil Abloh’s final Vuitton showing. Despite, the magnificent collection my friend described the afternoon as torturous, stuck on an island from 3-7 PM with little food and excess heat to view a five minute collection and be entertained by Erykah Badu. Rihanna, Bella Hadid and Kim and Kanye were just a few of the celebrities paying homage to Virgil’s abounding creativity.
Wednesday I was invited to a VIP preview of the art at the Convention Center before it opened to the public on Thursday. Finding the convention center which is located at 1901 Convention Center Drive was no easy feat as I found myself roaming the streets for over an hour. Thankfully it was open until 8 PM and I was able to peruse the art and enjoy some expensive cocktails ($20) at the VIP lounge. Despite all the hype about a $20 million Picasso and a $5 million Banksy being sold, there didn’t seem to be excessive dealmaking taking place and the art seemed quotidian-never eliciting an ooh or ahh. Everywhere I went I kept hearing about the great party at the Zagrillo mansion or the Leo DiCaprio, Marc Anthony party I missed. If you are not in the know as to the hottest shindigs around chances are you will be wandering around aimlessly or heading to overcrowded average soirees. Regardless I went to the Architectural Digest top 100 designers fete at the Strawberry Moon hotel where Adam Levine and Venus Williams listened to tunes by overrated Troye Sivan. Unfortunately, this party was mostly for A-list interior designers and I felt akin to an alien.
While the hottest hotels were undeniably 1 Hotel, W, Setai and Faena if you are not interested in paying $4,000 a night you could head to the Fontainebleau or SLS where prices were a more reasonable $800. Here are some helpful tips that I learned during the course of the week. Firstly, bring sneakers, traffic could be over an hour per block and if you have the right shoes you might be able to walk. Secondly, eat before you head out events have scant food and you will find yourself starving. Get used to Ubers that are “5 minutes away” and show up an hour later. As for dress code, this is an artistic crowd so go all out with your $5,000 Gucci jacket, or your new hand painted Balenciaga sneakers-you will get the requisite nods of approval.
The fair is far from finished and this weekend the hot nightspots are Club Eleven, Liv and Story. Tables at Liv for Saturday night’s Steve Aoki are selling out for $15,000 while Eleven which is hosting Marshmello on Thursday, Migos on Friday and Meek Mill on Sunday have already sold out their 4-$75,000 tables in the pit. I overheard rumors that famed Playboy Dan Bilzerian took a $100,000 table for Friday night. What’s going on this weekend? Lizzo will be playing at the Hotel Edition on Saturday night while Cardi B is headlining at Strawberry Moon as well as a Friday night Playboy party at Casa Tua. As for Thursday night I am headed to a Gucci party at Paradise Plaza in the Design District-but am confident my friend will call at 2 AM to enumerate the 5 best parties of the night-which we unfortunately missed.