I CAN’T BELIEVE how many people I met in Miami who had not yet made it to the big fair, even though that’s why we were all (ostensibly) there in the first place. It turns out it wasn’t Art Basel that they were interested in, but “Art Basel”—the constitutive surplus of cocktails, galas, parties, and fetes around the fair. ABMB began as an art thing, but has by now become one of the biggest platforms for the luxury-goods market, especially clothing.
It makes sense that Fendi, Audi, and Swarovski were the main sponsors of Art Basel’s sister show, Design Miami. But it was a bit of a surprise to come across the glitzy installation of mannequins dressed in Lanvin to advertise the brand at the Rubell Family Collection’s exhibition “American Exuberance.”
The real novelty this year, though, is that you can now wear Olaf Breuning, Liam Gillick, and Anselm Reyle: They’ve become stylists for Bally, Pringle of Scotland, and Dior, respectively. On Tuesday, Delphine Arnault and W editor Stefano Tonchi welcomed guests to the opening of a Reyle-designed Dior pop-up store, where you could buy accessories (shoes, bags, clutches, etc.) or have your nails painted with a metallic polish also created by the artist. I asked Reyle if these products could be considered art; he said they couldn’t.
That night, Reyle’s dealers, Larry Gagosian and Almine Rech, held a dinner that was splayed out across large black tables at the Moore Building. Arnault reminded us that Monsieur Dior was a gallery owner before he became a designer; so art was in the brand’s DNA, as they say in the industry. VV Brown did a short a capella performance, but no one seemed to give a damn: All eyes were on the feline Pharrell Williams, who, unfortunately, didn’t sing.
Pringle of Scotland opened its pop-up shop next door, in a space designed by Fuhrimann Hächler, which normally designs homes for big collectors. There they presented a new line of accessories (bags, clutches, iPad covers, etc.) created by Gillick and Pringle’s design director, Alistair Carr. Gillick’s dealers, Casey Kaplan and Eva Presenhuber, held a dinner splayed out across large white tables arranged in an installation by Gillick at the Mosaic Building. I asked Gillick if these products could be considered art; he said they could. Though Tilda Swinton, mistress of ceremony and muse of the Pringle brand, didn’t make a speech, plenty of photos of her were taken by Ryan McGinley.
Bally had a section in the VIP lounge of ABMB opposite Cartier, who displayed an installation of precious stones by artist Beatriz Milhazes. On Wednesday, Bally launched a “capsule” collection of accessories (shoes, bags, clutches, iPad covers, etc.) designed by Breuning, who also had photos at the Metro Pictures booth redolent of the ones he used in Bally advertisements. I forgot to ask him if these products could be considered art because there was a lot of noise at Mr. Chow, where the postlaunch dinner was held at the same time as many other fashion dinners.
The love affairs among Ferrari and Sotheby’s, Art.sy and Louis Vuitton, Aby Rosen and Dom Pérignon, even Van Cleef & Arpels and Neville Wakefield—who were joined variously by Renzo Rosso, Roberto Cavalli, and the Hilton sisters—kept the marketing people’s BlackBerrys buzzing nonstop. Used to working regattas and golf tournaments, PR agencies had now discovered a gold mine on the red carpets of contemporary art. (Meanwhile, the rest of us had discovered a gold mine of free dinners and drinks.)
But the scene wasn’t actually much fun, since the objective of these alliances was simply promotion (self or corporate). Everyone turned around a few times to have their picture taken and then left for the next event. Times have changed, business is business, and now it’s in the gym, early morning, that you meet artists and gallery owners. No one really smokes or drinks anymore. Though we do buy shoes, bags, clutches, iPad covers, etc.
In any case, no one even bothered to ask artists to collaborate on anything at Friday’s gathering held by the Guetta family (David and Cathy, not to be confused with Thierry aka Mr. Brainwash). They gave their famous “F*** Me I’m Famous” party at the Fontainebleau’s LIV nightclub to celebrate Art Basel. Apparently, Dean and Dan Caten were there . . .