After four days at Art Basel, I’ve concluded that being in Miami this time of year is a little bit like being on a bad date that’s saved only because you’re the fun one. As a magazine editor tells me in the back of a Bentley, “This is definitely not my favorite Basel,” and I must remind myself that if Leonardo DiCaprio has the stamina for double duty (shopping the art fair by day and attending the most model-heavy parties by night), surely I can keep up.
Still, it’s chaos: There is barely any cell service and all my texts are turning green. Everyone says it’s because too many people are using their phones, but that simply can’t be true — how do other cities do it? It’s of particular importance that my messages get delivered since suspicious door girls bar me from every party until a publicist vouches for me. Mother Nature, which is already so much closer here, seems to be taking her own revenge: The winds are alarmingly strong, viciously blowing my hair in all directions as I traipse from one party to another. “It’s giving end times,” I tell my friend.
Of course, I persevere, and this past week I hopped all over town from the MedMiami by Maçakizi beach party hosted by Dom Pérignon to dinner at Uchi for Hellessy to a Pin-Up magazine x Swiss Institute fête in the basement of the Edition. I also made it to James Blake’s performance at the Bass Museum, a Nylon party at the Good Time Hotel, and Prada’s sad rave at the Faena. And that was only the beginning; of the other parties I bravely attended, well, those will have to be stowed away and fictionalized for my next novel.
I hate to be ungenerous, but I simply must hold Art Basel accountable and be a little stingy with how I rate the party circuit this year. The one thing that really struck me is how serious everyone is about what time parties end — they’re almost strict about it, and that kind of attitude is, frankly, no fun at all. I can hardly keep count of the bizarre encounters I’ve had, which must just be what happens when a surge of outsize egos descends on Miami Beach for a few days. Overall, I would rate this year’s Art Basel 4 dirty martinis out of 10; read on for a detailed breakdown.
No one wants to talk to the press. Not even the publicity teams are helping. At one point, I walk into the bathroom of the Nylon party and yell, “Who wants to be quoted in New York Magazine?” No one volunteers. I’m finding that people are nicer to me once they hear I’m a novelist. Maybe they just pity the press, but it seems more likely that everyone simply hates journalists. I spy the Oppenheim brothers, who are even more petite than I expected. One is wearing a cable-knit sweater vest with bare arms, and he (indiscernible as to which) says, “It’s not the night for talking to the press.” His publicist or wrangler then steps in, creating a barrier between us. I walk up to two handsome boys. One of them is British with strong eyebrows, and I tell him he should be on Love Island. “I actually turned Love Island U.K. down,” he responds somewhat icily. His friend, TikToker Isaac Ramirez, soon whisks him away. “We have to be careful what we say,” he warns.
While at the Hellessy dinner, a friend reports that the Balmain party is “garbage,” so I ask my seatmate, Devon Aoki, what I should be going to next. She claims she is out of the know and is actually quite the hermit, adding that her Basel experience thus far has been an excess of sound baths (“I’m in Miami, not L.A.!” she exclaims).
At the Macallan dinner, the company is launching a new whiskey series called the M Collection. James Blake arrives wearing what look like blue medical gloves but takes them off to play the piano later in the evening. Rumor has it that, across town, Rihanna is barred from a dinner she was an hour and a half late for (I’m telling you: strict!). 6 dirty martinis.
Food and drink
From citrus-cured mamachi to a golden Volzhenka caviar tartelette, the refreshments almost make up for the lack of fun. There are mille-feuilles the size of tables at Dom Pérignon; at Macallan’s entirely vegan dinner, I almost choke when I’m told that glasses of whiskey served with each course retail for around $1,000. 9 dirty martinis (I’ve docked one point for being served “ice soup”).
There is truly no cohesive dress code in Miami, but a liberal color palette does feel more acceptable here. The crowd at the Pin-Up magazine party feels like a downtown New York teleport, which I don’t mind, but I came here to see Miami; probably the closest thing were the two figure skaters doing laps in the Edition’s ice rink, dressed in American-flag outfits designed by Mexican designer Barragán. Otherwise, things are pretty predictable: The New Yorkers wear Pleats Please and Undercover; influencers at Nylon are still in straps and cutouts. At Dom Pérignon, an older, richer, blonder crowd wears variations of what I’d like to call “evening beachwear” (dressy kaftans); they would not be out of place at a White Lotus resort. The Miami locals wear a true Pitbull–Mr. 305 uniform of head-to-toe white. For some reason, everyone is carrying business cards, which appear to be this year’s “It” accessory. 6 dirty martinis.
Blake’s performance is artfully produced with two New York City Ballet dancers taking the stage to perform midway through the set. The Prada party is spread across two floors and tries to recreate a Berlin rave, but it doesn’t quite work because, well, this is Miami, and the venue is also way too big. In the roped off VIP area, I spy Maya Hawke and Taylour Paige and wonder if they’re enjoying the sounds. In any case, I ditch it for the Faena Theater, which is playing classic Miami EDM and Latin music. 7 dirty martinis.
Everyone is talking about what a mess the parties have been to get into. Maybe it’s the NYFW effect, and somehow too many people are grifting their way in. I’m turned away at an event at a cavernous mansion on Hibiscus Island sponsored by Audemars Piguet, where the head publicist hilariously tells me in the bitchiest fashion, “New York Magazine wouldn’t have been invited to tonight.” My friends are already inside, and they want me to run in because it would be funny to see security try to drag me out. I decide against this because (a) I don’t feel very passionately about attending this event and (b) I am learning lessons about people wanting to control the room.
I’m told by an investigative reporter that one of Basel’s main PR companies blacklisted him from its events after a negative write-up. It’s a classic example of one of the many problems with brand-sponsored events and Art Basel as a whole: too much money hanging in the balance and a kind of sucky prudishness in the air. Samantha Jones would never. Anyway, doesn’t anyone realize I’ll write about it with or without them? 2 dirty martinis.