My Facebook feed last week was mixed with beautiful art Instagrams, amateur celebrity paparazzi shots and comments like "Art Basel jumped the shark," "Remember when Art Basel was about art, not free champagne" and "Basel turned into a label fest -- store openings, brands plastered all over everything..."
But this is Miami. We never miss an opportunity to embrace our motto: More, Bigger, Brighter, Sexier and Splashier. We take an event like Art Basel and crank up the celebration element higher each year. We are a city of optimists, enthusiasts, bon vivants and opportunists. We don't do things halfway in Miami. When Art Basel, Sony Ericsson, Winter Music Festival, South Beach Food & Wine Festival or the Miami Heat playoffs come, we use it as an excuse to jump into being an art aficionado, tennis buff, music muse, wine enthusiast or Heat fan. Our recipe mixes two parts party and one part music or arts or sports du jour. These themed weeks enrich our vocabularies and minds. Like parents secretly mixing broccoli into pasta so their children get some vitamins, culture gets mixed in along with champagne. We absorb, through osmosis and enjoy. We all move on the next week, exhausted but culturally richer. Would our grade school art teacher or college art history professor be proud? Whatever, we had a blast. Miami has a way of turning everything into a party. Fight that and that's fighting the spirit of Miami. Embrace it, groove along with it and have a lot more fun.
This year's Art Basel was both more exclusive -- with six checkpoints to reach the Soho Beach House Chanel party tent -- and more inclusive -- with someone's cousin exhibiting on every corner. Only two Miami galleries, Spinello Projects and Fredric Snitzer, made the grade to exhibit at the rich granddaddy of art fairs convention center, which requires an invitation, extensive acceptance process and high cost to enter. But there were plenty of opportunities to show elsewhere. It was physically impossible to be in Miami this week without being exposed to art. This year had something for everyone: if you wanted to focus on serious art, you could. No one was forced to imbibe comped drinks or chase Demi, Beyonce and the Entourage stars around town, but many people did.
The multiplication of the fairs overwhelmed, making me want to run home and watch the shows piling up on my DVR. I didn't; Basel only comes once a year. Still, I wanted to clone myself daily and be simultaneously at MOCA Vanity Fair and Design Miami, the New World Symphony's Pop Up Piano and the Bass Museum, YoungArts -- Adrian Grenier's star-studded premiere -- and Lip Service Stories, the Sagamore and Copperbox brunches and of course the Art Basel Vernissage and my office.
The traffic was horrendous as always. But there is the Vespa or now Decobike option. One of my favorite Basel afternoons was riding around the Wynwood murals and watching two graffiti artists in action. If you must drive next year, listen to a book on tape on Lichtenstein or Picasso while stuck in traffic.
There was a new trend this year in "rejected RSVP's." Esteemed party-givers VH1, Chanel and Ocean Drive created a new party foul by sending out advance emails rejecting RSVP's or questioning the RSVP'er affiliations. On the plus side, this avoided at-the-door rejection with plus ones in tow and created more intrigue about these parties. One improvement to suggest to the VH1/Scope party planners -- next year, please keep the fair open so people can see the art for an hour or two during the tent party.
Art Basel is Miami's week on the world stage with phenomenal art, high-level influencers, great music, international coverage and more private jets swarming MIA than any other time. Today we take a proud, well-deserved bow. We cranked it up to 11, just like in Spinal Tap. We're counting down to the next event, we're ready.