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Ask Michael Cohen: Basel Tov!

Posted: 12/01/2010 3:27 pm

Public relations powerhouse Nadine Johnson put it best on her tip sheet, where under the heading of "Social, Fashion & Entertainment" she listed dozens of invitees for one of the first chic events of Art Basel held at The Standard Hotel last night in Miami Beach.

Under warmer than normal temperatures, artsters, hipsters and richsters began sipping Dom Pérignon and admiring each other's latest acquisitions from the resort collections of Lanvin, Gucci and Prada. If it sounded more like New Years Eve in St. Barts, in a way it sort of was. It was a celebration hosted by André Balazs for the US Sea Launch of The Aquariva by Marc Newson held at the hotelier's outpost.

And while that event may sound like it has nothing to do with a paintbrush, art is actually at the heart of this festival. Balazs, ex-beau of Uma Thurman, explained best why Art Basel is one of the biggest art events in the world:

To me, it's always what I don't know that is exciting. If I knew what I was looking for, it would take some of the excitement away. I have found that there is an element of surprise. That's what's nice about a fair. It is the mish mash of things you don't know. That's the best thing I hope for -- to discover something new.


Over in North Miami, a famous designer had another mission when he arrived for the bash at the Museum Of Contemporary Art's Vanity Fair Art Basel Opening Party, which showcased Bruce Weber's extraordinary exhibition of photographs of Miami's Haitian community. While others might have been browsing the art, many noticed Calvin Klein, who arrived with a good-looking, younger friend, who might have stepped out of his pal Weber's infamous Abercrombie & Fitch campaigns.

While making small talk with guests, the fashion king was actually there to support a friend: "I was with Bruce over Thanksgiving and he showed me some of the pictures from his time in Little Haiti. After that, I couldn't wait to be here."

And getting deeper inside the MOCA party, the star of the show, Bruce Weber, detailed the process of his exhibit: "Well I'm pretty old school because I still shoot film. And people always say to me if you just use digital you'll be able to see it right away," he said. "Well, think about it like Christmas. Sometimes you get a nice gift and sometimes you get what you don't want."

And while Weber might take a less self-important approach to his exhibit, the evening's other star, German artist Jonathan Meese, has, let's say, a different approach.

His exhibit, which included three-dimensional work, including his first ceramic talisman created when he was 15, small assemblages and dioramas from the beginning of his career that have never been shown before, massive bronze sculptures and recent large-scale ceramics, puts the snob appeal back into art.

As one of the highlights of the evening, Meese spoke of himself in the third person and insisted that the "A" in art be capitalized and, no, he wasn't joking.

Well, Nadine Johnson was right after all -- Art Basel is full of entertaining arrivals.

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