Arts / Galleries

A True Insider’s Guide to Art Basel Miami

The Tricks, Tips and Underground VIP Parties You Need to Know (Don’t Miss Leo)

BY // 11.30.18

I’m heading to Art Basel Miami this weekend. The famed art fair’s official dates are Thursday, December 6 through Sunday, December 9. However, for those in the know, the real action begins on Tuesday and most of the insiders from the art world leave by Thursday or Friday.

Next week my plan is to provide daily dispatches from the sidelines at

I have been attending the famed fair since its first year in 2002 and have only missed one convening of the global art world. This year, the Miami Beach Convention Center will be home to more than 200 of the world’s leading international modern and contemporary art galleries that will bring to Florida artworks from more than 4,000 artists. Available for purchase will be a varied assortment, including paintings, sculptures, installations, photography, film, video and digital art.

Personally, I start planning for the event weeks in advance. First off, you must secure a VIP card. If you are not currently on the fair’s insiders list, you need to begin working on this months ahead of Art Basel Miami. The best way, of course, is to buy lots of art and thus get noticed by the powers that be. Another option is to become a higher-level donor at one of the museums in your community (and the curators there can assist in securing fair credentials).

The Miami excursion has sort of turned in to a “girls-weekend” since 2010 when I made it a tradition to attend with one of my best girlfriends – renowned art consultant Meredith Harper. Based in New York City, her life is so hectic jetting around the world to go to fairs and meet with clients (she generally pops over to Frieze London and Art Basel — the original fair in Switzerland — as well). She likes having me by her side in Miami to keep conversations bubbly when she is too exhausted after a day walking from gallery booth to gallery booth.

I think of that week as the Olympics of fashion since the worlds between art and fashion have collided in such profound ways over the last decade. Luxury brands know that the audience they want to reach can be found in a very confined space (the nexus of the fair in Miami Beach is really only a couple of square miles). Dior, BMW, Rolex and high-end liquor ambassadors throw lavish parties galore, many of which are quite memorable.

For many years, Vanity Fair hosted an annual event, often at the famed Raleigh Hotel. I remember one year where I scanned the crowd of guests to see Marc Jacobs, Leonardo DiCaprio and the Olsen twins — all surrounded by their safety-net entourages and admirers.

When packing for the week in Miami I suggest numerous comfortable shoes since you will likely log too many miles on your Fitbit traipsing from gallery to gallery and party to party. Perish the thought that I am suggesting “comfortable shoes,” but honestly since every label seems to offer varied options (see my recent piece on the sneaker trend) you won’t have a hard time finding two or three pairs to throw in your Rimowa luggage.

A great day-tote that can hopefully transition easily to evening is also essential. (Often you barely have the time to make it back to your hotel room to change before a 7:30 pm seating at the exclusive Casa Tua for dinner.) Might I suggest a Goyard or Chanel option that is roomy enough to house your smartphone, Smythson leather journal for taking notes, makeup and in some cases your lap dog.

My packing has begun and perhaps our paths will cross next week. Look for me and say “hello” or check out my daily updates online.

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