On the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 4, two full days before the Art Basel Miami fair officially opened to the public, a large crowd was forming around the velvet rope at the Florida Room, designed by singer Lenny Kravitz, in the space below the Delano hotel that was once occupied by the David Barton Gym.
The subterranean lounge was packed with revelers, including gallerist Tony Shafrazi, Pucci designer Matthew Williamson and bleary-eyed bicyclist Lance Armstrong.
“It’s five to ten times as big as it’s ever been,” said Jason Binn, the magazine publisher who founded the Miami glossy Ocean Drive. “There are more private jets, or at least as many, as there are for the Super Bowl. Everyone has to be here and play here.”
On Wednesday, André Balazs’s Raleigh Hotel was the playground of choice, during a party thrown by gallerist and art world powerhouse Jeffrey Deitch.
A startling peformance by the band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, involving frontwoman Kembra Pfahler getting her nether regions doused in red and yellow paint while doing a headstand, proved inspiration for a group of German gallerists who stripped, grabbed inner tubes and plunged into the Raleigh’s historical pool, its proprietor only feet away. Clad in a dark three-quarter-length jacket, Mr. Balazs was seen making a beeline toward the elevators at 2 a.m. with a willowy, tan blonde in a revealing silver dress.
“This is the closest thing to the 70’s in the 21st century because it’s got the mix of high and low, Europe and America, South America, straight, gay, black, white, green, yellow, art world, rich people, fashion world,” said Bob Colacello, former editor of Interview magazine, while signing copies of his photo book, Out, at the Raleigh’s ballroom on Thursday. “The party people are starting to outnumber the art people.”
Perhaps this isn’t so terrible. “If Art Basel is more commercial, that’s good,” said hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons during a rooftop dinner he hosted at the Delano hotel, honoring artists Shinique Smith and Rene Cox. “The more people that are exposed to art in America, the more we’ll have a creative community.
“Could you get any more beautiful,” Mr. Simmons said as he greeted former model Beverly Johnson before returning to his table where his current girlfriend, model Porschia Coleman, awaited him, along with a vegan meal.
Friday saw Vanity Fair and MoMA’s party at the Shore Club doing battle with the Visionaire soiree back at the Florida Room. Actors Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, just back from Cusco, Peru, were spotted dressed in what looked like wardrobe leftovers from Weekend at Bernie’s.
On Saturday, an unidentified creature fell out of a tree during The Worth of Art (2) book dinner, startling photographer Terry Richardson before running off. “That doesn’t happen everyday,” said Mr. Balazs with a laugh (he was later seen slipping into the elevator with a different lithe blonde).
“I think the party is getting bigger and bigger,” Mr. Colacello said. “Better and better? We’ll see.”
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