Since the turn of this century, the first week of December has meant the opening of the huge Art Basel Miami Beach fair. But much has changed over the years. “Art Basel Miami has grown from a sort of family-dining-room night where art and culture was discussed passionately into a mega-universal celebration,” says superstar chef Francis Mallmann, who is helming collector Alan Faena’s concurrent multi-day celebration of art and food dubbed The Last Supper. “People from the most different scenarios gather because they have something to show—a coat, a painting, a plate of food, a song, a lover—or something to say.”
The people who have something to say this year are, with apologies to powerhouse art dealers like Larry Gagosian or Jeffrey Deitch, not the usual suspects. As Miami Art Week grows, people with ties to more than one city, one industry, or one scene are private-planing in; these folks have the connections that cross milieus and change agendas.
The core art fair opens to VIPs on Wednesday, December 5, but a string of related events stretches night and day through December 8. One need not worry; there’s still an embarrassment of champagne, and with the Cipriani brothers in town to add in white-peach puree for Bellinis, it should be a fine year for all.
The Collector: Swizz Beatz
Musician and music producer Swizz Beatz’s rise in the art world has been, if not quite meteoric, unstoppable. Fifteen years or so ago, he emerged in the celebrity contingent of the art world, and by 2009 he was at gallery openings with Dennis Hopper. Earlier this year, he hosted the party for ARTNews magazine’s annual “Collectors” issue. Now, he has an enviable art trove, including the largest collection of works by photographer Gordon Parks, which recently went on exhibition at Harvard under the hip-hop star’s real name, Kasseem Dean. And you know that two-story penthouse suite designed by Damien Hirst that was unveiled at the Las Vegas Palms Casino Resort this spring? Beatz’s spouse, Alicia Keys, was its first guest. Events featuring Beatz bookend the week, with a talk on Art & Philanthropy at the New World Center with presidential portraitist Kehinde Wiley and a performance at the W South Beach on Saturday December 7.
The Hotelier: Michael Shvo
Earlier this year, Tommy Hilfiger sold the Raleigh Hotel in South Beach to New York developer Michael Shvo and his business partners for $103 million. That’s more than $1 million a hotel room. Shvo, probably best known in New York for the Getty Building in Chelsea, promises a renaissance of the iconic Art Deco property (Esther Williams swam in the pool!) damaged in Hurricane Irma.
The hotel opening is many months away, but Shvo just unveiled the immersive, fantastical Raleigh Gardens, designed with Peter Marino and landscape architect Raymond Jungles. It showcases dozens of works by the late Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne. “Visitors can expect to enter into a totally surreal and whimsical world,” he promises. It’s a don’t-miss.
The Fashionista: Kim Jones
British menswear designer Kim Jones hosts arguably Miami Art Week’s biggest fashion event this year, debuting a Dior menswear collection on December 3. Dior has super-close ties to the art world, of course, last year commissioning 11 female artists to design a capsule collection of handbags, and given Dior’s recent collaborations with artists including Raymond Pettibone and KAWS, et al. Especially in a year when liquor sponsors and luxury car makers are playing a bigger role than fashion brands, Jones’s high-profile glam runway and VIP guest list should have everyone buzzing.
The Design Chameleon: Todd Merrill
The career of Todd Merrill, a son and grandson of New England antique dealers and auctioneers, started at Christie's, where he helped handle the Rudolf Nureyev collection and also famously modeled some of the clothes. You might have been able to spot him, having just come off a stint on the West Coast working with the Hollywood community, as one of the very first 20th-century design dealers to market midcentury to the Palm Beach set (there’s a lanai of millionaires who first heard of Vladimir Kagan or Paul Evans through Merrill). Today, there’s a store in SoHo, another in Southampton, and he’s now added contemporary art and designs bespoke pieces. Last year, Rizzoli updated Merrill’s Modern Americana: Studio Furniture From High Craft to High Glam, an industry textbook. He has a booth at Design Miami, but also look for him on the dance floor, too.
The Buddha of Basel: David Nahmad
Art Basel Miami Beach and its rival and ancillary art fairs—nearly two dozen of them—stretch on for miles. So how to know what’s really going on? You could argue that if you just walked into the Miami Convention Center and sat down at the table in the booth of the Helly Nahmad Gallery, sooner or later everybody will stop by. David Nahmad—whose family members have galleries in Monaco, New York, Paris, and London, and who, anecdotally at least, own the largest gallery inventories of Picassos and Monets—holds court there, has been doing art fairs for decades, and has seen it all.
Deep-pocketed hedge fund managers, Swiss bankers, and top consultants wander over to tell him what's really going on, and chide him for not taking part in whatever that year’s hot new name is. (He usually nods and laughs and waves at a Picasso.) This year the highlights the gallery is bringing include a gorgeous blood-red and sun-yellow Basquiat, Krong Thip (Torso), from 1983. Nearby in the convention center, don’t miss the Richard Diebenkorn masterpiece at Acquavella Galleries.
The “Local” Artist: Hernan Bas
Hernan Bas, a Miami-boy-made-good, studied art in the Magic City and was championed and collected early on by Donald and Mera Rubell, who on December 3 open a huge namesake museum in the Allapattah neighborhood. His work—lyrical portraiture, quirky, memorable, genuinely good—will be on view there and at the main fair at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery booth. But here’s an example of a treasure you won’t miss if you're in New York and can’t get to Miami: Lehmann Maupin is currently showing his Time-Life exhibition of rebels, outliers, and creatives. Highlights include The Sip In—the artist’s nine-foot painting of a 1966 gay-rights sit-in.
The Sponsors: Jennifer Gabrielli, UBS
The whole Miami Art Week wouldn’t exist today, and Miami wouldn’t exist as the museum and visual arts powerhouse it is today, without the Swiss bankers. UBS has been the primary sponsor of the fair since its American debut, and lunch at their swanky VIP lounge is still one of the hottest tickets. This year, the bank’s new Ultra-High Net Worth division hosts a panel Thursday morning on women in the art world, hosted by Jennifer Gabrielli. And what’s “ultra-high,” you might ask? $30 million or more in investable assets.
The Chef: Francis Mallmann
Francis Mallmann is a megastar in South America, a Patagonian prince, a genius. And that’s according to The New York Times. His only U.S. restaurant, Los Fuegos, is in Miami’s Faena Hotel. The Faena sponsors an influential contemporary-arts festival that marks the opening of Miami Art Week. At the festival, Mallmann will create “two dome fire events,” he says, roasting huge hunks of meat beachside on metal towers. Of the primordial feast he says, “People like the idea of letting go.”
The Scions: Ignazio and Maggio Cipriani (and Italians in General)
The global art/design/fashion market has a massive and marked Roman presence this year. Brothers Ignazio and Maggio Cipriani, fourth generation of the Harry’s Bar in Venice empire, are taking a particularly high profile at this Miami Art Week. They opened the Coconut Grove location of their Mr. C Beverly Hills hotel earlier this year, and are now talking up the planned residences next door. Maggio, meanwhile, is hosting cocktails at Socialista on Brickell, whose invitation promises to “present a representation of how the privileged pre-Revolution Habaneros lived.”
Museums and exhibitions, too, have an Italian flavor: The Italian Consulate General in Miami is partnering with the Wolfsonian design museum on its annual Art Basel party on December 6. Chloé will be hosting a private dinner at the Bass to celebrate Italian artist Lara Favaretto. In the Design District, a lavish Prestige Imports pop-up salutes Horacio Pagani, the car maker who gained fame at Lamborghini before launching his own bespoke auto brand. And Luna Park, a 40,000-square-foot, three-floor Italian market, debuts in Brickell.
But the most glorious Italian import, perhaps? At the Cadillac Hotel on Collins Avenue, an elaborate ArtCade exhibition of vintage pinball, Skee-Ball, and other games—a life-size Operation game is promised—will offer, in the 75-degree weather, spiked Italian ices.
The Astrologer: Madeleine Botet de Lacaze
The Lunafridge group will also host a “narrative gastronomy” event at the Faena, but this one promises not charred steaks but kumquat cocktails, horoscope readings, and a thoughtful look at the cultural symbolism of food. We asked artist and chef Madeleine Botet de Lacaze what’s in the stars for Miami Art Week.”Miami Art Week is not only happening during eclipse season but also holds a major astrological shift," she says. "One can feel it in the air—change is coming—deep, transformative, and powerful change. But let's not forget that we are in Sagittarius season after all: fiery, fun, social, adventurous, and with new exciting projects!” Indeed.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest