Katie Orlinsky for The New York Times
A brunch to toast a T-shirt designed by Visionaire and Gap. A cocktail party to celebrate a new fashion fair. A dinner hosted by Louis Vuitton for a modernist beachfront house. A Dom Pérignon party hosted by the playboys Alex Dellal, Stavros Niarchos and Vito Schnabel?
O.K., O.K., they are all parties from Art Basel, the annual South Florida pilgrimage this week by seemingly every social person in New York. But while fashion parties in the art world are nothing new, the sheer volume of events (dinners, cocktails and blowout parties) not related to art this year is deafening. Sure, the art fairs still display paintings at gobsmacking prices during the day, but the serious art folk are getting sick of the nighttime excess.
“You basically have to treat Art Basel Miami Beach like Vegas,” said Bill Powers, a gallerist and constant fixture at cocktail functions and openings. “You get in, then you get out. Nobody I know is staying the whole weekend.”
Mr. Powers is just dipping his toe in the Miami Beach melee: he’s staying for two days. He forwarded an email with an invitation to a screening of “Her,” the latest film by Spike Jonze. Highly anticipated, sure, but not exactly art-related (even with Jeffrey Deitch moderating a Q-and-A with Mr. Jonze). And it’s slated for Thursday. “I’ll be home already,” Mr. Powers said.
Would he be missing much by skipping out early? Perhaps not.
“So much of the Basel fatigue is that a lot of the events are not that fun,” said Manish Vora, who, along with Kyle DeWoody, is a founder of Grey Area, the art collective and online retailer. “Every conversation is about what parties you’re going to. It’s not about the actual party. No one goes and says, like, ‘Oh, I had the craziest time.’ ”
Granted, last year’s spate of parties had its highlights, and it just so happened that most had little to nothing to do with art. The most-discussed moment wasn’t a bidding war or a Damien Hirst brawl. It was the Chanel dinner where Demi Moore spent the evening petting a stray cat, even during an auction for a Dash Snow charity. Or the Moncler 60th anniversary party, held at the parking lot at 1111 Lincoln Road, which was reimagined as a tropical ski chalet for celebrities like Uma Thurman and Pharrell Williams.
This year’s edition of Art Basel, which officially starts Thursday, is shaping up to be no different. Sure, there are the week’s usual marquee art parties: White Cube’s poolside party at the Soho Beach House, Aby Rosen’s A-list dinner at the Dutch and the opening and V.I.P. dinner for the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami’s winter exhibition (this time, for Tracy Emin). There are notable newcomers, too. The Pérez Art Museum Miami, a contemporary art museum, is opening this week with a series of private brunches, V.I.P. previews and dinners.
But they pale in comparison this year to the flood of parties not related to art but with tie-ins to luxury brands, alcohol sponsors, fashion labels and boutiques. One public relations firm has compiled a party calendar that runs 14 pages and includes 27 events on Tuesday alone, including a fashion show, a brunch for a pop-up store and a dinner for a new furniture line.
And partygoers are already talking about Wednesday night, with word circulating online that Kanye West is to participate with the artist Vanessa Beecroft in a performance art piece at Mana Wynwood, a sprawling production village in the Miami Art District.
The art fairs themselves are not immune to the hubbub. NADA Miami Beach, a satellite fair that showcases emerging contemporary artists, has partnered this year with American Apparel on a line of artist-designed T-shirts. And SCOPE Miami Beach, another satellite fair, is showcasing an art project curated by Red Bull.
No wonder that with each passing year, more and more attendees don’t even seem to bother with the art. “I don’t have a relationship with the art world in any profound capacity, so for me it’s just a way for me to unwind,” said Leandra Medine, the fashion blogger known as Man Repeller.