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Art Basel Miami '14: Art, Commerce, & Champagne

Seems like deja vu all over again as we return lemming like to Art Basel Miami 2014. We were surprised by an initial rejection of our press credentials by the accreditation folks in Basel (perhaps we had been too snarky in last year's  coverage).  A quick email righted the situation and we were properly certified.

We arrived from a mellow Thanksgiving in Delray and Palm Beaches on Monday, several days before the fair's official kickoff. Settling into our pal JJ's palatial pad at the Portfino, we spa'd out and steeled our self for the relentless week ahead.
Art Basel Miami Convention CenterMonday evening we attended the Los Angeles Nomadic Division (Land) 5th annual Gala held poolside at the venerable Raleigh Hotel. This worthy non-profit curates site specific public art exhibitions in LA and beyond. The crowd was  moneyed, socially conscious  and fashionable and the event featured  an impressive art auction which raised considerable green for the org. On the way home, we encountered minor attitude at the gates of the Delano Hotel whose snotty euro door chick insisted we check our shoulder bag to enter the empty lobby. Suppose they thought we might lift an ashtray.
Tuesday evening we were invited to the press/collector's preview of the Concept Art Fair aboard the Mega Yacht Seafair anchored at Chopin Plaza in downtown Miami. With Remy Martin and a major champagne as sponsors, we expected a major fete. Amazingly we encountered a cash bar and food concessions. Don't the organizers of this satellite fair realize to make money one needs to properly feed and water the press and the swells who spend money on the art. 
Performance Art Bass Museum Sculpture Garden South BeachWednesday morning we dutifully attended the opening press conference for Art Basel Miami at the Convention Center. After sitting through a few too many speeches by Miami Mayor Levine ( seemed like an Lexus dealer) and corporate wonks from UBS, touting sponsors from Ruinart Champagne, BMW, Absolut, and Davidoff Cigars, we were treated to warm champagne and canapes.  
We  then ran Pamplona style onto the convention floor to immerse our self in the exalted art. Art hosts P. Diddy, Swizz Beatz, Busta Rhymes and created media mayhem,  mixing with the fossilized collectors vying for position to add masterpieces to their collections. The sheer volume of name brand seven figure pieces was daunting as we ogled and drooled over the massive expo. Champagne vendors lubricated the crowd, as the Dow soared.
The nearly full moon rose over South Beach like a rotten mango, as we sallied forth to the BMW event at the Botanical Garden. Yet more Champagne was swilled as the Roy Lichtenstein painted Bmer was revealed to the assembled revelers.
Atmosphere Marc Leder Art Basel PartyNext we ambled past an over crowded soiree at the Bass Museum to the W Hotel where our favorite bar mitzvah boy, Dejour Mag publisher Jason Binn was hosting a shindig. We suffered the indignity of waiting in line for a half hour beyond the start time to be herded into the pool area where the party hadn't begun. Next we were on another line and waiting to enter  restricted area. Marginal VIPs like Russell Simmons and Sir Ivan Wilzig were held in the Klusterfuk like us commoners until security finally scanned us into the next level of hell. Here more champagne flowed but no evidence of  promised canapes. An hour past and more confusion as we waited for admission to yet another restricted zone where we were promised a performance by a surprise artist. Finally we entered the promised land where the questionable artiste turned out to be brother in law (JZ) beater Solange Knowles.  Enduring one song from this talentless wannabe,we beat a hasty retreat home. We expect more from Jason who usually is a much more congenital host.
Art Wynwood district MiamiAfter a good night's sleep and a productive day in the press room, we decided to go to the mainland and visit the Design District and trendy Wynwood neighborhoods. Piling into JJ's Lambo and crossing the clogged causeway in rush hour, we were happy to land in the heart of the Design District. Our last time here was three years ago and the hood has mushroomed with  Gucci, Prada, Dior, Tom Ford et al representing in a big way. First stop was the Design Pub where the charming Jessica Acosta-Rubio was curating an Art Basel VIP fling showcasing new designers. Lacking amenities,we moved on quickly and touched down at a lavish reception at Design Japan where we found delicious sustenance, exceptional nippozoidal design and high end sake. Bullseye! 
Back in the Lambo, we flew to Wynwood district which boasts 70 galleries and reminded us of NYC Soho when artists still lived there prior to  the malling. The formerly mean streets were alive with hipsters and trendoids. Many had come to celebrate  the birthday of Moishe Mana, the visionary moving company magnate who invested wisely and early  in Wynwood  real estate. Since 2010 the slick Israeli has been buying up warehouse properties to execute his master plan for a humongous art complex. 
Before reaching Mana's heaven, we were received at an uber cool gallery called Lu lu where a DJ spun world music and food/champagne flowed freely. The art was contemporary tabloid (a favorite of ours) and it set the mood perfectly for Mr. Mana's  birthday bash.
Fully fortified, we walked round the corner to find no less than 30 food trucks and a raging street rave leading up to the Mana art complex which is massive in scope (a gazillion sq. ft. the size of several super Walmarts).Gaining access, we entered the raging birthday party where several thousand guests danced, drank, and raved among the multiple mega scale mixed media art installations. Even the jaded we was gobsmacked by the sheer scale and energy of the freakazoid scene. A toast to the birthday boy and home James.
Following a revitalizing ocean swim and shvitz, we started our friday visiting the Architectural Digest Oasis at the posh James Hotel on Collins. God bless the Conde Nastys for providing the working press ( and numerous crashers) with a daily sumptuous buffet, open bar, massages, and manicures to ease the arduous journalistic tasks at hand.
We had our annual early dinner (avoiding the masses) with JJ and pals at the eternal Joe's Stone Crab. The gang feasted on the pricey crustaceans and seafood while ever the frugal contrarian , we horrified everyone and ordered calves liver with bacon and onions ($10.95) and chopped steak ($5.95),the real heart stopping deals on the menu. 
Krysten Ritter Ocean Drive Art Basel PartyBursting at the seams, we cabbed it back to the W Hotel for the Ocean Drive Niche Media party. There we encountered the Miami vampire real estate/ aspirational over-sized watch crowd. Also in the house was the mag's cover girl,  cutey Krysten Ritter whose memorable smack OD scene on "Breaking Bad"(best TV show ever) is forever seared on our pop culture memory. We do miss the glory days when Jason Binn ran Niche Media and threw way better parties.
Saturday dawned  and we opted to skip the overdone Sagamore brunch which in recent years has been infested by too many NYC scareys fighting over weak bellinis and under-cooked crepes.
We rested up for tonight's main event, the Marc Leder/Marc Bell mid life crisis fete at SLS.  These two fat cats love a good party and spare no expense in their quest for decadent fun and punani. Mr. Bell (net worth $500M) has porn ties and was founder and CEO of the Adult Friend Finder site (swingers and adult personals). He is CEO of Penthouse Magazine and his diverse portfolio includes investments in NYC's club Lavo and Artichoke Pizza. Mr. Bell also sits on the board of his alma mater NYU
Marc Leder (net worth $400M) gained notoriety for  lavish Hampton's parties at his summer rental where he was unjustly pilloried by  stuffy neighbors, corrupt local government and Page Six. He is currently in contract  to purchase a $22.9M pad in Sagaponack where in can party in soundproofed peace.
Marc LederMarc Bell Art Basel party artWe arrived with posse at SLS Hotel fifteen minutes before zero hour. A large  crowd was vying for the attention of Amy Sue, Mr. Leder's assistant who was in tight control of the thousand person guest list .She graciously allowed JJ a plus 2 and we, after minor jostling  entered the poolside wonderland.
The not terribly original party theme was monopoly and masked unidentified (Ala Banksy) LA graffiti artist Alec Monopoly had cranked out large quantities of Richie Rich, Scrooge McDuck and Mr. Monopoly pieces said to be inspired by the Bernie Madoff scandal. Scantily clad women twirled above. A women floated mid pool on a gigundo bed of roses. 
The demographics of the party was wide ranging and included a large contingent of Natashas extremely focused on landing the big fish private equity guys like our hosts Marc and Marc. In Miami and NY punani is a commodity and the Russian girls understand this  veddy well dressing and acting accordingly. Both Marcs have large roladexes  and can summon up bevies of mercenary beauties at the drop of a Rolex. Early on the fire marshal shut the door, and lots of invited guests were denied admission. An angry mob seethed outside the velvet ropes as we made our exit around 11.
And on Sunday we rested. Seeking extreme peace and tranquility we brunched lavishly at the paradisaical Fairchild Tropical Gardens and plotted our triumphal return to Art Basel Miami 2015.

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