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Miami Is THE Place To Be When The City Gets Taken Over By The Art World

Lee Fryd

Chuck Close, Maria Veronica Leon at the Art Basel Miami Beach 2015 Convention Center. (Photo: Patrick McMullan/PMC)

Like the city that hosts it, Art Basel has become a sprawling megalopolis, filled above capacity and exceeding anything its founders envisioned. The art! The parties! The traffic! It's the destination of the international set and bane of locals, who wait out the week to take back their streets. For the serious art collectors who descend, it's sneakers by day and private dinners by night.

The Basel exhibition in the Miami Convention Center is its hub. At the opening Vernissage, we lingered in front of blue chip Picasso's, jewel-like Chagalls, recent Jim Dine's, significant Warhols, ephemeral Paul Klees and a Louise Nevelson installation. Across the Bay, there's Art Miami, the other must attend. Satellite fairs dot the city, in huge beach tents, oceanfront hotels, new developments and waterfront sites. Local millionaires open up their private collections. Across the city, there are lectures, art book parties and happenings — and UberBoats to get you across Biscayne Bay.

It all begins with Art Southampton's Nick Korniloff's Art Miami (and Context Art Miami) opening nights. But, the more pre parties the better. For us, it was Miami Interior Designer Kevin Gray's dinner, where New York and Miami art cognoscenti looked over the expansive bay that Christo once covered with 6.5 million square feet of pink polypropylene.

There were 267 leading international galleries from 32 countries and 77,000 attendees: major private collectors as well as directors, curators, trustees and patrons of nearly 200 museum and institution groups. Collectors from over 110 countries attended the show, with first-time collectors coming from Cambodia, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Romania, Togo and Zimbabwe. The show was spearheaded by Noah Horowitz, Art Basel's newly appointed Director Americas.

"It's the one place in the world to be this week," said Jean Shafiroff. In fact, the Hamptons and New York is so well represented, watching Patrick McMullan photograph the usual suspects, only the scenery seemed to have changed. Jacqueline Weld Drake, was there for the screening of a documentary made from her book, "Peggy Guggenheim, Art Addict." Lady Lilliana Cavendish, Donald Drapkin, Beth de Woody, Robin and Dominick D'Alleva and Marla Helene were among the low-heeled shoppers. Also on hand were Avenue Magazine President Randi Schatz and Southampton Animal Shelter supporter Rochelle Oatman, whose Pet Portraits have been commissioned by Jean Paul Gaultier, Issey Miyake, Princess Caroline of Monaco, Valentino, Claude Tattinger and our own Billy Joel.

Russell Simmons greeted us at his Art for Life events. Former First Lady Carol Crist reminisced about her days heading the Hamptons Red Cross Ball at her luncheon for Governor Charlie Crist's run for Congress, with friends Jill Zarin and Bobby Zarin. We saw Chuck Close, who was honored last summer at the Parrish, at Basel's Vernissage opening.

There, art historian and serious collector Michel Cox Witmer had his eye on a Rebecca Horn abstract painting. That the price of her paintings had risen since he first considered buying her prompted validation and regret. When last seen, he was loading a purchase from the tony Russell Simmons auction soiree he had chaired the year before into his trunk, bound for Palm Beach.

For an inside local scene, we always turn to Media Maven Tara Solomon. Her parties included one hosted by Eva Longoria for Ricardo Barroso Interiors at Casa Tua, and at Coya for coffee table tomes Cuba Then and Paul Solberg's Ten Years in Pictures. Tara also sent us to a new art and design neighborhood for the opening of the Bertil Bernhardt Design & Art Gallery, hosted by Bertil Espegren & Alberto Guerrero and a retrospective of meditative paintings by spiritual artist Zachary Selig.

At the Ink Miami Fair, artist Mira Lehr — who cofounded the Miami Pritikin Center and the women's coop gallery, the Continuum — showed that the Old Guard can remain in the Vanguard. Lehr was also one of the Miami bold faced artists who opened up her studio.

Norah Lawlor threw parties that included one for Epicurean Life Magazine Publisher Azzy Asghar at the Hotel Croydon, catered in-house by The Tavern. There we saw Jean Shafiroff, Janna Bullock, Steve Boxer (Owner, Philippe New York), Michelle Walker, artist Gregory Maroun and Jewelry Designer Claudia Lang (Jewelry Designer). Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats showed up at Lawlor's Hotel Croydon event for The Smile Design Gallery and Ty Hunter's "Women in the Water" and "The Selfie Experience."

It was all so, so, so much fun. Miami Beach, the city is once again yours. It's safe again to leave your palatial waterfront homes — until the Boat Show, the South Beach Food and Wine Festival and the Snow Birds return.


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