Overheard at Art Basel Miami Beach

Published December 12, 2017

PHOTO BY WILL GRAHAM. IMAGE COURTESY OF WYNWOOD WALLS.

The day before I left for Art Basel Miami Beach, I talked to a well-known writer about her experience at the fair. “The art isn’t really the point, is it?” she said. “When I went I don’t think I saw any art. I was just drunk and on drugs for, like, five days.”

This is a common experience. I prepared to line my stomach for the open bars. You aren’t really supposed to eat at Basel—food and art don’t mix—but tostones keep you from expelling sponsored whiskey cocktails all over Ed Templeton photos of teenagers making out.

It is also possible to consume $18 “frosé” or free champagne or free sparkling tequila and watermelon cocktails or free gin presented in glowing lightbulbs or free tequila shots served in tumblers, all while eavesdropping on people. Overhearing juicy tidbits was the best part of being at Basel—so here are some things people said.

 

“We’re with Chuck Close. Could you please adjust the lighting above the ping-pong table? We need it for photos. We’re with Chuck Close.” —a group with Chuck Close at the Pulse Miami Beach and Porsche after party at The Mondrian.

“Honey, you’re the best shopper in the world. The best art shopper in the world.” —a man to his wife, words stated unironically as they stood in front of a Barbara Kruger piece bemoaning the evils of consumerism.

“It’s Virgil Adler, right? Adler? The one who worked for ’Ye!” —a (white) man in line to see Virgil Abloh DJ in the basement of The Edition.

“I haven’t eaten in like, 30 hours. How long do you think I can go?” —a woman sniffing Shake Shack burgers at the Moschino party at the Eden Roc Hotel.

“Please do not touch the kinetic sand. It costs a fortune.” —an art dealer to someone touching kinetic sand.

“I’m not at Art Basel for the like, art. If we’re going to go to a museum, can we do a science one?” —a woman breaking apart stereotypes about ladies and STEM in the bathroom at the Artsy and Bombay Sapphire party at Villa Casa Casuarina, the former Versace Mansion.

“Stay away from the art! Stay away! I mean, please stay away.” —a gallerist to a woman who nearly knocked over several very expensive ceramics shaking on little stands.

“I don’t think it’s possible for white men to be artists.” —a panelist at the NADA Art Fair.

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“We fucking missed Drake. Drake!” —everyone who did not see Drake perform.

“What is an empanada?” —a woman at an extremely good pastry stand selling empanadas, croquettes and pastelitos at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

“The dress code said ‘caftan-chic.’” —guests at a vaguely Elizabeth Taylor-inspired brunch at the Nautilus Hotel.

“No one is dancing! There have been so many DJs and rappers! How is no one dancing?” —many people at a Know-Wave party at Sidebar that was extremely fun, yet featured zero dancing.

“Is it too obvious to ask to buy drugs from the guy in the ‘Yayo’ hat?” —an enterprising woman at the excellent Prada Double Club party.

“Get your cash out now.” —a drug dealer who decided that it was not too obvious to wear a t-shirt with Future lyrics advertising his wares: “Percocet, molly, percocet.”

“What does it mean?” “Nothing. It’s for selfies.” —two friends at an infinity room-like installation at The Edition, sponsored by American Express.