Miami’s billion-dollar art fair becomes platform for selling everything

Wed Dec 3, 2014 6:57pm EST
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By Zachary Fagenson and David Adams

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) - Miami is readying for the 13th installment of Art Basel Miami Beach, among the world’ most important contemporary art fairs, a five-day extravaganza that has become a magnet for high-end real estate and luxury brands to align themselves with the artistic set to attract the world’s biggest spenders.

The annual fair, which officially opens Thursday, is one of three similarly named events also held in Switzerland and Hong Kong. It has mushroomed in recent years, adding at least two dozen local satellite fairs that have helped shift Miami’s image away from bikini beach party frolicking toward more edgy cultural sophistication.

The New York Times is hosting a luxury conference with speakers including designer Diane von Furstenberg along with the chief executives of watchmaker Audemars Piguet and Neiman Marcus Group. Tickets for the sold-out, three-day event at the posh Mandarin Oriental went for $4,250.

Art Basel organizers, once leery of the carpet baggers, now embrace the activity on its fringes.

"Anyone who is a serious member of the creative class who's in town is going to come into our fair. We’re getting a lot of request from CEOs and CMOs (chief marketing officers) who’ve never come to the fair," said Art Basel director Marc Spiegler.

This year more than 1,000 galleries and exhibitors from around globe are participating, as well as numerous designers, architects and street artists. Celebrity art enthusiasts attending include actor Leonardo DiCaprio, rapper Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and auto/aerospace entrepreneur Elon Musk.

J.P. Morgan will host international clients at a private party, dubbed “An Evening of Warhol,” at the Raleigh penthouse with Eric Shiner, director of the Andy Warhol Museum.


Norvin Navarete (R) and his friend Stanmeir Dimov are seen in the Wynwood Walls art installation in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood, October 6, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity