It's Art Basel Miami Beach's de facto VIP room. And in its ten-year history, Le Baron has served as the clubhouse for creative types.
But even though celebrities like Demi Moore, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Pharrell Williams have made cameos at the hot spot, star sightings are not why throngs of people clamor at the door, hoping to get in.
"You know, most of the places are meant for people who have money or cars, or who are famous on TV or whatever," says André Saraiva, co-founder of Le Baron. "I make a place for the artists I like and people who create. They are the people who get in and make Baron their home. Then the rest can come, of course. I'm not looking for the normal VIP. That's not what I'm interested in."
Photo by Lex Hernandez
As egalitarian as Saraiva makes his pop-up club seem, it is notoriously difficult to get into Le Baron's Miami incarnation if you aren't invited or look the part -- which can be anything from European fashionista to scuzzy punk.
However, "it's not so much about the look, but what you have to tell and the attitude," he insists.
In addition to Le Baron enjoying a very high profile during Art Basel Miami Beach, the lounge has become a global brand with four permanent outposts in Paris, Tokyo, New York, and more recently, Shanghai. There's also a version at Cannes that pops up during the film festival.
"I'm still enjoying it because I have the same enthusiasm as I had in the beginning," says Saraiva. "I never thought it would become something like that. But we've still kept it close and run by the original people."
Photo by Lex Hernandez
Le Baron started in 2004 as a nightclub in Paris, where Saraiva and his friends could hang out.
"It was me and my friend Lionel [Bensemoun] that founded the club, and then our friends joined. Some became the DJs, some worked the doors. We were all not really from the nightlife or the nightlife industry -- some were musicians, some were painters, some were fine artists. We put all this energy and people together. That's how it happened."
See also: Art Basel Miami Beach 2014 Bar Guide
Photo by Lex Hernandez
By 2005, at the urging of then-Art Basel director Sam Keller and gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin, Saraiva and Bensemoun decided to do a pop-up club to coincide with Miami Beach's more exuberant take on the Swiss art fair. Its first location was Rain nightclub (the space in which Treehouse currently resides), before eventually moving on to the now-defunct Rokbar in 2006.
"When we first came to Miami, it was because we had some of our friends who were coming and doing residencies and we had our friend Emmanuel Perrotin who was opening his gallery," says Saraiva.
Le Baron, at least the Miami incarnation, prides itself on being almost indescribable. That's because no two editions or nights are alike, thanks to the patrons who play an integral role in the nightclub's vibe.
"I've always thought of it as social art," the co-founder explains. "We've always had the artists participate, doing music or a performance, or working on the décor. We've always had artists do work inside the club as a medium, as a canvas, where they could express themselves."
Photo by Anthony Verrilli
This roving Basel party spot has also been able to experiment with venue choices, even shifting to a different location every night for its "Where is Le Baron?" editions in 2012 and 2013, which Saraiva admits was a headache to organize. But though the club has popped up in over a dozen places throughout its ten-year history, its best incarnation has been at the Florida Room, known today as FDR Lounge at the Delano.
"Of all the spaces I've been in Miami, it's almost the perfect size for us -- the piano room on one side, the bar," Saraiva says. "You have a lot of megaclubs, which are great, but I couldn't really work with those. FDR is the perfect size, it's very central. If I had to think and design it myself, I wouldn't have done better."
And for Le Baron's tenth anniversary at Basel, Saraiva says he couldn't conceive doing it in another space. "For the anniversary, it was nice to go home and make it something special. I think it's going to be an epic year."
So is there a plan to ever make Miami a permanent home like New York or Paris?
"We've talked about it. But always, no matter the place, I always try to be there and not just sell a brand. We have not found the right team to do it. But maybe one day, when I get older, move to Miami, and get my apartment on the sea -- then I'll make a club in Miami."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
Crossfade's Top Blogs
Le Baron's Art Basel Miami Beach Pop-Up. Tuesday to Sunday, December 2 to 8. FDR at the Delano, 1685 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Doors at 11 p.m. Call 305-924-4071 or visit delano-hotel.com.