The Ten Types of People at Art Basel Who Aren't Really Here for the Art

Sly does look interested, doesn't he?
Sly does look interested, doesn't he?
Photo by George Martinez

The hot topic of discussion the past few years during Miami Art Week has not been the art, but the number of attendees who don't come for Art Basel's main attraction. 

Let's be real. The only people who come purely for the art are the gallerists and their staff, the power buyers who fly in Tuesday and leave before the weekend, and your grandma Sheila, who got a minor in art history at Sarah Lawrence, spends one afternoon each year at the convention center ("because it's nice to get out of the house at my age"), and then drives back to Broward in time for Jeopardy! 

Everyone else is here at least partially for the parties and the glamour. Let's not pretend otherwise. 

But because everyone at those parties loves to talk about how everyone else is here only for the parties, here's our definitive guide to the various types of people you'll meet this week who definitely aren't in Miami for the art. 

The Rich Person Who Heard This Is Just What Rich People Do Now 
Where he's staying: A suite at the Ritz.
Favorite artist: Jeff Koons.
Drug of choice: The most expensive champagne on the menu.
On the list?: Yes, but only for those semi-exclusive parties no one tries to crash. 

Ten or 15 years ago, this person might not have had much of an interest in contemporary art, but he recently heard through the Rich Person Newsletter that going to Art Basel Miami Beach is just something that rich people do now. And really, what's the point of being a rich person and keeping up a global system of income inequality if you're not at least going to do rich-people things? 

So he books a first-class plane ticket to Miami every year, pretends to know what's going on, and heads back home to tell his rich friends how it was. 

Of course, he'll buy some art to pretend he's the not the kind of person who isn't here for the art, but he won't buy it because he actually likes it or "gets" it. They buy it because some consultant they've hired tells them it's a good investment or because it matches the color scheme in the third guest room of their Hamptons house. In either case, it usually isn't an investment and doesn't match anything in their mansion back home. 

The "It" Girl or Boy
Where she's staying: The best guest room in a Star Island mansion a billionaire rented out for the week.
Favorite artist: Whichever photographer wants to make her his muse.
Drug of choice: Attention. Also cocaine. 
On the list?: She doesn't even need to be. 

A floating pair of cheekbones draped in Balmain, the "it" child isn't quite a celebrity yet (though there's a 50 percent chance she's the offspring of one), but she lives her life like one. Sure, she may have some sort of nominal career in modeling, music, or acting, but mostly the "it" child is like a Kardashian for the refined set. Instead of her life being documented on E! and in Us Magazine, she's chronicled by Patrick McMullan and trendy European fashion mags. 

The "it" child is almost certainly here to be paid to spend 45 minutes at some parties she wouldn't be caught dead attending otherwise and the rest of the time in the VIP lounge of a party most of us would give an arm to attend. Good luck catching the It-child with your own eyes, but you will almost certainly see her in the party picture recaps.

The New Yorker Who'd Feel Left Out Otherwise
Where he's staying: On the floor of his friend's Airbnb.
Favorite artist: The friend who is renting the Airbnb.
Drug of choice: Cocaine.
On the list?: He'll spend the better part of the week trying to be.

Unless they've already reached "Ugh, I'm soooooooo over it" status, just about any New Yorker who is anyone will be in town this week. Which means that every New Yorker who aspires to anyone status tries to finagle some excuse to be down here as well. 

And sometimes they're actually really, really nice and go with the flow. Sometimes they're absolute monsters who spend the entire week trying to track down the best parties, the best open bars, and the best coke. Their entire demeanor can give off a vibe of, "Um, excuse me, I live in America's best city, and last I checked, this is a second-tier American city at best. Please treat me like royalty." 

Which brings us to our next entry on the list.

The Coke Dealer 
Where he's staying: His South Beach apartment.
Favorite artist: Mr. Brainwash 
Drug of choice: He doesn't get high on his own supply, so weed, usually. 
On the list?: Whenever someone powerful inside really, really needs him to be. 

If you're a South Florida coke dealer and this isn't your best week of the year, well, you're probably not cut out for the job. 

In 2013, Vice interviewed an anonymous Miami drug dealer who pretty much summed up the week like this: "I don't know what it is about New Yorkers, but they are all cokeheads. New Yorkers pay the most for the worst shit, so it's easy to impress them." 

It's a week full of rich people getting little sleep and trying to attend five parties in a night. Basically, coke dealers are Walmart, and this is their Black Friday. 

The Marketing and PR Corps 
Where they're staying: A boutique South Beach hotel.
Favorite artist: Warhol
Drug of choice: Influence
On the list?: They make the list. 

Do you think that party list you're not on just made itself? Do you think you're getting free drinks out of the goodness of a giant corporation's heart? Do you think that step-and-repeat printed itself? No, darling. Some boutique marketing firm has spent months planning this shindig all so their clients get the best possible exposure, and now all those marketing assistants are down here wielding the power of headsets and clipboards, deciding if you actually get past the velvet rope or not. 

The Incessant Networker 
Where he's staying: Whichever hotel where he knows a guy who could get him 15 percent off. 
Favorite artist: Whichever one you like. 
Drug of choice: Adderall. Can't miss any opportunity to network. 
On the list?: Every single one he possible could be on. 

You know what's actually a more prized collectable than art at Art Basel? Contacts, and the incessant networker is here to schmooze his way to glory. 

Like a museum curator glances at a piece of art to decide if it's of interest, the Networker glances at people trying to decide if they can be of value to them. If you happen to be useful, well, congratulations, you've won yourself 30 minutes of horrible small talk, a business card with their personal cell phone number written in pen on it, and almost assuredly an e-mail asking you for a favor during next year's Basel. 

The Spouse- (or Sugar Daddy-) Seeker 
Where she's staying: Hopefully not at the hotel they actually booked, if all goes according to plan.
Favorite artist: Secretly, Anne Geddes. 
Drug of choice: Well, she always has some Viagra on her. Just not for herself. 
On the list?: No, but that won't stop her. 

Some people dream of true love. Others dream of catching the kind of partner who has more money than he knows what do with. Which is exactly the type of person who packs into Art Basel. 

A special subset of this variety: the former spouse- or sugar daddy-seeker who is now enjoying the fruits of her catch. 

The Functioning Alcoholic 
Where he's staying: Wherever he passes out that night.
Favorite artist: Has a coffee table of old Absolut Vodka ads. That counts, right? 
Drug of choice: Duh.
On the list?: Only if the invitation specified an open bar.

There isn't an intervention scheduled just yet, but you know you're fooling no one by masking your love of the hooch as a love of the arts. 

The Curious Local 
Where he's staying: Kendall 
Favorite artist: Britto 
Drug of choice: Life
On the list?: Of course not. 

You know what? Sometimes you're a bit embarrassing, but we love you, curious local! This is your fucking city, and you have every right to go out and enjoy its fanciest week. In fact, please go ahead and annoy every other type of person this list and have a good time doing it! 

The Returning Native 
Where he's staying: Mom's house originally, but he'll end up crashing on your couch. 
Favorite artist: Jen Stark and Friends With You
Drug of choice: He doesn't do drugs anymore. OK, maybe just a little. 
On the list?: In Wynwood? Definitely. In South Beach? Maybe. 

For some Miamians, Basel has reached near-holiday status, and even those who have moved away can't help but find a way to return every year. They're the kind of people who have been crashing Basel parties since before they could legally drink and remember Wynwood when it was the type of place where you might get stabbed instead of get a smoothie. You're almost guaranteed to run into someone you haven't seen since that time seven years ago at Revolver.


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