As Basel Goes On, the Parties Line Up Bumper-to-Bumper

Along with free cocktails, sunshine and pastels, another inevitability of Miami during Art Basel is the traffic. No amount of malevolent influence in the art world can break the bumper-to-bumper existence that seems to take over entire swaths of the city for hours at a time. Across the bridges to and from the beach, and always up and down Collins Avenue, cars clog every lane. One can spend a good deal of time here sitting in cars, or staring at them. And because it is Miami — a Miami chock full of art barons from far-flung locales — the cars are usually very pretty to look at.

It's nice, then, that the condition of gridlock has seeped into the art and design fairs, the very reason for the gridlock in the first place. On Thursday night in the ever-expanding Design District, Wallpaper* magazine unveiled its Handmade Exhibition, a collection of furniture, installations and other examples of high-level design. And many of these pieces were inspired by Jaguar and its devotion to a dashing and daring approach to car making. In case you couldn't see the warped curves of a Jag in Fredrikson Stallard's aluminum installation, or the repurposed car seat leather used to make Mathieu Gustafsson's bag meant for carrying purse-sized puppies, Jaguar has placed an F-Type convertible emblazoned with the Union Jack outside.

(Here's where I tell you that — for reasons that should be obvious at this point — Jaguar gave me that very same, very British F-Type to tool around in during the day, and reader, it was something fantastic. That engine, that roar! It was so loud it could have been illegal. It certainly attracted a bit of attention when we ripped out of a tollbooth toward The Standard Hotel. It's a devilish awesome thing. Anyway, moving on now.)

As Basel Goes On, the Parties Line Up Bumper-to-Bumper

[Photo credit: Jaguar USA]

The packed gallery was filled with men and women thrilled to be able to break out their pastels and resort wear as they sipped on champagne and looked over the items on display: a bespoke tool shed, a modernist barbecue, a minimalist writing desk. But soon it was time to go, which means that Miami inevitability again — endless traffic. The car took me out of the Design District and back to Collins Avenue, the main drag of Miami Beach, where men and women craving every vice can find their fix in towering hotels that line the boulevard, each one a posh palm tree-studded edifice of sunny sin. It's like the Las Vegas strip in miniature, with every hotel, well, Miami-themed.

The first stop was a drink or two at a pop-up of Bungalow 8, the bygone beloved Chelsea nightclub, hosted by Architectural Digest. But, soon, we needed locomotion, as there was another party, the big one: Dom Perignon's gigantic fete celebrating a new Jeff Koons-designed bottle, hosted by handsome young millionaire art scions Alex Dellal, Stavros Niarchos, and Vito Schnabel. After enduring more traffic on Collins Avenue, I pulled up to the W Hotel, sifted through a scrum of none-too-pleased people in line, then passed through a series of checkpoints before making it to The Wall, a magenta-washed cube-shaped den of inequity where the party would soon explode.

What do we mean by explode? By midnight, Damien Hirst cut through a crowd that counted among its legion some of the world's preeminent art collectors: Tony Shafrazi, Aby Rosen, Alberto Mugrabi. And then there was the man who sells it to them, Larry Gagosian, the most powerful man in the art world, bopping around atop a booth as Patrick Carney, the Black Keys member who decided to DJ for the night, segued from ear-shattering punk rock to straight up trap music. What do we mean by explode? Various members of the Hilton family and their non-related cohorts oscillated between the bathroom and the banquettes, Stephen Dorff chugged bottles of Dom while standing on a table, and then, oh, Alex Rodriguez showed up and started taking selfies. What do we mean by explode? Around 2:00 am, Lenny Kravitz and Steven Tyler had taken over the DJ booth to sing Aerosmith songs as the crowd of Miami's finest drank more and more Dom Perignon.

But the best moment might have been midway through the party, as the DJ played a few opening bars of "New York, New York," prompting the crowd to sing along with Sinatra, and then cut into "Empire State of Mind." Andre Balazs, standing next to me, bearhugged everyone around him. The whole crowd yelled the chorus. It was enough to make me just a little homesick, craving the concrete jungle amid a tropical paradise. How long is the drive from Miami to New York? Eighteen hours — without traffic.

[Photo credit: Getty]

Nate Freeman is the Editor-in-Chief of Good to be Bad. His writing has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Observer.

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