Guy Trebay puts his finger on something very important about the growth of ArtBasel Miami Beach. There’s an international class of wealthy persons looking for common meeting places where members can socialize and enjoy the feeling of being apart from the rest of the world and among persons like themselves.
For a variety of reasons, art fairs have become a convenient social circuit with shopping as entertainment. Here, the shopping is for art:
If, as Silvia Venturini Fendi, the Fendi designer, remarked one afternoon at the Standard hotel here, contemporary art collecting is the “new shopping,” then is it not possible that art fairs like Art Basel Miami Beach are in some sense the new malls? As at malls, there are boutique dealers at Art Basel Miami Beach and key anchor tenants and also a food court, albeit one that sells flutes of Champagne. There is an ambient aura of humming prosperity that masks, but just barely, the giddy excitement sparked when people in an acquisitive frame of mind move in packs. […]
“Only a tiny percentage of people at the fair are actually doing most of the buying,” Louise Neri, a critic and curator, said at a party whose host was Nadja Swarovksi, the crystals magnate, and that was held on the rooftop terrace of the Soho Beach House. “Probably 99 percent of the people here do not buy art.”
The remaining 1 percent can openly preen about newly acquired treasures at Art Basel Miami Beach, as Mr. Orlofsky of the Gagosian Gallery noted. “They can buy and brag about” works acquired as early as 11 last Wednesday morning when, just after the show opened to holders of V.I.P. cards granting early admission, collectors sprinted to booths run by galleries like Lehmann Maupin and spent over $300,000 there on works by artists including Tony Oursler, Tracey Emin, Adriana Varejão, Mickalene Thomas and Angel Otero
Art Basel Miami Beach: Where Art and Commerce Come Together and Party (New York Times)