Between exclusive, celebrity-packed parties and the popular discussion surrounding NFTs, it is safe to say that in 2021, North America’s most distinguished art fair goes far beyond art. Although noticeably different this year, thanks to face masks, hand sanitizer stations, and proof of vaccines and COVID-19 tests, the long-awaited homecoming of Art Basel Miami Beach proved to be one of the city’s most massive yet, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world to Miami-Dade county.
There was no better way to start the week, and 50 years of BMW M, than with the world premiere of Art Basel partner BMW’s Concept XM. Friends of the brand, such as music industry powerhouse Timbaland, fashion insider and former NFL star Victor Cruz, and photographer Brooklyn Beckham, gathered at Herzog & De Meuron’s renowned 1111 Lincoln Road parking deck in Miami Beach to celebrate BMW’s most powerful and striking automobile to date The Concept XM. Boasting 740 horsepower and 738-feet pounds of torque from a twin turboV8 paired with electric motors — this concept SUV is positioned to be the fastest SUV in history. Design-wise, the vehicle marries vintage lounge-like interiors and with a daringly bold exterior, offering BMW’s expected quality and taste with state-of-the-art technology and design. The automobile illuminated lustrously as the grand event’s backdrop, as legendary rapper Nas sang crowd-favorites such as “If I Ruled the World.” Brooklyn-based artist Kennedy Yanko also created “Intrinsic Sage,” a sculpture made specially for the event, which was inspired by both the BMW Concept XM as well as a dialogue between her and the hip hop artist surrounding creative intuition.
The next night proved to be an emotional one as a lengthy list of A-listers – including Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Pharrell Williams, A$AP Rocky, and Rihanna – gathered on an elevated platform outside of the Miami Marine Stadium in Virginia Key to celebrate the life of their late friend, acclaimed Louis Vuitton and Off-White designer Virgil Abloh, who passed away Sunday (Nov. 28) from angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer. His posthumous Louis Vuitton Spring-Summer 2022 fashion show – also the first-ever LV show in the United States – featured hip hop artist Kid Cudi and two-third of Migos rappers Quavo and Offset as the show’s runway models. After the show, guests ferried to a private island nearby where Kid Cudi performed “Moon” as a multitude of bopping red drones flew into the sky, spelling out “Virgil Was Here,” in tribute to the creative mastermind.
Wednesday (Dec. 1) night marked the beginning of Chanel’s three-day celebration of the 100th anniversary of its classic, long-standing fragrance, Chanel N°5, starting off with a sky-illuminating drone light show over Faena Beach. The next day, toasts were made as the French fashion house celebrated the opening of its new Peter Marino-designed store in the Design District with a dazzling cocktail party. The swankiest of Chanel’s Art Basel festivities occurred on Friday, as the luxury brand welcomed 220 attendees to a private dinner celebrating the labyrinth installation by Chanel-commissioned, London-based artist Es Devlin titled, “Five Echoes” – an all-white, immersive, multi-sensory installation designed for guests to explore, featuring a garden that engages their olfactory sense with the plants and flowers that are found in the time-honored perfume. The dinner hosted a variety of influential characters such as multifaceted producer Pharrell Williams, tennis legend Venus Williams and Colombian superstar Maluma. The highlight of the evening was a performance by none other than Spanish singer and flamenco dancer Rosalía, as she belted out five of her most well-known songs, including fan-favorite “Di Mi Nombre.”
Over at Casa Tua South Beach was Playboy’s Surrealist-themed party where the guest-of-honor was chart-topping rapper Cardi B, who was recently accoladed as Playboy’s first creative director in residence, in addition to founding member of Centerfold, the lifestyle magazine’s new creator-led platform. The songstress also came to promote the company’s new luxury lifestyle label, BIGBUNNY, which was designed as a billet-doux to Playboy’s deep-rooted heritage of sophistication and modern jet-set, with its brand-new collection serving as a tribute to Salvador Dalí, the lionized Surrealist painter who contributed greatly to the publication in the ‘70s. The New York-bred artist arrived 30 minutes after midnight, briefly posing for photos before heading off to the private event upstairs, where notable entertainment industry characters such as Offset, Lizzo, Jared Leto and David Guetta all gathered to commemorate the timeless magazine.
One of Art Basel’s biggest – and most exclusive – highlights, however, was Wayne Boich’s star-studded dinner party that saluted Swiss luxury watch company Richard Mille, taking place at Boich and his wife Cynthia’s luxurious waterfront home. Boich brought out world-famous rockstar Lenny Kravitz, who performed a 75-minute concert with a setlist that included popular hits such as, “Fly Away” and “American Woman,” as noteworthy audience members of the likes of Academy Award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio, “Unforgettable” rapper French Montana, and Olympic gold-medalist Serena Williams danced and sang along. After Kravitz concluded his show, the Boichs introduced yet another world-famous artist to the stage: Chart-topping rapper T.I., who performed fan-favorites, such as “Whatever You Like” and “Live Your Life.” Concluding the night was a DJ set by Brendan Fallis, whose wife, fellow DJ and entrepreneur Hannah Bronfman, was found jamming alongside actress and model Karreuche Tran.
With the help of these notable events, this year’s Art Basel stayed true to Miami’s reputation of being a “melting pot,” as it welcomed the most influential and diverse group of people to South Florida yet – emerging famous artists, entertainers, athletes, and fashion designers with car enthusiasts, cryptocurrency investors, and art dealers and collectors. Art Basel Miami Beach resurges in 2022 from Dec. 1-4, but after 2021’s abundance of show-stopping highlights, one can only imagine how America’s most prominent art fair will manage to top it.