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Hot Basel

Miami's Art Fair Was Bigger, Glitzier, and—Admit It—More Fun Than Ever

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Yves Behar and Nadja Swarovski, at the Paris Theater.
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Yvonne Force Villareal and Rachel Feinstein Currin, at The Standard.
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Lazaro Hernandez and Arden Wohl, at the Raleigh Hotel.
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"Serious" collectors reputedly whistle-stopped the preview on Wednesday morning then fled town on their NetJets, but if some purists took offense at Art Basel Miami's increasingly bacchanalian fusion of art, design, fashion, and flat-out grifting, there were thousands of others who seemed bent on making sure the night never ended. You'd see them sweating mojito at 5 a.m. at the South Beach outpost of Paris club Le Baron. And that was after three openings, a couple of book signings, and at least two sit-down dinners.

"It's the best week of the year, like I remember Miami back in the early nineties," cooed Ingrid Casares at the opening of an installation of crystal chandeliers commissioned by Swarovski on Tuesday night. Alex de Betak spent six months working on his life-sized crystal silhouette of Gisele Bündchen. While she twinkled beside him, he enthused over the collision of art-world chic and Miami flash. "I wish fashion week could be here," he said.

After the opening, Nadja Swarovski hosted a dinner outdoors at the Setai, where guests were forced to take cover when ghosts of hurricanes past gate-crashed. Ambra Medda, the 26-year-old Sardinian beauty behind Design Miami, the furniture fair that has become Miami Basel's most glamorous satellite, quickly improvised a protective wrap and turban from a clutch of tablecloths. She called it her Tuareg look.

Two nights later, Design Miami's opening had its own problems, namely a mob scene that prevented even VVVIPs from getting in. Among those who did make it through the crush was Kanye West (wearing Kanye). Chicago style arbiter Ikram Goldman people-watched the surpassingly stylish crowd in awe. "I'm reeling from the rocks," she said. "There have to be 10K in each stone on that diamond necklace over there." So much for Miami casual.

But then, with events like the Jimmy Choo dinner for the Whitney Contemporaries on the schedule, casual wasn't going to cut it this year. Tamara Mellon and Robert Bensoussan's guest list was a microcosm of nouvelle café society. "Yes, this is a cool, chic evening," said Roopal Patel, co-chair of the Contemporaries. "But it's also about experiencing contemporary art on a firsthand basis."

An entirely different kind of firsthand experience was delivered by Dita Von Teese, who rode a bucking bronco of a lipstick tube in her signature spangly minimum at an event hosted by M.A.C. and Narciso Rodriguez at the Delano. In the conceptually borderless environs of Miami Basel, her spectacular performance could've been construed as a piece of art, but Von Teese begged to differ. "I'm a stripper," she said. "If it's good enough for Gypsy Rose Lee, it's good enough for me."

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