Art Basel diary: Why some people never enter a gallery

“My favorite part about Basel is that I haven’t seen a single piece of art,” the 20-something gentleman said through giggles, pleased with himself. His statement was indicative of a simple fact regarding the last week in Miami: a lot of people came during Art Basel not to cruise the 20-plus art fairs, but to party.


His quote was delivered on Sunday, the last day of the madness, and though countless individuals were trying to squeeze in one last look at a Mapplethorpe, Moore, or Kahlo, the two of us had found ourselves poolside at the Standard Hotel, sipping chilled white wine with new-found aquaintances who like me, preferred the works of art not found on canvas. They were more into the moments when the art fair doors were closed, when the Internet celebrities, socialites, and party-goers strapped on their heels to attend the high fashion soirees South Beach.  

Here’s the highlights of my Art Basel nightlife experience: 

Thursday, December 6: I landed in the evening with just enough time to put down my bags and hop in a cab to Lords South Beach Hotel. The building had been transformed by artist Desi Santiago into “The Black Lords.” A giant inflatable black dog engulfed the hotel with glowing, hovering eyes. To celebrate Desi’s creation the Lords threw a private party. 

Once you made it passed the several girls blocking the entrance with iPads containing the evening’s guest list (Miami’s accessory of the season, apparently), you were welcomed into a night with free designer water and an open bar hosted by a tequila brand. In attendance was the coolest of the cool, including San Francisco’s very own drag celebrity, performer, and chef Juanita More and New York-based model Shaun Ross.

Friday, December 7th: After a very long day of attending some of the biggest art fairs in South Beach, I managed to put together a cute look and head to a private party being hosted by DJ Mike Q and artist Matthew Stone. My RSVP included details of where to be picked up by yacht, but since I was running a bit behind, I decided to forgo the boat and zip straight to the party. 

I arrived in front of large gates framed by equally large manicured shrubs. Once the gates opened and I was greeted by a man holding yet another iPad. Once cleared, I was led into an extravagant Moroccan-style riad which included another open bar followed by an amazing Paris is Burning-style ballroom performance by MC Gregg Evisu and dancers Ricco Allure, Kassandra Ebony, and Tamara Prodigy. 

In attendance was San Francisco’s very own performance artists boychild and Dia Dear. I also ran into Shaun Ross again and snapped a quick photograph of him living for the evening’s ball.

Saturday, December 8: My nightlife highlights actually occurred during the day at the NADA Friends and Family pool party, hosted by New York-via-San Francisco performer Alexis Blair Penney of the House of Chez Deep. 

The afternoon started with a spectacular lip sync and performance of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” by Sam Banks, another New York-via-San-Francisco-based drag persona from the House of Chez Deep.

The day’s artists were absolutely captivating and led the audience on a visual journey that occupied the entire of the Deauville Beach Resort‘s majestic outdoor pool area. The day ended with a stunning performance from San Francisco-based performance artist Dia Dear, who had stripped nude and spray-painted herself a very Miami pastel pink. 

Sunday, December 9th: Dehydrated, heat-struck, and exhausted, I found myself cabbing it to the Standard Hotel’s end-of-Basel pool party where this story began. I was determined to take the day easy and nourish myself back to health, but first I had to check out this last event. 

In attendance was San Francisco’s very own drag performer Ben Woozy, LA-based Internet celebrity and fashion icon Niki Takesh, and photographer-model Angela Pham, from the reality TV show Gallery Girls.

I left the pool party early that evening in need of some serious rest and relaxation. I returned to my hotel and had a burger at the local tiki bar and grill by the pool, and spent my last evening at the Russian Turkish Baths’ Amythyst Room. I’m pretty sure though, you’ll never sweat the party out of this boy.