After an exhausting succession of events each more elephantine than the last, the art year is finally coming to an end. Yet, like every December, the art world jetsetters have one last stop to make before heading off for a week of festive lounging in Gstaad, St. Barth or some other destination for people whose names appear in the Panama Papers. That final stop is, of course, Art Basel Miami Beach, now in its 16th edition and opening to VIPs on December 6th.
Alas, chances are that you’re not one of these international jetsetters. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not attending ABMB; it just means that you’ll be travelling back to your depressing hometown in an uncomfortable coach seat, and not to a private island off the Belizean coast on your own private jet. Doing Art Basel on a budget might also entail staying in an AirBnB that smells of mold, spending three hours a day commuting to the fair in an Uber Pool, and following the Anne Imhof performer diet (a.k.a. not eating).
However, it is this author’s conviction that in order to fully absorb ABMB, it’s important to indulge in some of the “have’s” most delightfully preposterous attitudes. You’ve got to do ABMB, don’t let ABMB do you! Here are some examples of how to do Art Basel Miami Beach like a basic rich bitch.
Pretend You Know EVERYONE
A fun thing to do at the Ivana Trump of art fairs is pretend you’re an intimate friend to the most influential people of the art world. This feat best undertaken by exclaiming their first name, and following up with a fake-yet-credible anecdote. Example: “Oh Sadie [Coles]?! Why yes, of course I know her darling! She treated me to tea and crumpets at the Dorchester only a month ago, we talked about Confucianism and Urs Fischer’s marvellous new chalet in Verbier. Truly a gem, I’m planning to go there myself in a couple of weeks!” Obviously such a claim is a risky one, but will pay off if your interlocutors don’t know Sadie Coles or Urs Fischer personally. If they do, run away and come again the next day wearing a wig and oversized sunglasses. You’ll blend in just fine.
Pretend to Be an Art Advisor
Art advisor is a tough profession: competition is stiff, and solid connections are essential. But being (or pretending to be) an art advisor has one crucial advantage: aside from gallerists, advisorship is the only art-fair-preview-compatible line of work, as it doesn’t come with the stench of real labour. You might be neither competitive nor well-connected, but tricking people into thinking you are is highly entertaining.
It’s quick and easy: arrogantly ask someone at a booth to confirm a work’s price (which you should know already), then call a friend and talk to her as if she were a Russian oligarch’s wife: “Ludmilla, darling, come on. You know you want this. How marvellous would a Tony Cragg look in your new datcha’s foyer? A bargain, I’m telling you. Yes, cheaper than your son’s kindergarten tuition basically. OK. Call me back.”
Fork Out for the Overpriced Champagne, and Loudly Complain About How Bad It Is
In the ultimate move to prove to everyone that you’ve Made It, purchase a glass of champagne at the fair for the low price of just 30 bucks. You may very well get a call from the fraud detection branch of the credit card company, but trust us, it’ll be worth it. Ideally paired with cocaine, champagne is the art world equivalent of Gatorade. Now, don’t be precious about it: you should be gulping those bubbles down as if they were an off-brand energy drink on the second day of a rave, not a refined liquor from Northeastern France. If you have the guts and very little decency, feel free to loudly complain about the quality of your drink (but don’t mention the price tag). Something along the lines of “Ugh, how deep can [INSERT BRAND OF PERFECTLY DRINKABLE CHAMPAGNE] fall? This tastes like something my housekeeper would enjoy. Guess I’ll have to start an Avaaz petition if I ever want to drink something acceptable here again!” should do the trick.
Only Pay Attention the Most Expensive Works of Art
In essence, the stock market and the art market are subject to similar fluctuations. Some artists have reached the same status as Amazon shares: their price is already way too high, and just keeps climbing. Many of the artworks in this lofty category are as boring as they are costly; apparently, there’s always someone in dire need of a concave Anish Kapoor mirror. Perhaps the summit of basicdom is to “admit” you simply don’t want to put your capital at risk, and hence give priority to straight-up crowd-pleasers. While starting that Avaaz petition on your phone at the Champagne bar, feel free to tell a stranger: “You know, I don’t mind admitting it. I want art to make me feel good. I don’t need some sad painting by some up-and-comer hanging over my couch. I choose my art the same way I chose my golf slacks: I like tasteful colors, versatility, and something I won’t feel ashamed of in front of my Republican in-laws”.
“Stay” at the W Miami Beach
For truly credible yet truly basic art world influencers, the only acceptable place to stay during Art Basel is the W. A mansion in Palm Beach is too far away, and a yacht is only acceptable as a place to stay in dangerous third-world locations. Obviously your chances to get a room at the W are as low as the probability of getting into Berghain while talking Italian to the bouncer. However, what you can do is sit discreetly in the lobby and answer fake e-mails from an iPad. If anybody asks, explain your absence at the breakfast table or the poolside with lies nobody will dare contradict: “Darling you know me (the person probably doesn’t, but still). My shaman says UV rays and chlorine will play havoc with my aura. And if I don’t have to attend one of the Rubell’s boring brunches, I’d rather skip breakfast for a quick power meditation session while gazing at the ocean, don’t you agree?”