Vanity Fair

DiCaprio, and More Collabos Than You Can Shake a Stick At: Welcome to Art Basel Miami Beach 2023

Nate Freeman , Dec 08, 2023

It’s not the best, chicest, or even most lucrative art fair in the world, but the annual gathering of the art world and art world–adjacent remains a signature event for its perpetually booming host city.

On the day before the opening of Art Basel Miami Beach, architect and artist Peter Marino was sitting in a room that he designed, looking out at the ocean, wearing what for him passes for swimwear: black leather pants, black leather jacket, motorcycle boots, black leather cap, black aviator sunglasses, a necklace featuring two small meat cleavers, and brass knuckles with rats on them. Nearby was a bowl full of M&Ms. Those were all black too.

“I like to adopt damaged cats—I mean, I like damaged buildings,” Marino said, in his trademark English-adjacent lilt. “I think in architecture, quite seriously, a lot is wasteful in America. People are always busy knocking everything down and building new shit. And I’m very respectful of architecture that was very good and old.”

Marino was talking about the Raleigh Hotel, the classic art deco crash pad that opened in 1940, was made famous by swimming Hollywood starlets, was nearly demolished as Collins Avenue went abandoned during the Miami Vice decade, spearheaded the Miami Beach revival in the ’90s, got bought by André Balazs in 2002 shortly after the arrival of Art Basel Miami Beach, was sold again, and then again, and has been shuttered since Hurricane Irma in 2017.

The Raleigh, though, will soon return. Developer Michael Shvo, who, along with his backers, has spent billions on real estate since the beginning of the pandemic, has acquired the property and its adjoining real estate to create a three-acre beachfront parcel. Shvo hired Marino—best known for designing storefronts for Chanel and homes for the Qatari billionaire HBJ, Larry Gagosian, and Steven Schwarzman—to design the sprawling hotel cluster and residential high-rise that will go up next door. It was a big get. Apart from some boutiques and private homes, Marino is not big on Miami projects.

“Peter’s moving into the buildings, so finally he’s going to have a home in Miami,” Shvo said. “The level of Miami is just now getting elevated. There was nowhere to go, right?”

“Well, there was some place to go—you could buy a house in Coconut Grove, which is an hour away, which is like living in northern Westchester and saying, ‘I live in New York,’” Marino said. “They’re very nice communities, I think. But they’re far away. And with traffic, it’s not conducive to a weekender such as myself.”

We were speaking in a temporary structure built to evoke Marino’s plans for the Raleigh, with the stately deco look shaking hands with his more brash style. There was a precise replica of the original bar downstairs, serving VIPs gratis martinis and dishes from Langosteria, the Milan seafood spot popular among the mega-yacht set. We moved over to the model of the Raleigh, Shvo looming over his yet-to-be-built empire with its pool to be viewed from the high-rise condo building. The 40 units start at $10 million.

“Yes, a lot of these buyers here are second, third, fourth home buyers, but they’re spending a lot more time here,” Shvo told me. “They’ll spend six months out of the year, four months out of the year.”

I asked him what pushed Miami toward its transformation into a city where such people live and work. He responded immediately.

“Covid was an accelerant,” he said. “Miami was transitioning from being a weekend city, a resort city, to being what I call an urban resort. So the idea is that: you can live here, you can vacation here, you can eat here, you can play here. The restaurant scene has obviously evolved. The culture has evolved, the museums have evolved. Those are things that you didn’t have five years ago.”

Art Basel Miami Beach is not the best art fair in the world. It’s not the coolest. It’s not the most fun, or the chicest, or the most lucrative. Then why, year after year, does it only get bigger? It’s just the nature of Miami, a perpetual boomtown. About this time last year, we were talking about how no other city in America had tethered its fortunes closer to the crypto boom than Miami. The mayor took his salary in Bitcoin, and a large portion of the sector seemed to operate out of bay-adjacent office clusters. Until recently, the Miami Heat’s arena bore the name for the now infamous Sam Bankman-Fried–run crypto exchange, FTX.

Surely such a place might see some of its enthusiasm dampened in the last nine months. And yet after the crypto crash, Miami was doing just fine as far as I could tell. Now the real banks have moved in, most recently Ken Griffin’s Citadel, following Carl Icahn’s shop and Paul Singer’s Elliott Management.

“We’ll see how big Wall Street South becomes,” Griffin said in an interview with

Bloomberg News at the Citadel Securities Global Macro Conference in Miami. “We’re on Brickell Bay, and maybe in 50 years it will be Brickell Bay North how we refer to New York in finance.”

As Shvo says, people are indeed moving here, and staying here. Jeff Bezos and his fiancée, Lauren Sánchez, have purchased two neighboring properties on a beachside island called Indian Creek, the so-called billionaire’s bunker that counts Julio Iglesias and Tom Brady as residents. Also on the bunker are Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who have been soft-launching their return to polite society on the local dining scene. Last week, Ivanka went to see The Black Keys with the actor Rachel Korine, who lives nearby with her husband, the artist and filmmaker Harmony Korine. A source said that Harmony has been studying the Torah with Jared. (A rep for Kushner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

There are entire industries in Miami that did not exist a few years ago. The Miami F1 Grand Prix brings in $350 million to the local economy, according to a report by South Florida Motorsports. Lionel Messi, the world’s greatest soccer player, arrived at Inter Miami last year and supercharged the team’s social media presence—he was just named Time’s Athlete of the Year. The design district is a hub of fashion boutiques for which a Miami storefront is essential for catering to the luxury-obsessed South Florida rich. Louis Vuitton staged one of its largest-scale shows ever in Miami two years ago. The Heat are championship contenders again. The Dolphins, which bring in $600 million to the city annually (and are a lock for the playoffs), have increased in value almost five-fold since being sold to real-estate billionaire Stephen Ross in 2009.

With all those data points swirling around, when Shvo told me that the penthouse of his Raleigh-adjacent condo building will cost a future Miami resident $150 million, it made sense. Or at least it made Miami sense.

Now in its 21st year, Art Basel Miami Beach is perhaps still the preeminent example of such logic. Days before the public is even allowed into the fair on Friday, the dealers arrive, most on Monday, to settle in, often with a dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab. Groups dining on the early side included the Los Angeles dealer Tim Blum and Sotheby’s private sales head honcho David Schrader; brothers Tico and David Mugrabi with billionaire Peter Brant and members of the Acquavella family; and the Tribeca dealer Stefania Bortolami. Those waiting at the bar could hear the maître d’ mispronounce Thaddaeus Ropac’s name once the art dealer’s table was ready.

On Tuesday, came the long crawl through Miami’s various cultural zones, hitting the Rubell Museum, the ICA, the de la Cruz collection, and the Gagosian-Deitch show in the design district. Gagosian had a dinner at The Freehand, which had been transformed by the team behind Le Sirenuse, the Positano hotel that operates out of the owners’ former Amalfi Coast estate. Right after that was the White Cube party, the sort of place where one could find photographer Tyler Mitchell and Sotheby’s CEO Charles Stewart at the same beach rager.

When the fair doors swung open at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, VIP collectors—such as Howard Rachofsky and Don and Mera Rubell and Leonardo DiCaprio and Beth Rudin DeWoody—wound their way down the aisle to make purchases. Hauser & Wirth sold a Philip Guston on the first day for $20 million, Zwirner sold a Marlene Dumas for $9 million, and Skarstedt sold a Willem de Kooning in the high seven figures. The artist JR rushed up to Serpentine director Hans Ulrich Obrist and said, “Are you here Saturday? I’m doing a talk with Bob DeNiro and I would love you to come.” Alas, the jet-setting curator was gone before the weekend, as so many are. Tommy Hilfiger arrived, as did the local publisher Jason Binn, who was carrying a tiny dog and greeted the Mugrabis with a playful “Security, have them removed!” I overheard one adviser on the phone with a client discussing an Ed Ruscha that was on the verge of going to someone else.

“What if we paid… What if we paid double?” he asked.

That evening, many of the world’s major galleries chose one of Miami’s finer establishments for a dinner celebrating artists, patrons, clients, and, occasionally, celebrities to add some star-wattage. Pace Gallery took over Cote, a New York–born Korean steakhouse that has since sprung up in the design district of Miami, for a dinner hosted by Venus Williams. The tennis great is a collector, as is her sister Serena, who walked the fair with adviser Meredith Darrow and fellow collector David Grutman, the club-straunt kingpin, stopping before the work by Igshann Adams at Casey Kaplan, and swinging through the white-hot gallery Mendes Wood DM.

Venus burst into the restaurant 30 minutes late to find it still mostly empty—the bottlenecked lines of cars across the causeways meant that many had not yet made it from the beach to the mainland.

“The traffic really started in 2021,” Venus, who has had a place in town for decades and bought a piece of the Dolphins in 2009, told me. “And it’s only getting worse.”

She was standing with Reilly Opelka, the men’s player who has made serious inroads as a collector and often travels with the tennis-obsessed artist Friedreich Kunath. A booth away, Josh Harris, the co-owner of the Washington Commanders, sat watching the server cook up the wagyu at the grill built into the table. Laurie Tisch, the co-owner of the New York Giants, was a table over.

“Venus, you are really making a difference in our world,” Marc Glimcher, Pace’s CEO, said in a toast. “I want to thank this amazing entrepreneur, art patron, art collector—and she does something else as a hobby, I don’t really know what it is.”

Glimcher was having a bit of a moment in Miami this week. On Thursday, he arrived at the fair with a T-shirted and improbably jacked Bezos, who began at the Pace booth before straying to study a work by Nora Turato in the Sprüth Magers booth. Bezos, hand in hand with Sánchez, and flanked by two personal security guards and an additional three guards provided by the fair, walked by the White Cube booth—“That’s an installation by Tracey Emin,” Glimcher said, pointing to Feeling Pregnant III (2005), which consisted of nightgowns hanging on wooden hooks. Sensing a people-watching opportunity for the ages, I followed behind. At Zwirner, Bezos spent a lot of time with Ad Reinhardt’s Blue Painting (1953), and then Glimcher wheeled him over to Gladstone Gallery and introduced him to partner Max Falkenstein, who rose, eyes big, as the Amazon founder entered the gallery. It’s quite a spectacle to see the physical manifestation of $161 billion walk through an art fair. A glimpse of Bezos brought gallery founders out of the back rooms and right in front, ready to sell.

“I really like work with text and mirrors,” Sánchez said, as she peered into a work featuring both by Rirkrit Tiravanija at Gladstone.

They moved on to Ruscha’s Mean as Hell, featuring those words against a smeared astral landscape.