Last year, it was the Zika virus that caused a slight downturn in attendance during what was once Miami’s most anticipated week of pretentiousness, art, things posing as art, people posing as art people, sponsored parties on every corner, and, of course, celebs. But people bought art. And that’s really what Art Basel is supposed to be about. People who can afford to buy art will buy art no matter who is spinning in Wynwood (see: Bjork). But Art Basel Miami–er, Miami Beach isn’t really about that anymore after the greed is good types got their hands on it and turned it into a grotesque, corporate mutation of swill and swillers, an amalgam of freeloaders, phonies and grifters.
Just ask GQ, which, in July, listed Art Basel Miami Beach as one of the 10 Worst Parties in America. But despite the fact that, yes, “the thing has bloated into a whole series of satellite fairs and branded “art” events that are attached to it like barnacles,” we’re afraid that’s the least of 2017’s concerns. There’s that orange blob in the Oval Office that has nothing to do with art and everything to do with people not wanting to travel to the United States. The “Trump Slump,” The “Trump Tourism Effect,” or, more timely, the Zika Virus of Politics has absolutely affected people’s desires to come to the US for anything, never mind for Art Basel Miami Beach.
According to London’s World Travel Market (WTM), which polled nearly 3,000 travel trade executives, more than a quarter (27 percent) of Brits say they are less likely to visit the United States while Donald Trump is president. Same goes for citizens of pretty much every country in the world, who say they’d rather go to Canada than the United States as long as the Persimmon Pol Pot remains in the White House. But wait, it gets worse!
Enter Harvey Weinstein in his white robe. Shudder. With the wave in accusations of sexual harassers and with the recent resignation of the art world’s power player, Artforum publisher Knight Landesman for allegedly sexually harassing at least 9 women, the sexually charged Art Basel Miami Beach may be sporting a chastity belt, which may actually hinder the appearance of certain horny celebrities who use Art Basel as their sexual stomping grounds. We can’t confirm that just yet and we’re not accusing anyone of anything yet, but you think all the celebs who come down here just come for photo ops and free champagne? Think again. But the celeb’s Art Basel nightstalking square footage will likely be dramatically reduced.
According to one publicist who asked to remain anonymous, there aren’t going to be that many parties this year. “This year’s Art Basel definitely has less parties than the past,” said the flak, who added that hotel room rates are still going for outrageous fortunes, but aren’t nearly as booked as early as they used to be.
In fact, another publicist has been reaching out to people as late as last week looking to fill up a still empty hotel with people and parties. Said hotel is usually sold out by now and command central for the chic elite.
With just a month away, Art Basel may actually end up being what it originally started as: a prestigious art fair for rich folks, many of whom don’t even come to buy the art and even more who shun parties and publicity. Stay tuned.