A Look Back at Basel’s Bests

Posted by Maryanne Salvat On December - 3 - 2011

By:  Mary Jo Almeida-Shore

Art Basel, the “catnip” for those obsessed with art and the social scene has arrived bringing with it the stress and exhaustion resulting from the attempt to cram hundreds of events into one’s social calendar in a seven day period.  And while the actual showcase technically runs from December 1-4 (what we like to call the “100 hour day”) the requisite art celebrations and inebriation have been going strong FOR DAYS- think of this as “the column that almost wasn’t.”  Much to my delight and dismay, the fabulous fun is just getting started.  And because this week marks the three year anniversary of my taking over the 411 column, I’ve compiled a very short list of some of my most memorable Basel moments.  Enjoy!


audi-art-pavilion-lucy-liu For two years in a row (including 2011), London’s White Cube party has taken over the Soho Beach House’s pool area and Tiki bar on the Tuesday night of Basel Week- banishing even its top-tier members to the eighth floor and restaurant.  The party, comprised mostly of jet-set billionaire art collectors and their offspring and pretty people, has proven to be a gluttonous Bacchanal with free flowing champagne and liquor, extensive raw bar and a grill on at the Tiki Bar featuring limitless grilled meats and seafood.

Jeffrey Deitch, director of LA’s MOCA hosted one of the biggest musical events during Basel week last year- a concert by LCD Soundsystem in keeping with a tradition he formed at Deitch Projects. The Grey Goose sponsored concert on the sand at the Raleigh drew the one of largest crowds of the week- a mob scene with throngs of VIPs (or those who perceive themselves as such) clamoring to get past security. Artist/collector Johnny Pigozzi was reportedly seen trying to scale the back fence to gain access but was turned away.


and AOL , in partnership with Pharrell Williams, Shepard Fairey and FriendsWithYou, hosted an opening night celebration to kick off the FriendsWithYou Rainbow City installation with a special performance by popular alternative rock trio N*E*R*D and DJ Mia Moretti. The special event drew a crowd of 2,000 including: Christian Louboutin, Kim Hastreiter, David Herschkovits, Noah Hilfiger, Jax Hilfiger, Lea Hilfiger, Chloe Hilfiger, Perry Farrell, Etty Farrell, Craig Robins, Sam Talbot, Michael Yo, Arturo Sandoval, Sam Borkson who experienced a multisensory event, as the concert took place amid the Rainbow City installation in a huge field in the heart of the Design District. The forty-piece installation of enormous, bright and colorful inflated sculptures-several of which were actual bounce houses for adults(!) and a few of which walked around (LSD trip, anyone?) embraced visitors, creating the ultimate backdrop for N*E*R*D performance.

In 2010, Interview magazine partnered with MoMA PS1 for a huge bash at the Delano which featured synchronized swimmers, and an outlandish poolside performance coordinated by artist Mariah Robertson, which included a singer singing Hanukkah songs, a Bahamian Junkanoo marching band, a few naked performance artists, Mariachis and a parade and limbo contest out on the beach for even more free-flowing champagne. No, we are not making this up in our post-Basel stupor.

Nearby an A-list crowd gathered for Maybach Night, a formal dinner hosted by Maybach to benefit Sean Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization.  The dinner and rooftop after party were the first events to take place at the New World Symphony Building designed by Frank Gehry.  Julian Schnabel donated five large-scale paintings created on nautical maps of Haiti for the live auction, which raised nearly $1 million dollars for the organization (roughly the cost of a couple of Maybachs).  Among the highest bidders were: Naomi Campbell, Michael Chow and Peter Brant.  Academy Award winner, Sean Penn was on hand for the festivities.

Later that night, celebrity photographer-turned celebrity, Patrick McMullan joined novelist Brian Antoni and artist Robert Chambers to host a private party at Cafeina, dubbed, “Three Stooges We Love” for over 1,000 locals and New Yorkers who showed up to view the McMullan’s So80s photo installation, a bulletproof glass sculpture showcase by Chambers, and partake in a book signing of South Beach the Novel by Antoni, who donated a portion of sale proceeds to The Trevor Project. McMullan was in full force throughout the evening, snapping pictures of party goers and friends into the early hours of the morning.

JR and Loren Ridingers’ Casa de Suenos (House of Dreams) is the setting for the pinnacle event every year, and one of the most coveted invites. In 2010, the Ridingers’ Vogue party was nothing short of perfection. Paris famed fashion house YSL displayed its stunning new resort collection with special never-before-seen pieces, as models paraded around the pool, to the live sounds of the Aleksandar Djuric string quartet and delighted gasps from the stellar crowd (several pieces even drew applause from the audience).  A few onlookers considered the show to be a live-interactive version of their Christmas list (Can you guess who?)  The gorgeous show and setting were rivaled only by the well-heeled attendees, many of whom struggled to balance their stilettos on the limestone.  After the show and requisite photo ops, hundreds of lucky guests which included Gerard Butler, Natalia Jimenez, Emilio and Gloria Estefan, Lili Estefan, Giselle Blondet, Daisy Fuentes, Alejandro Sanz, Paulina Rubio, Russell Simmons, Cliff and Mary Floyd, Alex Rodriguez, Donald and Lisa Pliner, Nick D’Annunzio and Tara Solomon, Belkys Nerey, Jilian Sanz, Frank Amadeo, Ingrid Casares, Dana Garcia, Serena Williams (sporting a bejeweled cast and crutches), and Kelly Rowland mingled, danced and sipped Crystal with the gracious hosts.  While throughout Basel week, Miami’s glitterati were sprinkled throughout a seemingly endless myriad of dinners, art shows and parties, all roads seemed to converge at the Ridingers’ on that Saturday evening. Le Baron, the chicest Parisian nightclub this side of the Seine, has taken over the Florida Room for the past several years, making Francophiles of the best of us, for a host of nightly parties throughout the week. The fashionable, French and beautiful (often all-in-the-same) gather until sunrise to dance to a refreshing mix of songs including everything from The Doors, to the Beach Boys and even a bit of Sweet Home Alabama.

In 2009, The Box at Nikki Beach provided a bit of shock (schlock) value with a mix of burlesque, meets folly, meets the Muppet Show (one giant, excitable vagina Muppet to be exact) and a Chihuahua. Following an early dinner show, the racy party started at 11:00 p.m. (more like 1:30) and went into the wee hours of the morning.  The notorious closing party was especially wild as the anatomically innovative acts of the Vaudeville Theater from New York City turned up the heat.  The champagne was flowing nightly, as guests such as Jason Binn, Richard Johnson (Page Six), Andre Balazs, Lorenzo Martone, Vito Schnabel, Russell Simmons, Jay Jopling, Eric Omores, Keith Menin, Jack and Lucia Penrod, Simon and Francesca Hammerstein, Rick Yune, Christian Louboutin, Dean and Dan Caten of DSquared marveled as performers took art to the stage with kitschy crowd pleasers and playful eroticism.


The Whitewall/Kipton Art Foundation party at The Box was attended by a host of VIPs, including Tara Solomon, Brian Antoni, Kipton Cronkite, Whitewall’s Michael Klug, Vanity Fair’s George Wayne, Annabel Vartanian, Merle and Danny Weiss, Daniela Swaebe, Lauren Foster, and Marcia Levine.

Art Nexus took over the W South Beach on the Wednesday night of Basel 2009, adding a signature Latin flavor. The next night (morning) at the W South Beach, Vito Schnabel, Stavros Niarchos and Alex Dellal’s all-night after-party at Wall (following the Rosen/Brant/Mugrabi dinner) was among the most packed and energetic scenes of the week. The music consisted of one-minute mash-ups of ’70s and ’80s pop (Michael Jackson, Queen, Stones), and it got Naomi Campbell and Calvin Klein (not together) dancing between and on top of the vinyl banquettes.

Over the weekend, Verizon Wireless and BlackBerry teamed up with music producer, Timbaland, for a party at the Fontainebleau to celebrate the release of his highly anticipated album Shock Value II.  Timbaland took the stage with Brandy and JoJo, both of whom collaborated on his new album. Other notables in attendance included: Adam Levine, Brandon Davis, Dita Von Teese, Elle Macpherson, Fat Joe, Kelly Bensimon, Nicky Hilton, Russell Simmons, Serena Williams and Travis McCoy. At the Raleigh David LaChapelle’s Art Deco “Happy New Year 1932” included synchronized swimmers in flowered bathing caps and glittering suits performing “Putting on the Ritz” in the pool, an actual size, ice sculpture of a Maybach, and thousands of black and silver balloons. The party concluded with a number of revelers, including LaChappelle himself, jumping in the pool.

The 2009 Evening in Vogue at the Ridingers’ was an exclusive, intimate, star-studded affair featuring local A+ listers and a spectacular, never-before-seen Versace runway show. One of the week’s best parties, taking place on the most gorgeous (read coolest) night of Art Basel with celebs such as Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Vanessa Williams, Russell Simmons, Mike Piazza and Scottie Pippen, enjoying free-flowing Cristal, and mingling with fellow beautiful, fun, fashionable people. It’s no surprise that this was “the hottest ticket of Basel week” according to businesswoman, editor, columnist and “girl-about-town,” Loren Ridinger.

The Standard was ground zero for some of the most exclusive and highly-anticipated events of the week in 2009, including: Paul Kasmin’s dinner for Mattia Bonetti; Bruce Weber’s book signing hosted by Andre Balazs; Francois Nars / Lorenzo Martone cocktail party; the Creative dinner and the Whitney Museum soiree.

On Thursday night of Basel 2009, Aby Rosen, Peter Brant and Tico Mugrabi, held a dinner for 600+ at the just-opened W South Beach that encompassed Solea, (which is now The Dutch) the Living Room and all surrounding areas. Just to name drop, some of the guests included: Val Kilmer, Stephen Dorff, Michael Ovitz, Blaine Trump, John McEnroe, Naomi Campbell, Nicky Hilton, Eva Chow, Calvin Klein, Jane Holzer, Eugenio Lopez, Maja Hoffman, Alejandro Santo Domingo, Don and Mera Rubell, Micheal Lynne, Wendy Stark, Jacqueline Schnabel, Bill and Maria Bell, Eli Broad, Yvonne Force Villareal and Leo Villareal, Aaron Young, dozens of art dealers.

Cartier held a private dinner on the same night over at Mr. Chow, showcasing some of their sparkliest wares.


The Raleigh Hotel served as party central during Art Basel 2008.  The hotel hosted parties for the New York Times, Visionaire, the after party for Che, and the Tommy Hilfiger/ Vanity Fair party for Free Arts NYC.  The crown-jewel of Art Basel parties in 2008, the Visionaire 55 Surprise, held on Thursday of Basel Week, featured adorable Abercrombie and Fitch-type shirtless boys, surrounded by major celeb-power and barefoot drag queens running frantically on the sand around the towering, overflowing 30 foot champagne fountain, a pyramid of giant, overflowing champagne flutes.  Upon entering, one was struck by the cluster of nearly nude baby-faced male models holding one of twelve artist-designed pop-up books showcasing designs by Steven Meisel, Mario Testino, Guido Mocafico, Yayoi Kusama and Steven Klein. All twelve books were on display, firmly glued down to their display cases, in an effort to keep everyone, ahem, honest.


Visionaire VIPs included: Marc Jacobs, Bruce Webber, Rachel Zoe, Pharrell Williams, Marilyn Manson, Yves Carcelle, Elaine Lancaster Andre Balazs, Lady Bunny, Cecilia Dean, Isani Griffith, and Lorenzo Martone.

Towards the end of the night, the after party for the Byron Theatre screening of Che conveniently took place in the Raleigh ballroom, where Benicio del Toro and Steven Soderbergh sat outside surrounded by fans.  The party was relatively uneventful with the exception of the shrimp dipped in vanilla frosting and giant chocolate truffles which served as the only nutrition of the champagne- doused evening.  

 Earlier that week, Art Basel 2008 kicked-off with an exclusive Vernissage hosted by Naomi Campbell, to celebrate the unveiling of In Fashion Photo, an exhibition featuring an incredible collection of more than 250 contemporary works of photographic art by over 35 of the world’s leading icons in fashion photography; the only exhibit of its kind in the world.  The exhibition also showcased an unprecedented Naomi Campbell Retrospective collection of photography by many of today’s most respected fashion photographers including Gilles Bensimon, Patrick Demarchelier, Arthur Elgort, Simon Harris, Seb Janiak, David LaChapelle, Mario Testino, Michael Thompson, Ellen Von Unwerth, Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin among many others.

A crush of reporters, socialites, fans and celebrities gathered under the metro rail tracks, yes, the tracks were the roof and support beams of the exhibit, to enjoy this exclusive show, which included Marilyn Monroe’s final professional photo shoot.  As expected, Campbell arrived two hours late, wearing a short, black sequined dress, as the crowd clamored for a glimpse of the supermodel and trampled each other in an effort to take a photo-as if there weren’t already hundreds of photos (taken by professional photographers) of her inside (many baring her bare necessities).  Campbell, who was joined by Russian billionaire boyfriend, Vladimir Doronin, said of the retrospective, spanning her twenty two year career, ”I feel very honored and flattered, it’s like a timeline of my life.”

Campbell, was openly delighted with her photos, taking time to look at each one closely, commenting and even laughing in surprise and amusement.  Among her favorites was one of Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista and her in a bathtub, what could be better than three supermodels in a tub?  Campbell was on her best behavior throughout the night, no flying cell phones, despite the efforts of some party goers to annoy her by calling her “Tyra.”  While traipsing carefully throughout the unique 30,000-square-foot exhibit, replete with natural grass, various walkways, water elements, and custom ‘bus stop’ inspired structures, an obstacle course of sorts, guests enjoyed libations and a special performance songstress, Kym Mazelle.

The featured designer for the Ridingers’ annual bash in 2008 was Alberta Ferretti. Much of the same spectacular fanfare and stargazing previously mentioned was prevalent throughout that night as well.  Without a doubt, you know where we’ll be this coming Saturday.

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