P. Diddy Buys Two Pieces of Art at Opening of Art Basel Miami Beach

P. Diddy Miami Art Basel - P 2011
Rabbani and Solimene Photography/Getty Images

P. Diddy Miami Art Basel - P 2011

Michael Douglas, Owen Wilson and Will Smith are among the stars in town for the first day of the mega art fair.

Collectors from around the globe have just descended on Florida’s South Beach Art Deco-district for Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB), the Western Hemisphere's largest art fair -- and already the talk of the town is what P. Diddy is buying.

On Tuesday night, Nov. 29 -- at a pre-party thrown by Ferrari and Sotheby's at 1111 Lincoln Road (at a new mixed-use, inventively geometric building designed by renowned architects Herzog & De Meuron) -- the talk was that the rapper/producer had already plunked down for a piece by Random International, a London-based studio of three artists known for their light installations. Other guests at the party included producer (and photography collector) Brett Ratner, Janelle Monae, New Line Cinema co-founder Bob Shaye and Solange Knowles.

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The next day, at the VIP preview opening of the art fair, where a record 260 galleries had set up booths, Diddy – wearing a questionably stylish leopard-print sweater -- reportedly plunked down around $95,000 for a 2011 neon work by British artist Tracey Emin which spells out in bright letters "I Listen to the Ocean and All I Hear is You," from Lehmann Maupin Gallery. The day also brought out the likes of Warner Music Group chairman-CEO recorded music Lyor Cohen; artist and director Julian Schnabel; billionaire Eli Broad (who’s also the founding chairman of L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art); a group from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, including its director Michael Govan and trustee and auctioneer Viveca Paulin-Ferrell, the wife of Will Ferrell; and Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

"There's a new celebrity collecting frenzy. It's becoming a hot new symbol of status," said Alexander Gilkes, co-founder of online art marketplace Paddle8, a partner in Nada, one of the many satellite fairs that surround ABMB.

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Offerings at the main show, which takes place at the Miami Beach Convention Center, range this year from $7 million and $8 million Picassos and Legers to contemporary work by everyone from photographer Cindy Sherman (Broad was rumored to have picked up one of her works) to L.A's Doug Aitken (who showed an oversized lightbox depicting a cracked iPhone). Getting some of the most attention is the L & M Arts booth, done in an Andy Warhol self-portrait purple wallpaper, with over 150 drawings ($18,000 to $420,000) by the artist, including illustrations from his work for magazines in the 1950s of shoes and hats.

The parties here are endless, threatening to overshadow the art fair itself, in the same way celebrity-filled bashes came to take over Sundance. On Tuesday, London’s White Cube gallery gave a poolside party at the Soho House that drew Damien Hirst and designer Ron Arad; a couple hundred yards away in the restaurant, Swarovski threw a dinner for such guests as actor Kyle McLachlan with his wife, Project Runway exec producer Desiree Gruber.

On Wednesday, MOCA celebrated Moroccan-style at the Raleigh Hotel, with sponsor Maybach showcasing one of its cars on a floating platform in the center of the pool. "People here have fun. They go out. They go to parties. When you hear Eli Broad say he is going to three parties tonight. It means it is a good place to go," said guest Wolfgang Puck, who attended with his wife, designer Gelila Assefa Puck. The couple partied along with MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch, retired television exec Blake Byrne, The Young and the Restless exec producer and head writer and MOCA co-chair Maria Arena Bell, publisher Benedikt Taschen, philanthropist Lilly Tartikoff and actress Lake Bell.

Unlike at Sundance, the brands lured to ABMB are far from what you find in the typical swag-bag gifting suite in Park City. Art collectors of course – especially the swarms of wealthy Europeans who jet in to Miami -- hit a much higher net-worth demo than do the denizens of the indie-film world. At the W Hotel, Bally, an official Art Basel sponsor, unveiled an accessories collaboration with artist Olaf Breuning. Cartier, also an ABMG sponsor, opened an installation in Miami's Design District showcasing a jewel-encrusted mobile by rising art star Beatriz Milhazes. A block away, not to be left out, Christian Dior unveiled a pop-up boutique showing the results of its collaboration with German artist Anselm Reyle: bags, shoes and scarves done in neon camouflage. As if that wasn't enough glam overload, Van Cleef & Arpels gave a dinner for 400 in a hangar at the Opa-Locka airport attended by architect Zaha Hadid, photographer Bruce Weber and celebrity chef Daniel Boulud.

"It's a clusterf--- of important people," said one observer of the opening 24 hours of ABMB.

The cluster finished off the night at the Soho Beach House at a Louis Vuitton-sponsored fete thrown by online art website Art.sy, which was co-hosted by two of its investors, Wendi Murdoch and Russian art collector Dasha Zhukova. While Will Smith was seen spotted leaving around 12:30, the party -- which lured actor (and street art enthusiast) Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Pharrell Williams, Bravo’s Work of Art reality show host China Chow, designer Monique Lhuillier, Ace Gallery Beverly Hills director Jennifer Kellen, recently departed Jimmy Choo designer Tamara Mellon and Kat Von D – went on until past 2 am. Paris Hilton, who left around 1 am with sister Nicky, said that the Miami evening was unexpectedly cool and windy. “I’m going to Bal Harbour tomorrow and buy some jackets,” she said.

The fair – and the parties – run through Dec. 4, so there’s plenty of time for Diddy to pick up some more artworks. Meanwhile, he’s co-hosting two parties on Friday night. One, a cocktail at Mr. Chow at the W Hotel, celebrates Culo by Mazzucco, an arty coffee-table book put together by Diddy and Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine of photographs of women’s rear ends, shot by Raphael Mazzucco. Diddy is also helping throw a birthday bash the same night, along with Usher and Mary J. Blige, for record producer and songwriter Rico Love at Vic & Angelo’s restaurant in South Beach.