Art Basel Miami Beach: What to Do, Eat and Drink

Cavalli Restaurant

From Elton John's cocktail party to the big Ai Weiwei show, the must-attend events this December.

This story first appeared in the Dec. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

After 10 years of drawing the arterati to Miami Beach every December, Art Basel has its own traditions (beyond reliable sightings of Calvin Klein). Developer Aby Rosen always throws a dinner for an eclectic, elite bunch at the hottest new restaurant, while's bash often wins the title of the week's buzziest. This year, it will take over the Freehand Miami Hostel on Dec. 6 for an art-tech happy hour. (Make a mental note to check out the new food and drink place by Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi of Freehand's pop-up cocktail joint Broken Shaker when it opens.) Concept boutique The Webster also will host its annual passel of private dinners for everyone from Eddie Borgo to, yes, Klein.

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Gatecrashers will want to snag entry to Elton John's AIDS Foundation cocktail party Dec. 2, hosted by Givenchy muse Marina Abramovic, and Perez Art Museum Miami's 700-person gala, with a Marc Anthony performance, on Dec. 7. After two years of construction and more than a decade of discussions, the landmark $220 million art space, renamed in honor of donor and local developer Jorge Perez, will debut with a show by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei. Retail magnate Galen Weston and wife Hilary will host a rival event the same night at their gallery on Vero Beach, which will show Jasper Johns, a blockbuster worth the hours-long drive.

With Jeffrey Deitch's annual event gone since he shuttered his namesake gallery in New York (long before resigning from the MOCA board in July), MoMA's PS1 shindig at the reinvigorated Delano on Dec. 6 may win party primacy this year.

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As the fash pack flocks to Basel, expect ritzy store openings, from Swiss brand Philipp Plein to Longchamp to Maison Laduree, where a party Dec. 3 will celebrate its collaboration with artist Will Cotton, who developed a new macaron flavor (ginger-infused whipped cream), among other creations.

Miami's "foodaissance" (per local blogger Jacquelynn D. Powers) doesn't deny the city's showgirl soul. Roberto Cavalli's lavish, leopard-printed namesake restaurant opens just in time for Art Basel, serving Tuscan cuisine plus Tenuta degli Dei wine from the designer's own vineyard. After a decade of being rechristened the Design District, Buena Vista on the mainland is finally drawing foodie folk and will soon be home to Richard Hales' Blackbrick, a 50-seater Chinese restaurant named after the bricks of tea once used as currency in China. It will offer house-made noodles and even smoked charcuterie made on site.

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If all this sounds like sensory overload, producer David Hoberman advises: "The best way to survive Miami Basel is to take a run on the beach at the end of the day and jump in the ocean and let the water and art from the day wash over you."