A Long Night Out During Art Basel Yields Run-ins with Collectors, Celebs, and Art World Power Brokers

For those who arrived in Switzerland on Monday, ahead of Art Basel’s first VIP preview, there was no shortage of glitzy parties to attend. As art economist Magnus Resch told me on Tuesday, he had spent the night before at Les Trois Rois, the classic watering hole for dealers and collectors alike, where James Franco, art adviser Jane Suitor, and mega-collector David Mugrabi were all in attendance. Sounds nice. A delayed flight and last-minute booking meant I didn’t make it to Basel until the wee hours on Tuesday.

By Tuesday evening, after a full day split between roving the fair floor at Art Basel and reporting on the city’s first digital art fair, the Digital Mile, I had a choice to make: do I follow Art Basel’s VIP crowd along the well-trodden party path (Perrotin et al.) or stick with the new kids on the block from the NFT, crypto, and generative AI world? Unfortunately, I tried to do both.

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My first port of call was a party hosted by four galleries—Mendes Wood DM, Crèvecoeur, Sylvia Kouvali, Taka Ishii—in the bar L’Avventura, located on the roof of a giant concrete parking lot by Basel’s main train station. As I made my way there, I bumped into The Baer Faxt‘s Josh Baer, who told me he’d seen it all before and was heading back to his hotel to catch some Zs before an early flight Wednesday morning. I arrived at 9:30 and took the elevator to the top floor, where I caught collector and New York socialite Paul Judelson standing at the entrance, taking a break from the swarming bar. Sharp suits, designer dresses, buckets of lip filler, a handful of kooky characters sporting crazy outfits, and loads of booze; it seemed like any other Art Basel party, just younger with a stunning sunset view across the city from the terrace.

Anastasia Krizanovska, Crèvecoeur’s gallery manager, told ARTnews that she hoped the bash would be “more relaxed, free, and easy” than the other blowouts at Basel. George Newall, cofounder and director at Winter Street Gallery in Martha’s Vineyard, certainly looked at ease surrounded by beautiful women on the terrace. Inside by the bar, art consultants Ellen De Schepper and Laura De Beir told me they were digging the vibe because it wasn’t as crowded as Les Trois Rois.

“We were invited by Alix [Dionot-Morani] from Crèvecoeur who is showing lots of Sol Calero and artists we like, who we bought for our clients in Belgium,” De Schepper said. “We love Mendes Wood DM – they’ve thrown very cool parties in Paris and Brussels.”

Thomas Rom, the art adviser and 15-year Art Basel veteran, meanwhile, was planning his exit to Hotel Merian over the Rhine where the Young Boy Dancing Group was performing. “I want to see Young Boy because I want to connect back to my queer community and see something that feels like it captures the moment,” he told me. “It’s going to be more fun than any other place tonight.”

Rom may have been right; L’Avventura’s dance floor was spartan (although it was still relatively early) but I didn’t have time to hang around and see the horseplay unfold, if any.

I knew the Digital Mile cohort were already at the Merian, watching Young Boy, so I took the elevator to the street with the intention of walking across the Mittlere Brücke bridge to the hotel. But I was waylaid out front when a tightlipped trio from Masterworks offered me shotgun in their cab, on the condition that I wouldn’t quote them. They drove to the center of town to the Gothic revival Elisabethenkirche, where the Perrotin party was in full force. With the queue surprisingly short, it seemed like a good opportunity to pop my head and cover all bases.

Host Emmanuel Perrotin played a DJ set dressed in a bright-blue hoodie, reportedly due to an earlier tuxedo malfunction, before French-Korean DJ-singer Miki Duplay captivated the audience with a bizarre routine that straddled something between burlesque and beatbox. Pedro Winter (Daft Punk’s former manager), Samuel Boutruche, Andy 4000, and b2b (never heard of them) also performed to the crowd. DJ Jacques and his neo-tonsure haircut were the headline act.

German gin company Monkey 47 sponsored the event in partnership with Art Review so the alcohol was flowing, and I’d say the punters were a touch more refined and older here compared to L’Avventura. Silver foxes Rafael Pic (Quotidien de l’Art’s editor in chief), Martin Guesnet (Artcurial’s European director), and Thierry Peyroux (from the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs) added a dash of sophistication.

I soon lost track of time, and before I knew it, the clock struck 1:30 am. Regrettably, too late to hang with the digital art guys at the Merian, but not too late for a nightcap at Les Trois Rois. Always a good place to harvest some gossip from slack-tongued art dealers merry off a day’s dealings at Art Basel. After a 10-minute walk I arrived at the hotel to find a line of expectant people snaking along the sidewalk. I did try to skip the queue on account of being a hack, but the concierge, tipsy on authority, refused me. I even tried to sweet-talk German soccer legend and avid collector Michael Ballack into getting me in but he was having none of it.

“Don’t bother, darling,” an Argentine artist told me on her way out, “it’s super boring in there anyway.”

Short on patience due to a lack of sleep, I took her word for it, accepted defeat, and caught a cab.

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