Since half of creative New York has moved down to Miami this week for Art Basel, we sent reporter Alexandra Peers down with them to peek at the art, beauty, and elitism on the beach. She's been filing reports to New York's Vulture blog, but she sent us this dispatch for our very own.
The e-mail buzzes on my BlackBerry: "We would love to have you come by to pick up something — for the Miami dinner celebrating the Emilio Pucci house of design." What? Sorry, fashionistas, snobby art-worlders don't borrow clothes. My outrage is first personal — has someone dished my Bloomie's little black dress? — then, political. It sounds Fascist.
More evidence of the fashion industry's latching on to Art Basel Miami: The "dressing suite," a room-size riot of pastel prints, turns out to be around the corner from my room at the Standard. There, a few dozen dinner guests will be outfitted in Italian silk pieces worth thousands. An earnest PR woman explains over my objections that we're meant to be a performance piece. Well, far be it from me to stand in the way of art. I grab a swirling caftan. "How do I look?" I ask. "How do you think you look?" a lithe brunette answers judiciously. Like I am apparently supposed to play a gypsy fortune-teller in the performance. We settle on an aqua geometric blouse, "pre-spring 2008," about $700 — or euros, they're not sure which — that I'll have for 48 hours.
But as the art fair begins Wednesday, a problem arises. Several women Pucci up early: The aisles teem with fuchsia and blue swirls and teardrops; it looks as if they're all wearing the official uniform of a very exclusive Swiss girls' school. By dinnertime, I rebel and don black. The PR woman pretends gamely not to mind "You decided not to wear it, and that's okay," she says. It is clearly not okay.
Here, in a candlelit garden villa on the Intercoastal, the parade of silk looks spectacular. Giant helium balloons, each anchored to a dress, float in the air. "It's marvelous," says Phillips auction house CEO Simon de Pury, who swells about with Marc Glimcher, Delphine Arnault, and Laudomia Pucci.
And last night, as the Mandarin Oriental hosts a dinner to salute Chinese contemporary art, cool Pucci silk against my skin, I feel like a Connery-era Bond girl. Dennis Hopper catches my eye, and smiles. —Alexandra Peers