Miami's Big Luxury Party Art Basel Not Such A Party This Year

Last year peple were flying down like it was Spring Break for rich, art and design loving (and pretend art and design loving) adults.

Not so much this year.

Hotels are actually available. Not a good thing two weeks out:

The Miami Herald: With the economy in retreat, hotels that usually are sold out for Art Basel week still have rooms to sell. And while the country’s largest contemporary arts show still commands premium room rates, some hotels are rolling back prices for the big event.

…Some hotels are lowering profit expectations for the weeklong event that begins Monday, Dec. 1. A survey of more than a dozen South Beach hotels found many have dropped lucrative rules requiring guests to stay between three and five nights during Art Basel. Of the 15 surveyed, only four were sold out — an unusual level of availability with Basel just three weeks away.

”The last couple of years, we’ve been pretty sold out by now…” said Robert Goodman, the show’s local spokesman.

And about those sponsored parties that the festival is known for?

…Party planners already reported a decline in entertainment budgets for Basel. But the big players still plan to have fun. Battered Swiss bank UBS, Basel’s top sponsor, said in a statement it has ”tried to be mindful of any and all cost efficiencies throughout our planning process,” while still spending enough to continue entertaining clients in style, including an opening bash at the Delano hotel.

”If there’s ever a year to party and get one’s minds off other events, this is the year,” said David Bigler, head of UBS’s Miami office.

Sponsors have a tough challenge this year. They still want to have a presence but can’t be seen as being too extravagant. In other words, no more BMW chauffered rides everywhere.

Portfolio: …BMW, which has ferried V.I.P. cardholders around Miami for years, pulled out of its sponsorship for 2008. A couple of spinoff fairs have been canceled amid softening sales of contemporary art. Fashion companies, in particular, are backing away from big events. Pucci, which last year celebrated its 60th birthday with a high-profile bash, won’t be hosting a followup party.

…Over the years, corporate sponsors including

, Krug, NetJets, and Cartier have flocked to Miami (and will be there this year too) to target the rich clientele who attend the fair and its handful of piggybacking satellite functions. Last year, the single week of parties generated nearly $500 million, including revenue from art sales, hotels, and restaurants, according to Miami tourism experts.

…Sponsorship costs ranged from $50,000 to the high six figures, and gift bags were stuffed with pieces of

jewelry or Roberto Cavalli ties. Adidas sponsored a gifting suite at AndrĂ© Balazs’ Standard Hotel, Dellis Cay real estate developer Cem Kinay flew guests to Turks and Caicos for cocktails with the islands’ premier, and Sotheby’s brought French chef Pierre Gagnaire to Miami to cook for guests at the Mandarin Oriental.

This year that’s not exactly happening…

…Likewise, Krug is recalibrating its sponsorship to fit the times. The company says that in place of offering hot-air-balloon rides, it will co-sponsor a party with Visionaire as a way to reach more clients while spending the same amount of money. The balloon trips were too “intimate, targeted,” says Krug brand manager HervĂ© Larren.

…there are even some new entrants, including BlackRock, which is backing Miami Basel’s rival fair Art Miami. And HSBC Private Bank is again sponsoring Design Miami, another fair, as well as Design Miami’s V.I.P. lounge. Last year, the lounge attracted guests like actor Brad Pitt and Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. In a down economy, sponsors are reluctant to walk away from such clients…There might be a little less caviar to go around this year

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