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Art Basel Diary: Deep Inside the Miami Microclimate

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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MYSTERY GUEST Hopper(Photo: Getty Images)

Art scene veteran, author, and regular Radar contributor Anthony Haden-Guest files dispatches from deep inside the annual Art Basel romp in South Beach.

It was Wednesday evening. I had been putting away oysters, lobsters, and langoustines in a soft-pink tent outside the Raleigh Hotel. In a couple of hours, Kembra Pfahler of the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black would be performing at the beach's edge outside the hotel, courtesy of the Manhattan gallerist Jeffrey Deitch. Iggy and the Stooges would be someplace else. Supposedly. Gossip had Dennis Hopper just about everywhere.

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But right now I was standing outside the Blue Door, a space in Ian Schrager's Delano, waiting to go into a fancy dinner. I looked around the giddy scene.

Then it hit me.

First, my take on how art fairs have been developing: Each of the good ones has developed its own specific microclimate. Art Basel, the granddaddy, is a growth in a fusty provincial town that only becomes a cosmopolis twice a year—during Art Basel and (even more so) when the world's jewelers come home. That's when the place is aswarm with glamour, glitter, and glitz and when the grandees of art and gems expect their usual tables at the Three Kings. A few days later Basel sinks back into provincial slumber.

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