One collector called it "the running of the bulls.’’ But Wednesday’s VIP First Choice opening of Art Basel was more of a slow crush that went on for nearly an hour as the wealthy and well-placed queued to get into the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Fair director Marc Spiegler attributed it to the FOMO factor — fear of losing out. “We were slammed with high-level, last-minute requests,”’ he said. His take: Collectors who had initially thought to bypass this year’s art week heard their friends were coming, they too decided they needed to be in Miami for the 12th edition of the Miami Beach fair and, not incidentally, the opening of the new Perez Art Museum Miami.

As for chatter following a New York Times article that the party atmosphere has overtaken serious art in Miami, Spiegler scoffed as he reconfirmed that the fair is here to stay. Collectors have learned that they can come see art, walk on the beach and go to their favorite restaurants without going to the parties, he said.

Top collectors from around the U.S., Europe and Asia — including Eli Broad, who unveiled plans for his new Los Angeles museum at the nearby New World Symphony hall Wednesday morning; Chinese collector Qiao Zhibing, former Disney chief Michael Eisner, artist Jeff Koons and music mogul Sean P. “Diddy”’ Combs — were among the morning visitors. Some were actually buying, reported galleries, while others seemed to be evaluating pricing, especially above the $2 million mark, said Sotheby’s director Lisa Dennison, who had spoken with gallerists she knows well.

Miami gallerist Fred Snitzer said sales were "going in the right direction’’ with early interest in a $110,000 painting by Hernan Bas and the sale of a $75,000 sculpture by Alice Aycock. This year, his booth has a series of small sculptures by San Francisco artist Rachelle Rojany that are priced, according to the artist’s instructions, at "whatever you want to pay.’’ The idea, he said, is to make buyers consider their values. Four were already sold "at serious money.’’

Among the artwork at this year’s fair are two booths designed by artists themselves. At Gmurzynska gallery, architect Richard Meier designed the booth, which includes a series of his collages. At neugerriemschneider artist Jorge Pardo designed a color lounge-like booth and was there himself, greeting fairgoers.

Many of the Miami contingent had just come from the ribbon cutting of the new Perez Art Museum Miami, including namesake donor Jorge Perez. How does he feel about his new museum? "Elated,’’ he said. "I think it is a new era for our city.’’




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