As Art Basel Miami Beach made its pandemic comeback over the weekend, beauty brands joined the throngs of well-heeled collectors, gallerists, NFT evangelists and scenesters flocking to the event.
Luxury fashion, watch, jewelry and spirits brands have long been present at the world’s top art fairs, and Art Basel Miami Beach has been one of the most brand-heavy events in the art world circuit. As attendance has expanded beyond art investors to include a growing number of celebrities and partygoers, brands have become more invested in creating activations to reach a broader audience. In turn, more beauty labels have come on board, looking to connect with attendees beyond the VIPs.
Art fairs serve as an easy access point for brands to reach high-net-worth individuals. Rather than purely commercial promotions, luxury brands often team up with artists to commission or display artwork. Saint Laurent, Loewe and Fendi were among the fashion brands that did so at this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach. Brands that sponsor art fair booths or host VIP dinners and parties can use the events to build relationships with elite clientele and add them to targeted mailing lists for future marketing efforts.
One of the most active beauty brands using this strategy at art fairs has been Swiss luxury skin-care label La Prairie. For years, it’s collaborated with artists and designers on elaborate installations and art pieces at art fairs around the world. Recently, the brand has become more open to mingling with a broader audience at the Miami event.
“In previous years, the results of these collaborations — often sculptures or paintings — were housed exclusively in our booth at the VIP Collector’s Lounge at the [Art Basel] fair. A privileged few clients and invited journalists were able to discover and view our art,” said Nicholas Munafo, president of La Prairie North America. “As we continue to evolve our presence and brand expression, we saw an opportunity to go further and leverage the excitement and buzz around these incredible fairs to include a public audience in our artistic story.”
This year, the brand hosted a one-day La Prairie Beach Club pop-up on December 2. It featured a lounge that was open to the public and received over 600 visitors. For its artist collaboration, it worked with choreographer and dancer Wen-Chi Su, who performed an original dance piece on the beach. In addition, people had the opportunity to book beach chairs sponsored by the brand, as well as hand and eye treatments with its White Caviar collection in a beach cabana. All the bookings sold out within a day.
Other beauty labels joined in on the action this year. Chanel also focused on beauty for its Art Basel activities, which included a 540-drone light show held in celebration of its classic No. 5 perfume’s 100th anniversary. The brand also celebrated the opening of its new Miami store and held a party for a sculpture it commissioned for the event.
But it wasn’t just luxury labels participating in Art Basel Miami Beach this year. Ipsy also sponsored an event, marking its foray into the art fair world. From December 2-5, the brand hosted a “Destination Ipsy” event. Held at pop-up lounge Hive in Miami’s hip Wynwood neighborhood, the Instagrammable event featured booths by a wide range of beauty labels including Item Beauty, Peach & Lily, Refreshments, Sol de Janeiro, Youth To The People, Tresluce Beauty and Anastasia Beverly Hills. Each brand offered promotions, samples or beauty treatments. The event proved to be an influencer magnet. Tresluce Beauty founder and beauty mega-influencer Becky G, as well as influencers Liane V, Leli Hernandez, Don Benjamin and Zach Dishinger, founder and CEO of Formula Z Cosmetics, were among those making an appearance.
“Miami is a vital beauty market, and Art Basel weekend is one of the most exciting on the Miami event calendar,” said Neika Colbourne, BFA Industries’ vp of creator partnerships and experiential. Wynwood was chosen because it was “accessible to all, and the mix of attendees allowed Ipsy and our beauty brands to raise brand awareness in a significant market of beauty lovers.”
But not all brand activations were about reaching the general public. With products such as its $530 Skin Caviar, La Prairie’s goal was to “best target a selection of what we call ‘aspirers,’” said Munafo. In addition to the bookings that were open to the public, the brand also held a VIP preview session complete with treatments and a private performance of the art piece the night before the activation opened.
As media reports noted that Art Basel Miami Beach came “roaring back with a vengeance,” brands also saw enthusiastic participation.
“On the first day at the fair, we saw nearly as many people at our booth as we did over 2-3 days in 2019,” said Munafo. “We had an idea that the pent-up energy everyone had after a year without celebration and celebration of art would be significant.” The brand has run promotions at other comeback art fairs over the past year, including Frieze New York in May and the original Art Basel in Switzerland in September.
The frenzy over the art fair showed that big events have come back in full force, for now. There’s lingering uncertainty of what the Omicron variant may mean for such events — and brand participation — moving forward.
“Of course, we are not out of the pandemic woods completely, and so new considerations — like outdoor versus indoors, vaccinations, testing, distance and masks — have all become the new reality for everyone,” said Munafo. “Prioritization and the degree to which someone feels a meaningful connection to a brand now helps her make the decision on whether she attends.”
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