A Ton of People Came Back from Art Basel Miami Beach With Covid

A party at the NYLON House, Art Basel Miami on December 03, 2021. Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Nylon

The omicron variant of the coronavirus is ripping by New York City: on Thursday, Bill de Blasio’s senior public health advisor Dr. Jay Varma tweeted that the percentage of NYC residents who tested positive for COVID-19 had doubled this week in just three days. There are countless factors that could be contributing to this surge, most of them structural and impossible to pin on individuals or the errant holiday party. But Art Basel Miami, which wrapped up on December 5th and was reported to be a return-to-business, NFT-filled bacchanal, seems likely to be a contributing component: New Yorkers flocked to the fair and its satellite events this year in droves, and Twitter is ablaze with anecdotes describing sick art fair attendees.

“I didn’t go to Basel, but last week I worked at an art storage warehouse with some art handlers fresh from the fairs,” a New York-based art handler who wished to keep anonymous told Observer. “They seemed to be convinced they were exposed to Covid down there, but nevertheless came in to work. I’m getting a lot texts from art worker friends about Covid this week.”

David Bianchi, an actor and NFT artist, tweeted that he’d come down with the virus while attending the fair. Painter Chloe Wise also posted on her Instagram story that she was quarantining after attending Basel.

Meme of the art world’s gossip girl @jerrygogosian @jerrygogosian

Art Basel Miami 2021 represented a crowning achievement for evangelists of NFTs, the digital tokens that ripped the art world apart when they first started appearing on the scene around a year ago. As such, the fair was packed with cryptocurrency-nearby lectures, exhibitions and parties; before-marginalized digital artists were itching to congregate and celebrate.

Art Basel’s official Covid-19 compliance protocol required mandatory disguise-wearing within the Miami Beach Convention Center in addition as proof of vaccination, but there are clear rule-enforcement issues when it comes to events of that size: Basel 2021 reportedly drew 60,000 visitors.

“The convention center was pretty good about being strict,” Annie Armstrong, Artnet‘s Wet Paint columnist, told Observer. Armstrong was on the ground reporting in Miami all throughout Basel. “But the Deuce [an iconic Miami Beach dive bar] was packed to the gills. I maybe had my vaccination card checked twice during the whole week I was there. I think that why Basel was a superspreader event was because of all the events around Art Basel, but not Art Basel itself.”

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