At Art Basel Miami 2021, Daniel Manning, the CEO of USPA Nationwide Security, got a crash course in the kinds of specialized requests that can send even the most experienced team scrambling.
“We had a client that mentioned wanting to rollerblade down Ocean Drive and requested that a guard be able to run next to her while doing so,” Manning told The Daily Beast. “Although all our guards need to pass vigorous physical standards, this did limit our guard pool as we needed to put our fittest guards on that assignment.”
USPA also “got a request for something like 30 high-end luxury SUVs to do transport servicing” for a high-profile client’s security convoy, he said.
In anticipation of Basel Miami 2022 and with some experience now under his belt, earlier this month, Manning launched a version of the company’s VIP Titanium protection service tailored to the unique challenges posed by the fair.
There are luxurious, chaotic events, and then there is Art Basel Miami, the annual neon orgy of high-octane contemporary art, endless wealth, and celebrity bacchanalia where the art world’s most prominent high rollers are as carefully guarded as the astronomically priced artwork on display at Miami Beach Convention Center.
After the absence of a fair in coronavirus-riddled 2020 and the crypto-centric Basel spectacle of 2021 (at which many people caught COVID), the 2022 edition of the fair is set to be Art Basel Miami’s largest ever—with 283 participating galleries—to commemorate the fair’s 20 years in Miami Beach.
“As always, Art Basel’s highest priority is the health and safety of all our guests, exhibitors and staff as well as the security of the artworks,” a spokesperson for Art Basel told The Daily Beast. “We have comprehensive security measures in place at our Miami Beach show and external food and beverage is not permitted inside the fair premises. In addition, we are conducting targeted briefings with our security personnel to ensure the safety protocol is adhered to at all times.”
“The Miami Police Department is prepared to have a safe Miami Art Week 2022 and will have enough police presence throughout all events that are part of Art Basel,” the Miami PD told The Daily Beast in a statement.
Manning said there were two major events his firm is overseeing. “We’re probably going to be in charge of 22 to 25 guards on the ground.”
Basel’s Miami Wonderland also includes satellite parties at hotspots like South Beach restaurant Casa Tua and 1111 Lincoln Road, a hybrid retail space, office building and parking garage where rapper Nas performed a tribute to departed designer Abloh last year (both locations confirmed to The Daily Beast that private and public events were planned for Basel 2022).
And then there are the yachts, the sites of fabulous Basel parties past thrown by the likes of Vogue and the Four Seasons.
Marco Segato is the CEO of Italy-based Sanlorenzo yachts, a sponsor of Art Basel. Segato told The Daily Beast that Sanlorenzo was hosting two tasteful happenings at Basel this year. One is a dinner (on land) in collaboration with the Italian kitchen designer Boffi, and “on December 2nd, I’m doing a sunset cruise with a client on an SP110 [yacht], which is a brand new product that we just debuted in the U.S.,” Segato said.
Flitting between these locales, rarified curators like Hans Ulrich Obrist can be seen rubbing shoulders with mega-collector/megastar hybrids like Leonardo DiCaprio, a longtime Miami Basel party fixture and art aficionado.
Last year, younger up-and-comers like Hailey Bieber and Olivia Rodrigo hobnobbed at a Saint Laurent dinner, while Rosalía posed at a similar event for Chanel: Basel provides a perfect tropical backdrop for veteran luxury fashion houses to burnish their relevance.
It’s also the kind of event where more battered brands like Playboy can seek to reinvent themselves with the help of parties cosigned by Cardi B and Migos rapper husband Offset.
Everything the fair touches tends to glow a little brighter. But in order to have fun at Basel, big celebrities need specialized attention.
“We have former law enforcement officers that we use to protect clients, and our services depend on how much you want us to coordinate for you,” Jeff Giordano, the CEO of Giordano Security and a former 30-year police officer with the city of Miami, told The Daily Beast. “We can coordinate vehicles, and if they want a Mercedes or something like that, we can rent the high-end vehicle. We also have our main office here in Wynwood, so if our clients want, in between events they could come here and have drinks.”
“We also scoped out another project for a client that was looking to stay on a superyacht and asking for a maritime medic to be available 24/7.”
— Daniel Manning
“I think the biggest worry like most other events is being in a confined space packed with that many people,” Manning said. This year, his “clients from the music industry” also want to “go from A to point B, unprotected, uncovered, and still not have paparazzi involved, and to not have anybody that’s walking down the beach bump into them. So we’re making sure that the shoreline where the beach is has multiple entry points and making sure each entry point is covered.”
“We also scoped out another project for a client that was looking to stay on a superyacht and asking for a maritime medic to be available 24/7, which we can accommodate,” Manning added. “That client wound up in a hotel suite instead, which we staffed guards for inside the suite and for the private elevator.”
“I could assure you that the Miami Police Department has proper plans in place as far as emergency management field forces they already have set up on the outskirts, plus they have off-duty officers at several events and venues,” Giordano added.
“I met a famous woman [at Miami Basel] last year in hotpants and platform heels, no security,” an art adviser who wished to remain anonymous told The Daily Beast. “She said she wanted to be incognito. Really! In that getup?”
Basel attracts art-crazed rubberneckers in the thousands, not to mention pranksters, paparazzi, eagle-eyed culture reporters and the ever-present possibility of random violence in a major city.
The month before last year’s fair, MGH Group, Art Basel’s parent company, was also the target of a cyberattack that breached access to personal data of customers, partners, and employees of MGH.
“As the criminal investigation led by the relevant authorities is still ongoing, we’re under orders not to share any information re. this case [the cyberattack reported in October 2021],” the representative told The Daily Beast in a statement. “This incident also presented us with an opportunity to analyze, update and reorganize our strategy against cybercrime, and to implement preventive measures. An extensive training program for all employees has also been launched.”
In addition to bigger, TikTok content-hungry crowds, another menace to the fair is looming: targeted art attacks by climate activists.
In recent months, a flurry of Earth-concerned interventionists have tossed oil over Gustav Klimt’s painting Death and Life to illustrate how “new oil and gas wells are a death sentence for humanity,” smeared cake on the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, and chucked mashed potatoes at Claude Monet’s painting Mueles to draw attention to the harm done by climate change. Most prominent among these activists are protesters from Just Stop Oil, who kicked off a firestorm of commentary in early October when they launched soup at a Van Gogh in London.
Though members of Just Stop Oil have yet to make an appearance in America, jet-setter destination Art Basel Miami seems like an obvious target; and unlike artwork in museums, where the protesters have thus far been focusing their attention, art for sale on display in Miami isn’t generally protected by glass.
“Currently Just Stop Oil supporters have no plans to attend,” the organization told The Daily Beast in a statement. Nonetheless, those assisting in guarding the fair are ready for them.
“You saw instances this year, one was at the Louvre, where climate activists have infiltrated museums and damaged the artwork,” Manning said, “which is just another added thing we now have to worry about.”
“From a security design standpoint, we would love it if everybody operated their gallery in a vacant warehouse with four walls so we could see everything going on inside,” Manning said. “But from an architectural standpoint, the exhibit itself is a piece of art, right? So not only do you need to protect it, but it’s also not designed with security guards, who’re trying to view what’s going on around the corner, in mind. You need an extra five sets of eyes walking around the gallery or an exhibit and controlling entry to that point.”