The Art (Basel) of the Deal: Miami’s Mega-Exhibit Is Now a Major Real-Estate-Sales Event

To most of the world, Miami’s Art Basel is the time when international art collectors descend on the Magic City to sip pricey wine while gazing at must-see paintings. To the real estate world, it’s a giant opportunity to make some champagne-soaked cash. 

This year, with Miami established as the hottest luxury real estate market in the world, agents and developers got more creative than ever, throwing lavish parties and extraordinary exhibits to draw attention to multi-million-dollar homes for sale — both in Florida and beyond.

“It’s an international who’s who. You’ve got musicians, fashionistas, celebrities and the like, but you also have international billionaires and multimillionaires, many of whom have had an eye on Miami as a wonderful place to live,” said Seth Bloomgarden, a luxury Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway EWM Realty. “Everybody’s trying to get their name out there.”

As home prices surge in Miami — with the average in Palm Beach at more than $20 million — agents couldn’t wait for three-day Art Basel, which wrapped up Sunday. Some held off on putting properties on the market until the event, when some 76,000 people from 76 countries arrived in the city.

This A.I.-generated video with a bounce house was created to promote a vacant lot.

Courtesy of Domingo Creative LLC and Landro WRLD

In conjunction with the event, Douglas Elliman agent Devin Kay posted an A.I.-generated video on his Instagram, showing a bounce house-like mansion inflated on a vacant waterfront lot going for $29.52 million. The post generated 88,000 views in 24 hours, according to Kay. 

“There’s only so much you can obviously do to market a piece of land,” Kay said. “Given that it’s Art Basel, my co-listing agents … were trying to brainstorm unique and different ways to get exposure on the property.”

This year the event was so big that private jets have had to negotiate landing times with each other and docks were chock-full of super-yachts, according to agents.

Douglas Elliman agent Darin Tansey said that he has a listing for a $10 million property that happens to have a rare $25 million painting in it. With collectors in town, the seller was willing to sign away both in a package deal.

“This is a business person’s Super Bowl,” Tansey said.

Art Basel has historically been surrounded by festivity, with people flying into town just to party on boats with cocktails flowing and DJs spinning tunes. The atmosphere was more sophisticated this year, with more business executives visiting, according to Elliman broker and Million Dollar Listing star Fredrik Eklund.

“People seem more focused. Focused on the right art and the right real estate,” Eklund said in a text. “My days have been filled from early mornings to late nights with development meetings and planning for future projects, and I think everyone agrees Miami is the most exciting city in America, and perhaps the world. She as a city has grown up, and with that, Art Basel has grown up, too.”

Compass real estate agent Michael Martirena felt the same shift in energy.

“The private sector, the hedge funds, the level of education and quality of people that are coming to Miami is really changing the Miami market versus what it was 10 years ago,” Martirena said. “Sexy, flashy, shiny — that’s really starting to go out the window.” 

Real estate brokerage Sotheby’s International Realty was among the largest sponsors of Art Basel this year, replacing the show’s former longtime partner, rival brokerage Douglas Elliman.

Among the perks Sotheby’s International Realty offered: a private lounge within the VIP section of the fair where it showcased homes for sale designed by prominent architects like Robert AM Stern, Frank Gehry and Frank Lloyd Wright. 

Sotheby’s International Realty Chief Marketing Officer Bradley Nelson said Friday that attendees had wandered into the lounge to examine the exhibit and left buying a new home. 

“We’re very fortunate that a lot of our clients collect homes, in addition to collecting paintings and sculpture,” Nelson said.

That was just a fraction of the deals taking place. Last week, the luxury condo St Regis Residences by Miami-based Related Group hosted a pre-Basel cocktail reception. The event featured art owned by the development group’s founder, Jorge Pérez, and had artists Caitlin Lonegan and Jongsuk Yoon in attendance, drawing potential buyers to the property.

Jongsuk Yoon
Artist Jongsuk Yoon speaks at an event held at the St. Regis ResidencesONE Sotheby’s International Realty

“People are here for the art and end up meeting their brokers or people who are representing developers, and are then lured into going to see real estate,” said David Mayer, a broker with Corcoran, who has seen the event grow over the past eight years. 

In addition to the Miami real estate agents socializing, at least 200 additional agents from Sotheby’s International Realty alone flew in for the event, according to Nelson. Their calendar revolved around private sunset cruises, morning yoga sessions and boozy brunches. 

Bloomgarden said he has seen the way that Art Basel, which is completely unrelated to real estate, has become a builder’s conference.

“You have top architects meeting with people in financing, meeting with developers, meeting with people doing multifamily and hotel deals,” Bloomgarden said. “There was a whole talk about real estate on the show floor where it was almost like the art was a backdrop to the conversations.”

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