Art Basel has been on my list for quite some time, and I couldn’t have found a better group of people to experience it with.
My love for art from all over the world has grown tenfold in the last 5 years. So much so that I’m always seeking out museums and galleries when traveling, and the traveling art show Art Basel has always intrigued me.
If you’re not familiar with the show, here’s a little blurb from their website:
“Our Basel show brings the international art world together, with the world’s leading galleries showing the works of over 4,000 artists. A full program of artworld talks takes place each day. Exhibitions and events are also offered by cultural institutions in Basel and the surrounding area, creating an exciting, region-wide art week.” (Source)
From the variety of exhibitions to the amazing talent collectively gathered from all over the world; to the beautiful and vibrant Miami backdrop, I knew I wanted to make it a priority and attend.
Prepping for my first Art Basel.
After deciding to attend my first Basel, I needed to do a bit of research. When I tell you there’s so much to see and do, I’m not joking. It can all be a bit overwhelming. Luck seemed to be on my side when I came across an IG story by @createdbyjarrod announcing a group of creatives based in Brooklyn would be hosting an Art Basel experience. I checked the itinerary, connected with the hosts, and immediately signed up. I was relieved to know that I’d be having a well-rounded experience and who better to go with than a diverse, and super creative group of photographers, videographers, and artists from New York.
Meet Our Hosts: The Culture LP and The Voluptuary
The Culture LP (CLP) and The Voluptuary (TVT) merged their years of travel experience along with intense love and respect for the culture and arts together to curate an experience that embodied heritage, camaraderie, and a sense of family with Brooklyn to Basel.
From intimate dinners and private gallery showings to VIP access to some of the biggest exhibitions of the week, Brooklyn to Basel was a thoughtful, artistic experience that fed the body, mind, and soul for all of us who were blessed to be part of it. I was curious to know how it all came together and if this experience was everything they envisioned and more, so I reached out to both Mikey and Anne with a few questions and they so thoughtfully filled me in.
Below are a few words from Anne and Mike, our amazing hosts.
Please provide a little background about yourselves.
TVT: I am Dr. Anne Desrosiers, a Haitian-American Brooklyn entrepreneur repping Flatbush all around the world. I’ve been traveling in earnest since 2007 when I first studied abroad in Sydney, Australia and after a decade of being a glam backpacker, I finally created my travel company The Voluptuary to showcase the world through the five senses, while sharing my stories, and educating those who want to become world travelers.
CLP: My name is Michael Tonge, folks usually call me Mikey or Mike. I’m a Brooklyn native and the son of two creatives. Born and raised in the city that never sleeps so naturally, hustle, creativity, and intuition are a part of my DNA. I’ve been an avid “people-watcher” since childhood and studied Sociology as an undergrad at Bucknell University. It was there, on campus, that I kicked off my marketing career, + launched The Culture LP.
Since then I have worked in a diverse set of roles at companies including J.P. Morgan, Giant Spoon, and the Dentsu Aegis Network before taking a role as Senior Marketing Manager at the Brooklyn Museum. Currently, I am a partner at Launch Angle and the co-founder of the Culture LP. When I’m not solving complex problems for brands, organizations, and creatives, you can find me wherever there is the trifecta of dope music, people, and food.
What was it about where you’re from that motivated and inspired you to start your brands? Can you give us an overview of both The Voluptuary and The Culture LP?
CLP: I was inspired to start The Culture LP because I remember seeing the power that the internet had to bring people together and drive conversation. However at the time, I felt like a lot of us, myself included, weren’t using platforms like Twitter to the best of their ability. Pretty much just cracking jokes, like an extension of the Chatroom or group chat. The Culture LP stands for Culture, Lifestyle, and Progress. Our initial mission was to create a space online and offline that united creators. We would feature folks on our blog and host a diverse set of meet-ups.
Now we’re a community dedicated to empowering creatives of color and beautifying spaces. What does that mean? We host cultural experiences to build community and appreciation of art, do mural commissions to enrich the cities we live in, and help brands/institutions reach and support diverse artists. We’re partnered with Nike, Essentia Water, art fairs, various spirits companies, as well as institutions including the Weeksville Heritage Center, Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Museum and more.
TVT: A voluptuary is a person devoted to luxury and sensual pleasure. After being on 6 out of the 7 continents, and visiting 55 countries (mostly solo) I can truly say that travel is the best way to luxuriously indulge in the five senses. For me, travel has always been my safe space and a way to connect to humanity, culture, and to really BE. I have so many stories, so many images, and so many friends from around the globe that I finally listened to my friends and launched my website earlier this year.
I worked as a travel agent for a year back in 2013, and even before launching my site I started my travel consultancy, curating experiences for people via word of mouth. There’s a huge difference between a travel agent and travel consultant—and as an educator, I strive to teach my clients how to do what I’ve done, in the most fabulous way possible, but also on a realistic budget. While a lot of the DIY culture makes people think they can be a travel guru, working with a seasoned professional is still the most knowledgeable way to have a dope experience. I know, because I go and so here I am building this baby!
How did Brooklyn to Basel become a reality between your two brands?
TVT: I met with the CLP in Brooklyn about 3 years ago about hosting a trip upstate for creatives, with me organizing the logistics and the Culture LP promoting it to the creatives. It was a great meeting of the minds and these were my friends. I actually met one of the former co-founders in Iceland in 2016, and we had mutual friends like a Different World kinda vibe just in real life—so it was natural to try and make something work. We had detailed notes and I had found places, but the trip didn’t materialize for either of us at that time. However, the seed was definitely planted.
CLP: Actually I think I met Anne before that through our mutual friend Rae if I’m not mistaken.
TVT: I’m not sure if I approached Mikey or he approached me? It might have been me, because I was feeling real bossy and investment-ready this year about doing this Miami trip, and we worked on it for months. I was responsible for the itinerary, the food, and the experience aspect. The feeling.
That was (and is) what I do when I curate experiences and it brings me joy, you know? I think we started putting plans together in February/March. We had so many iterations of the experience, but we waited to pull the trigger in terms of promotion—so we had to keep refining it and distilling it to what you experienced with us as the inaugural trip so that we could get maximum participation.
CLP: Our team had been down to Art Basel a couple of times, and really had a blast each time. However, there is definitely a void, a need for community amongst Black folks during the week. I had already wanted to get a home to rent out the previous year but couldn’t pull it off. So when Anne approached us it just made sense. Our team has connects with content/marketing, brands, artists, and art fairs which, coupled with Anne’s experience, made a perfect match. As Anne mentioned however there was a lot of planning, iterations, changes, and adjustments we had to make as time went on that created for a huge learning experience as organizers.
What were you hoping participants would gain from this particular 2019 Art Basel experience? What has been the most rewarding part of this partnership?
TVT: Well, first I think it’s important to state that Mikey and the Culture LP are the homies. I’ve been a fan and supported the brand’s moves from early on, and as much as I could. I say that first because in partnerships I think it’s important to know a brand and know your value add if you want to collaborate. I also think that personal affinity makes brand loyalty pop in a way that can’t be matched by others just working together on something. We both respect each other’s grind and hustles which allowed us to adjust and problem solve in the planning stages. I also need to schedule a meeting with Mikey to learn a thing or two! For real, he’s amazing at what he does and I love that I was a part of that.
CLP: From a business perspective I was looking to find a way to capitalize on the action in Miami without having to promote a new event, but rather by aggregating the existing experiences in a way that more people who look like us can enjoy. I also wanted to gain experience in partnering with The Voluptuary, because I know Anne is Brooklyn’s Carmen San Diego, and I know travel is big business. So why not learn by experience through partnership with someone who I’ve known for years.
TVT: I think the entire experience was rewarding because I got to do what I love and do well, with a great partner who did the same to bring people together. I had so many moments during the trip where I was in awe that we were mobbin’ these places and white spaces, being ourselves! So many moments of pure joy that we pulled it off. In the planning stages it can be stressful, things cost money, and you want it to sell – so when you don’t see it, it’s the nail-biting anxiety, like, what did we miss? What didn’t we get right? But once we got to Miami, it was like – “WOWWWW, WE DID ALLA THIS!!” So seeing those moments, seeing people’s recaps of the experience and the joy in their spirit made me super proud that we did something for the culture.
CLP: In terms of what was the most rewarding, Anne hit it on the head. The biggest reward was seeing something go from theory to execution and be not just well-received but thoroughly enjoyed by a group of creative people whose taste I respect. In terms of specifics, I really enjoyed the hell out of our dinner at Ella’s Oyster Bar. The food was amazing, the courses just kept coming, and because a large part of the group was still at other events, it was a more intimate subset of the party and we really got to connect and break bread.
Are there any more collaborations we should look out for in 2020 from The Voluptuary and The Culture LP?
TVT: I definitely would love to have a Brooklyn reunion or a talk-back and/or panel, however, we both have to contend with hectic schedules. Perhaps some local art activation weekends based on feedback from our contacts. I’m thinking about when we can take this international baby ;-D, but Mikey told me to slow my roll a little bit since both of us needed significant recovery time (but that’s really my forte and I think overseas travel has a unique element that we can’t quite capture in Miami—palm trees and sunshine be damned lol!).
One thing is certain though, the Black art space needs what we are doing, and we do it well, so stay tuned! I think one great by-product of doing this was we found a niche that we can serve for the culture. So, we are already planning for Basel 2020 and looking at everyone’s feedback so we can make it even bigger and better than the first time around. So definitely be on the lookout for that, because we will definitely be back at it.
CLP: We’re definitely running #BrooklynToBasel back so if you’re interested, be sure hit us on social or email me directly. In between now and then I agree with Anne. Maybe we host a dinner this spring/summer in BK to touch base and see how we can keep supporting each other as creatives. International programming would be a great look, but I do think that will probably come in 2021.
What should we keep an eye out for from both The Voluptuary and The Culture LP as we move into the new decade?
TVT: I’m definitely going to be providing more content, my world shop is live (with more products in 2020), and my first webinar is also coming to the site in the first quarter of the year. All of this can be found on my site thevoluptuary.com and on IG @the_voluptuary. I’ll do my best to tackle Facebook, although admittedly that’s my Achilles’ heel! I’m also always accepting clients for those who would like to have a curated experience in the world.
CLP: We have got a lot lined up. To kick off the year we’re bringing our #FuturaNoir program to the Brooklyn Museum, as an organizing partner of the Black History Month First Saturday. There will be poets, live performances, DJ’s, scholar talks, film, and meditation. I also co-host a radio show with my DJ homies from the #NVRSleep fam called “DRMRS.fm.” Before we kick off the next season we’re doing a “Today at Apple” program teaching people how to make their own mixes at the flagship store on 5th Avenue. Folks should also stay tuned for more information on the next installation of Imani Shanklin Roberts’ “I AM SHE” series, which explores archetypes of Black femininity through art and environmental design.
Last but certainly not least. I recently moved out to LA, so I’m excited to start partnering with institutions on the West Coast. There is a show called “Parables of the Sower” at the Royce Hall in March at UCLA that we’re promoting.