“I actually didn’t have the worst year in 2020,” Libbie Mugrabi declares. It’s mid-December and the socialite and art world fixture is on the phone from her home in the Hamptons, which she returned to recently following a headline-making stint in Miami during what is typically the ever-crowded Art Basel Miami Beach. This year, of course, the crowds were kept away, as the official art week was canceled due to the pandemic. But for Libbie Mugrabi, the party didn’t stop.
The 40-year-old Mugrabi, who identifies as a “mother and dreamer” in her Instagram bio, is recently divorced from billionaire art world collector David Mugrabi. In late November, The New York Times reported on the planned attendance and socializing from Art Basel Miami Beach enthusiasts, Mugrabi included, who told the paper she was throwing a 50-person dinner in Miami during the week. “As coronavirus deaths rose, museums and galleries rolled out new shows. The socialite Libbie Mugrabi is planning a dinner for the ages. Is Miami’s art world clueless?” The Times wrote. Mugrabi, in turn, posted a photo of the article to her Instagram, quoting Warhol in the caption: “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” She further drew criticism when she and pal Anthony Haden-Guest posed atop a Damien Hirst golden statue for a photo op, which naturally caught the attention of The New York Post.
“I don’t care. I’m very easy, I’m very free. I don’t care what people think about me, or anything,” Mugrabi says. “I only care about what I think of me.”
Starting from the beginning, Mugrabi says the occasion for her Miami dinner — which she says was attended by closer to 90 people — was to launch her brand, Libbie Loves (the site is not live yet, but she didn’t want to delay the event in Miami to wait for the web site to be complete). She hopes to be the “girl version of Supreme,” with various drops that she hopes, like Supreme, will become collectable items.
“Basically I just branded myself,” she says. The first drop was a collection of hats, which she wore throughout Miami during the week. She got back into the swing of making hats earlier this year when she created campaign merch for her then-boyfriend, “The Mighty Ducks” actor Brock Pierce, who ran for president as an independent candidate (she and Pierce have since parted ways and, heeding the advice of her rabbi, she is not currently dating).
The hats are emblazoned with words like “gaslit” and “psychofan,” a twist on “sycophant,” which she says come from how she has felt for “probably the past 20 years” (read: the duration of her marriage).
“I still feel that way today. I still get gaslit on a daily basis,” Mugrabi says. “Sometimes it’s even by the housekeeper.”
The next drop will be taking the photo from the New York Post story, of her atop the Hirst, and printing it for sale, with plans to do bags and vibrators — “like a Libbie vibrator” — down the line.
“Basically that’s what I do. That’s the type of person I am. I’m an expert at turning a negative into a positive. That’s just how I am,” Mugrabi says of the criticism she’s received from her participation in the ghost of Art Basel Miami Beach. “And things that have happened to me, I’ve taken the direction where I choose to wear them like a badge of honor. Those people that berate me, or belittle me, or made me feel bad, everyone always says, ‘Oh, they wrote that.’ And I’m like, ‘I really don’t care.’ Warhol always said, ‘Don’t read what they write, just read how much page room you’ve got.’”
Mugrabi certainly seems to be living by Warhol’s words. Despite CDC guidelines urging Americans to do quite the opposite, Mugrabi has been on the go for much of the pandemic, “choosing to live,” she says.” She’s been between Florida and London more recently, and “traveled immensely through Europe,” in the early months of the pandemic when even the boldest of travelers were locked down at home.
“At first, I waited a month. And then I’m like, ‘F–k it. I’m going to go anyway. Who cares?’ I didn’t leave my house while in a divorce, for two years. So I was ready to move around,” Mugrabi says. “It was a perfect opportunity for me.”
She was in London during what would’ve been Frieze week, in addition to Miami at Basel time, and has some thoughts on where her beloved art social world is going.
“I can’t imagine that they’re going to reopen these fairs. I think it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens first, in our country. First of all, our borders are closed, so nobody can come here from another country. I think people have a whole new attitude towards travel, and life in general, from this pandemic. And in my opinion, I don’t know what’s going to happen with this election. But I think our country’s in a very, very fragile situation. And I think we may break out into a civil war, I don’t know. If we go into a civil war, what’s going to happen? Is Miami Basel going to open next year? No,” Mugrabi says.
She believes the art world will shift more underground as a response to, ahem, all of the above.
“I think it’s more back into the Sixties. And I think that a lot of these artists that blew up last year will be obsolete,” she says, naming KAWS as one such artist. “I’ve seen it happen before. Like when [Julian] Schnabel went absolutely huge and everybody wanted a Schnabel, and then all of a sudden, Schnabel was unsellable.”
Mugrabi, who is also a believer in cryptocurrencies and suggests the art world embrace bitcoin more, says that her recent experience in a canceled Art Basel showed her what the art would could be — underground, full of secret parties, “rocking and rolling.” She even managed to buy some art, too.
“I bought a painting, my mom bought a painting. The painting I bought, Puff Daddy had it on hold,” she says. “So, he was in there looking at the painting.”
In Libbie Mugrabi’s words, Basel was quite the place to be — but don’t worry if you missed out — she promises Miami is springing eternal these days.
“Giselle moved there. J.Lo moved there. Ivanka just moved there. Yes, it’s happening.”