Just as Art Basel sets to crack open on 14 June in Switzerland, a glittering, design-focused charity event will lighten the wallets of the prestigious art fair’s deep-pocketed visitors and inaugurate the week’s cultural and commercial proceedings.  

The UNAIDS 2016 gala – the AIDS-based philanthropic initiative underwritten by the United Nations – will unite Design Miami’s usual VIP preview with a design auction, fancy dinner for 300 and live performance by Duran Duran. As promised by its name-heavy invitation, the evening is a certifiable mash-up that throws humanitarian heavy-weights such as Kofi Annan, and Kweku and Ndaba Mandela, together with celebrities like Keanu Reeves, royals such as Princess Eugenie of York and design gurus such as Simon de Pury.

'It’s the perfect snowball of people,' observes Rodman Primack, who is serving his third edition as director of Design Miami, who has partnered in the event. 'So many wealthy people come together at Basel, that it just really seems like a good moment to get people involved in issues outside of design, and outside our cocoon of comfort.'

The ultimate purpose of the evening may be charity based, yet design is providing the fuel for the night. Three-hundred special guests have been invited to preview the Design Miami exhibit during a cocktail, meet and greet with gallery owners and then head upstairs from the Herzog & de Meuron-designed space to have a select viewing of pieces before the auction, dinner and concert.

Swiss art auctioneer de Pury will lead the proceedings on several limited edition or single-run collectible items, including the Campana brothers’ 2012 'Sushi Mirror – Wall 2', created from silver mirror, carpet, rubber and stainless steel; a bench designed by the Haas brothers in 2015, entitled 'Unique Hair Witch Project Mellow-hump Bench', featuring black Icelandic sheepskin, a cast bronze tongue and coyote feet; and a carbon fibre, Kevlar and resin chair designed by the artist Rolf Sachs in 2009. Thrown into the mix are midcentury French furniture pieces and Cartier 'Love' bracelets, as well as several good pieces available online only, including a 2016 'Nesting Table' by the Bouroullec brothers, a stainless steel chair by Daniel Libeskind and Hervé van der Straeten’s Cope Nid bronze sphere sculptures.