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Notes from Miami

This week’s issue of Domestica is coming to you from a very steamy Southern Florida, so grab some SPF-gazillion and a caipirinha, papi, and let me tell you about some happening art and design events that made SOBE the feverish epicenter of the artistic community for a week, and captured international media attention…


Miami Spice

This week’s issue of Domestica is coming to you from a very steamy Southern Florida, so grab some SPF-gazillion and a caipirinha, papi, and let me tell you about some happening art and design events that made SOBE the feverish epicenter of the artistic community for a week, and captured international media attention.

I had the great good fortune of being invited to the opening Collector’s preview for Art Basel Miami Beach, which is widely regarded as the most important contemporary art expo in the country and is the reason that so many other satellite events have sprung up in the area to compete for the artsy-gentsia’s attention. Chicago’s Valerie Carberry, Rhona Hoffman, and Richard Gray galleries were among the 270 dealers exhibiting (And, I’m happy to say, also selling. A lot.) the best available work by more than 2,000 contemporary and modern artists. The well-heeled crowd included a slightly puffy Val Kilmer, a jovial Sylvester Stallone, and—although I missed spotting her—Naomi Campbell, who managed to not throw a phone at anyone. Sly is an artist himself these days, and Switzerland’s Galerie Gmurzynska was showing some of his messy, colorful “electric bursts of creativity.” Yikes. I can’t imagine a collector pulling off “Have you seen my new Stallone, from his Tango & Cash period?” with a straight face. At half a million square feet, ABMB is impossibly big (there’s even a spa, for Pete’s sake), but we managed to see some amazing blue-chip art, and there was stellar people-watching to be had. Post-vernissage there were celeb-studded dinners and parties all over town, but my group headed to a GenArt sponsored event on the beach to experience California artist Pae White’s city block–sized installation of glowing buildings inspired by the shanty towns of Mumbai and Rio. Britain’s Ebony Bones funky art band got everyone dancing, and it was magical.

Fair Markets

It was nice to see strong Chicago presences at some of the smaller art fairs, a couple of which we hit the next morning (there are dozens of official satellite events, not to mention the art on view in boutique-hotel lobbies, parks, and malls). Midtown’s Art Miami show is the city’s longest running contemporary expo (this was only Basel’s eighth appearance), celebrating 20 years with a particularly powerful showing this outing. My favorite photo dealer, Catherine Edelman, was in the house, as were ace ethnographic dealer Douglas Dawson, and the eclectic McCormick Gallery. Skewing a little edgier was the New Art Dealers Alliance, (NADA) where Windy Citizens Kavi Gupta, Monique Meloche, Shane Campbell, and Western Exhibitions all had booths in the ballrooms of the 1960s MiMo (Miami Modern movement—developing trend alert!) Deauville Beach Resort, literally steps from the ocean. Gupta was showing a lot of Chicago artist-educator Tony Tassett’s work, including a painted bronze snowman that sold for $70K in the first hour of the show. And Western Exhibitions devoted their entire space to Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger, a Chicago husband-and-husband team that was sitting there for days, working on a huge, pink, knitted…umbilical cord? Okay, enough thinky art for a while—time to see what’s shiny, pretty, and new in Miami’s Design District.

Adios, Flamingos

Miami’s Design District has established itself as a vibrant world-class design destination in the past few years, with a dense, 18-block community of high-end furniture stores and showrooms, and so many Chicago names and connections that I sometimes felt as if I was walking around River North and the Mart, except for that whole heat and humidity thing. They have Holly Hunt, Luminaire, Waterworks, Ligne Roset, Janus et Cie, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Bulthaup, and a sparkling flagship Bisazza tile store (the Italian company’s American HQ are in Miami, and they opened this gem in October). These Alice in Wonderland–scaled tabletop items are covered in white-gold mosaic tiles, and were designed by the Dutch-Belgian Studio Job for Bisazza Limited Editions.

Ciao, Bello

The superchic Italian furniture company Maxalto, a subdivision of B&B Italia, opened its fourth American location, in Miami, just in time for Art Basel and the design show (Chicago has Max’s first stateside outpost, a handsome showroom on Superior Street, right next to Luminaire) and I went to the prosecco-fueled launch party. Milanese designer Antonio Citterio designs all the furniture, and pieces were curated especially for this South Florida locale—the upholstery color palette is cool and beachy; the classic, linear furniture uses exotic woods and oozes restrained elegance. The 2,500 square-foot, lofty street-level space looks great, and is a fitting neighbor to the Driade, Vitra, and Zanotta showrooms that are under the same roof and management.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changing

Zanotta had a playful show going on called TRANS-FORMA, which consisted of 17 historical pieces from the Italian furniture company’s collection, reinterpreted by young designers from Fabrica, the Benetton group’s research lab. Coffee tables morphed into birdcages and workout weights, a console flipped up and kitted out as a shower—fun stuff. You’ve probably seen the iconic 1973 Sciangai coatrack, around town, but not topped with garden implements as it is here in its Bunch of Tools incarnation. Each piece was made in a (very) limited edition of seven.

There was a lot more limited edition furniture at Design Miami and its swirling set of satellite exhibitions (I told you there was a lot of stuff going on!) The tented expo was a playground of fresh and experimental design, with whirling dervish ceiling fans that changed shapes depending on their speed, ropy woven furniture from Korea, and these massive Swarovski crystal wings, welcoming guests at the entrance. It will be interesting to see when and if these materials and trends are going to trickle down to the marketplace.

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