December 2nd, 2008
The New York Times
Design Miami | Catching Up With Murray Moss
by Pilar Viladas
As the annual cultural circus pitches its tents again in Miami, we caught up with the retail impresario Murray Moss to talk about the state of the design industry.
First, the fun question: How's business?
Moss: I think of us as having multiple businesses. The market for gifts, accessories, jewelry, watches - it's definitely down, although I'm hoping that this is just the lull before the holiday storm - which is starting later this year. Weirdly, for our registry and tabletop, we're on target. And people who are building houses or renovating apartments come in and buy things like big bathtubs, or Swarovski's Blossom chandelier. Art [limited-edition design art] right now is dead. And when we went to Basel in June [the Design Miami Basel show], we did better than we've ever done.
That leads us to Design Miami, where you and your partner, Franklin Getchell, will exhibit work by Studio Job and the Campanas. Given the state of both the economy and the art market, what do you think the mood in Miami will be?
Moss: I don't know. But I do know that there is an audience who needs to follow the through line of art. These are not the new people who buy only for investment - the people who ask, can I flip this in six months? The real, serious collectors - people who go because they have to - will be there, no matter what. And a masterpiece of design is still a bargain relative to one of painting and sculpture. What would be smart to offer right now is the best of the best. When times are tight, only the good things move.
Well, you're certainly going down there with guns blazing: you're showing an exuberant new collection of limited-edition furniture by Studio Job called "Bavaria."
Moss: Yes, it's all marquetry - laser-cut inlaid wood. The pieces are Indian rosewood, and the inlay is made from seven different woods, with different grains, and they are colored with 17 different dyes. It looks like iconic "humble" farm furniture, but as Marie Antoinette might do it. Although Nynke and Job [Nynke Tynagel and Job Smeets, Studio Job's partners] began work on the collection last year, the subject matter - the peaceable kingdom - is prescient. With birds, trees, and farm implements, among other things, it's Eden before the fall. I think it will be better received now than it would have been before the economic crash. With its fairy-tale, cartoon approach - implying that with hard work, nature will provide us with a bounty - it depicts a world that cannot sustain itself.
Ambra Medda, the director of Design Miami, has said that next year, the event will include dealers in 18th century decorative arts. As the man who almost singlehandedly introduced Nymphenburg figurines to a new generation of consumers, are you happy about this?
Moss: I am and I'm not. As Murray, without any concerns for the business, I'm thrilled that contemporary design is going to be placed in a broader context. I mean I'm the guy who does that! And in any case, those are false barriers. Let's cross the barriers of time and place. Sottsass did.
On the other hand, I feel that contemporary limited-edition or studio design needs to become stronger. It needs to put down roots, and they need to grow a little bit deeper. It's interesting that some contemporary art dealers, like Matthew Marks, are showing design, and I'd love to show contemporary design with painting and sculpture. But I'd like to see more dealers in contemporary design [at the fair]. I want a richer conversation before it starts to be dissipated by the antique. But then, who wouldn't want to play off an 18th century cupboard?
Back to an actual fun question. What do you do for fun in Miami? Where do you go to eat and drink? What do you do to unplug from design madness?
Moss: I never unplug while I'm there - it's bad for business, because you're there for too few days. But there are great places in Miami. We take our staff to dinner at The Forge. It's like Tavern on the Green moved to Miami Beach. There are paintings of naked women, tassels - it's total Warner Le Roy, circa 1971. And they have the biggest butterflied filet mignon - so old-school. I always love to go to the Raleigh for a drink, because of the incredible crowd. And I love the Setai for the same reason. But what I really love is the early mornings. There's nothing like sitting by the pool at our hotel, drinking good coffee, and reading the papers.