March 22nd, 2013
The Art of Good Living
by David Kaufman
... Two hours south, in Miami Beach, art - along with contemporary design - has also played a vital role in the brand-building of the city's once-dormant Design District. Set across Biscayne Bay from Atlantic-fronting South Beach, the area has evolved over the past decade from an obscure residential backwater to a thoughtfully conceived culture and culinary quarter, with more than 125 galleries, showrooms, artist studios and restaurants. "The area's success is unprecedented in the US for a city of Miami's relatively modest size," says urban theorist Richard Florida, "it is an unmistakable sign that the economic and commercial centre of gravity is shifting away from the suburbs back to the urban core."
Unlike Windsor or Puerto Madero, the Design District wasn't "master-planned" and flows freely into surrounding neighbourhoods such as Midtown - home to the annual Art Miami event - and Wynwood, an important visual arts district with galleries that include The Rubell Family Collection and The Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation. But the district did have a chief protagonist in property entrepreneur Craig Robins - whose company, Dacra, began overhauling much of the area in the late 1990s. Although most of this investment focused on retail, restaurant and gallery spaces, Robins solidified the precinct's cultural bona fides by establishing Design Miami - the annual designfocused counterpart to Art Basel Miami Beach. Though it has since relocated to South Beach, the Design District continues to lure important cultural totems - most notably the De la Cruz Collection, one of the largest contemporary art display spaces in all of the city.
The district and its surrounding areas have also attracted buyers who appreciate the pedestrian-friendly layout and thriving restaurant scene. "This was a place that had to 'happen';' says longtime resident Lee Schrager, founder of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. "It has finally given Miami a real city centre; it's one of the few truly car-free parts of town." Schrager estimates that his 1914 water-facing home has increased in value by at least 100 per cent over the past 18 years.
Today, upper-end residences in the Design District and nearby regularly sell for in excess of $1m. South Beach International Realty is offering a two-bedroom penthouse in the Blue condominium development for $799,000, slightly beyond the Design District's borders, while just over a mile away, Fortune International Realty has a newer two-bedroom apartment in the Paramount Bay complex (pictured above right), priced at $1.02m.
Robins is now scaling up his initial vision. In partnership with L Real Estate - the Paris-based luxury retail private equity fund in which L VMH is an investor - he is converting another 12 Design District blocks into a more formally master-planned residential, commercial and cultural development. Along with a hotel and nearly two dozen LVMH and Richemont boutiques, the $312m project will include at least 100 apartments in a building designed by Spanish architects Office of Architecture in Barcelona, entering the market in 2015. Robins describes the housing as a mix between condominiums and lofts - with the entire development anchored by pieces from his own contemporary art and design collection, most notably a central plaza with Buckrninster Fuller's seminal Fly's Eye dome.
Much like Faena, Robins - who also owns works by Marc Newson and Zaha Hadid - says culture serves as both an aesthetic amenity and value-generator if done right. "Buyers no longer want something that is merely 'expensive' or 'fancy', they want to participate in neighbourhoods that have some real meaning," he says. "Our goal is to maintain the Design District as a relatively low-density place, carefully growing it to retain its historic spirit."
November 25th, 2011
A space of their own
by Edwin Heathcote
For a long time design has been trying to squeeze into the territory occupied by an ever-inflationary art market and the oddness of the fit often shows. In Miami the attempts to establish a separate design district beyond the art fair itself created an awkward spread, and now that the two disciplines are back together again, with Art Basel Miami Beach and Design Miami side by side, design curators seem to be trying harder to give their area of interest the heft to be noticed beside the glamour and the cachet of wealth that adheres to art.
At the June edition of Design Miami, in Basel, Galerie Patrick Seguin's daily assembly and disassembly of a Jean Prouvé house proved an irresistibly theatrical event, and Miami is working hard to match it.
The focus this year is on Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), the eccentric visionary engineer whose ambitious, oddly ageless ideas still exert a powerful influence on architecture and design. His "Fly's Eye" dome is a curious sci-fi truncated globe with retro, pop art piercings, conceived as a low-cost shelter framework capable of being delivered by aeroplane. Here, on the lawn outside the fair, the dome (from the Craig Robins' Collection) looks like a crashed alien pod. Also here will be "Bucky" Fuller's Dymaxion 4 car, a 1937-patented 3-wheeler which would have been able to hover and fly, if only the technology had been around.
British architect David Adjaye has been named as Design Miami Designer of the Year (an unusual accolade for an architect) and his challenge is to create a structure to compete and compel. He's an experienced creator of pavilions, his collaboration with Olafur Eliasson ("Your Black Horizon") exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2005, was one of the most memorable of recent years; "Horizon", shown at the Albion Gallery in London in 2008, was also compelling. For Miami he's building a structure with a triangular plan, hollowed out to create a space pierced with ovoid holes which recall Fuller's dome.
Elsewhere Rirkrit Tiravanija will be curating a show of his own work from Craig Robins' Collection which looks, at least in proposal form, a little like PR for the Design Miami linchpin. Architect/composer Christopher Janney has a show at the Moore Building. Joyfully colourful Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes is creating a Cartier Foundation-commissioned installation of Cartier/Miami bling – a bejewelled mobile in oversized boho-hippy beads at the Collins Building while Pringle Scotland are launching a pop-up show with artist Liam Gillick.
The unenticing "curated pop-up" seems to be the big motif this year with shows created by Maison Martin Margiela, Dior and Marni reinforcing the fashion/art/design axis that helps to get faces out to parties. The word "curated" is emerging as the biggest cliché of the era, akin to the 1980s tag "designer", attached to anything from jeans to shades. Only the art world appears not to notice this.
On show at Design Miami itself is the usual cool selection of work by Prouvé, Poul Kjaerholm, Harry Bertoia and others (including a gorgeous 1970 leather chair by Alain Douillard) augmented by contemporary works by Konstantin Grcic, Martin Szekely, Studio Job, Wendell Castle and an intriguingly modernist-retro cabinet by South Korean designer Bahk Jong Sun.
There are the usual institutional and gallery installations including some which seem spurious, most notably the de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space Looks at the Bigger Picture, a show about the installation of art which doesn't even pretend to have anything to do with design but is still being billed as part of the programme. It is a great gallery though.
Miami has been an intriguing experiment in the dynamics of the urban distribution and dispersal of art and design space and installation. The design district remains an interesting effort, a collection of some genuinely compelling buildings which was beginning to become a piece of real city in a notoriously dispersed city. But the removal of Design Miami back to the orbit of the art fair has shifted the dynamics again. It will be interesting to see if the events become more coherent as design builds momentum but at least it always has the city itself to fall back on. Who wouldn't want to be in Miami as the winter sets in?
Art Basel Miami Beach and Design Miami run from December 1-4. www.designmiami.com
November 26th, 2010
New and improved Design Miami
by Caroline Roux
The German designer Konstantin Grcic has never been to Miami before. But he will arrive in the city for the first time on Sunday to supervise the installation of a piece called "Netscape", a new commission in honour of his title as Design Miami's Designer of the Year for 2010.
Grcic was given $50,000 to create this bespoke piece especially for Design Miami. He says he wanted "to produce a contextual piece, rather than just come to pick up a trophy. I wanted it to be something people could use and to avoid making anything that anyone would buy. It's so specific, it wouldn't work for a collector."
He might be surprised. "Netscape", in its economy and usability, is a thoroughly modern piece – an arrangement, to be hung outdoors, of 24 glass fibre seats swinging in netting. It came flat-packed from his native Munich and will stand outside Design Miami's new location: a 47,000 sq ft tent designed by New York architects Moorhead & Moorhead, erected right next to the Convention Center where Art Basel Miami Beach takes place.
Design Miami, a fair focusing on 20th-century furniture and contemporary limited-edition pieces and offering a range of funky fringe events, was launched in 2005. The event began in the Moore Building, built in 1921 as a furniture showroom, in the city's Design District, and its initial roster of participating galleries rounded up the most respectable names from Europe and the US: Kreo from Paris, David Gill from London. "It's a niche, but a clever one. They've linked into the prestige of Art Basel in a short time," says Grcic. Indeed, since 2006, it has also taken itself to the sister fair held in Basel each June. And now it is cosying up geographically as well as notionally to the bigger event in Miami.
Grcic is the latest in a line of major names it has celebrated (he will also be showing 15 of his pieces in the fair). "I was surprised to be invited," says the 45-year-old, who is known more for his mass-produced design – the plastic cantilevered Myto chair, for example – than limited-edition work. "It's not really on my agenda, though the pieces by 20th-century designers such as Jean Prouve and Charlotte Perriand, now so collectible, started out as industrial design and share my values."
Craig Robins, Design Miami's co-founder, is a property developer and president of Dacra, a company that owns much of the Design District. When Design Miami started in 2005, 50 per cent of the neighbourhood was occupied. Now it's 100 per cent. Rental prices have climbed from $5 per sq ft in 1995 to $60 today, and buildings that cost $28 per sq ft would now go for around $500. Having first attracted design businesses including Italian furniture company Poliform, and then fashion including Y3 and Christian Louboutin, he is now "starting major things to transform the area and bring in big brands".
Robins is a collector of design as well as of art. Sam Keller, the director of Art Basel from 2000 to 2007, came to him with the design idea. "His main advice was to improve on the quality year upon year," Robins says. As it is, Design Miami has been a victim, or benefactor, of its times. In 2007, the frenetic hedonism of the Miami experience almost overwhelmed the serious business. On Design Miami's opening night a drunken girl crawled through Tokujin Yoshioka's installation of drinking straws, while a tipsy Florida wife lap-danced for her husband on a rare Frattini chair at the Donzella booth. By 2008 the bubble had burst and in 2009 the feeling was faintly fearful.
Design Miami's relocation has, however, proved a boost. Twenty galleries are showing, an improvement on last year's 14. And though sponsor HSBC has bowed out, Austrian crystal company Swarovski is bringing a super-subtle immersive piece by London-based young designers Troika (50 optical lenses refracting light to create a room filled with moving reflections). Sparkle will be added this year by the American magazine W's impressive talks programme, with Pharrell Williams and John Pawson among its panellists.
Cristina Grajales, who has run a gallery in New York for 30 years and has participated in Design Miami since its beginning, is this year bringing high-value contemporary work, such as Sebastian Errazuriz's "Piano Cabinet" ($60,000-$80,000), as well as curious (and politically important) pieces by Paraguayan architect Pedro Barrail. He sends chairs and tables to be tattooed by a Amazonian tribe, to help them survive and to celebrate the artist value of their traditions. Grajales sells them for around $3,000.
New Yorker Barry Friedman, who showed from his broader portfolio of photography and fine art in 2008 and 2009 at Art Miami, one of the many fairs that runs concurrently with Art Basel, is returning to Design Miami with star pieces by Ron Arad (the 2010 "Solid Rocker") and the 78-year-old American designer Wendell Castle (two mahogany rocking chairs).
Didier Krzentowski, the influential Parisian dealer of limited-edition pieces by designers including Hella Jongerius and Martin Szekely, is also returning after a two-year absence during which he felt work at the fair had become too experimental and irrelevant. "It was not my type of design," says Krzentowski, who estimates that it costs him around €100,000 to come to the fair. "Design is for use. We need content." It's the move to the new location, a 500m stroll from the Convention Center, that has brought him back. All the dealers agree that this proximity to Art Basel should ensure better visitor numbers.
While the dealers are anxious that the collectors will cross the road, Robins reckons that: "Design has remained solid. The US buyers have been replaced by the Brazilians." Grajales, herself a Colombian, believes that the Latin Americans are not yet significant limited-edition design clients. "They're not so avant-garde in their taste," she says, "though they are slowly learning about design. Part of my job is to educate them."
Now, Robins says, "the Design District can stand on its own", with a programme of events ranging from the presentation at the Cappellini showroom of the Tron armchair – a piece by Israeli designer Dror Benshetrit inspired by Tron: Legacy, the follow-up to the cult Disney film – to exhibitions of Haitian art and Taiwanese craft. But he's probably more interested in the fact that booking enquiries for next year's Design Miami are up by 40 per cent.
February 6th, 2010
Stage Set by the Sea
by Edwin Heathcote
Looking back from a bust, a boom always looks pretty stupid. But without booms, we'd never have had Miami, the city of absurd property bubbles, wild speculation and the exuberant architecture which accompanies its perennial irresponsibility. There was the Mediterranean fantasy architecture of the 1920s. There was the dazzling tutti-frutti of the greatest and most irrepressibly cheery concentration of art deco anywhere in the world. There was the louche hipsterism, the canopies and cocktails of MiMo - Miami modernism. And there was the silk and pastel postmodern of the Armani 1980s.
For a goodtime city, the fabled refuge of gangsters and elderly East Coasters. Miami has been subjected to wild swings. Each outburst of architectural expression was accompanied by trauma. Those Mediterranean-influenced villas and apartments, of which the dream-like Biltmore is the finest example, were battered by a 1926 hurricane that killed 100 people, and then smashed on to the rocks of the Great Depression. The inventive hotels in the Art Deco District spread out along Collins and Ocean Drive until development ground to a halt after Miami became, remarkably, the one mainland US city attacked in the second world war. A fleet of German Uboats torpedoed four tankers just outside the city's harbour in full view of horrified crowds.
The 1950s and 60s saw both an explosion of the city's own brand of moderne - the huge, swinging hotels around the beaches and the beginnings of the white flight that would eventually see affluent US city centres collapse. Miami is also a city which, despite its laidback swing, has been an ocean of racial tension. It is hard to imagine that beaches in the 1930s displayed signs saying "Gentiles Only" and that after the war black housing projects were fire-bombed, while as recently as 1980 the city was shaken by race riots.
Then came the era of Miami Vice and Scarface. in which the city became a cipher for decadence. The shiny suits, pastel shirts and coke-iced nostrils had their architectural equivalents in the mirror glass towers of downtown and the extraordinary outburst of creative postmodern energy embodied in the world of the Arquitectonica corporation. The 1982 Atlantis Condo Building, with its swimming-pool-blue grid and cut-outs with pop-up palm trees, exemplifies this optimistic excess.
The latest boom, though, has ended without a conspicuous legacy beyond the endless, bland apartment blocks and second homes. If there is something left over it is the reinvention of some of the city's less palm-lined streets as design and arts districts. And the stage-set architecture of the city is proving a compelling backdrop to its reinvention as a design capital.
The most obvious symptom of the new vision of Miami is the successful Art Basel Miami Beach, an enormous art fair held each November that has cemented the city's reputation as a serious culture desti-nation. It has bred a slew of satellites including Design Miami and a number of younger shows that come together to make a real event when the world converges on the warmth of the Beach.
But how does the city sustain an art and design sensibility beyond the intensity of the fairs? The attractions are spread about: but when you find them, they are quite something. The Wolfsonian. situated in a wonderful old furniture storage building in Miami Beach, is one of the finest applied arts museums there is. From the antique-steel book stacks of the cafe and bookshop to the ornate art deco fountain in the main lobby, the building embodies a passion for design. The collection focuses on a clearly defined era (1885-1945) and uses design to illuminate social history.
The extraordinary Geneva stained glass window, designed for the city's League of Nations building in 1926. presents a balletic fantasy composed around episodes from Irish avant-garde literature, from James Joyce to Sean O'Casey. It was never used, because it was thought too risque for a conservative. Catholic nation. But it represents to Ireland what the exiled and iconoclastic Ballets Russes were to Russia, and is unmissable.
Back across the water on the rougher edge of the Design District, the Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz gallery is an extraordinary new Sitting in a brand new. purpose-built of blinding whiteness and searing museum of blinding whiteness and searing clarity by architect John Marquette, it
houses a powerful collection of mostly Latin contemporary works. De la Cruz has made it a free-to-enter institution and is employing kids from the neighbourhood as guards and training them as curators.
Not far away is the Rubell Family Col-lection. In a delicious irony, the superb contemporary collection is based in a former industrial building that once housed the confiscated cocaine which poured into the city and flooded the night-club of the dynasty's founder. Studio 54 owner Steve Rubell.
The decidedly patchy borderlands of the Design District. Little Haiti and Wynwood. are in the process of gentriflcation. But dereliction is rife and some streets can be intimidating. "Sneaker fruit" - trainers hanging by their laces from telegraph lines to demarcate territory - shows the gangs are very much around. A civic effort to make Little Haiti into a colourful tourist ethnic zone has signally failed.
The Design District, christened Decora-tors' Row in the 1920s second-home boom, is a tiny but engaging enclave with some interesting buildings. There's Zaha Hadid's installation at the lovely old Moore Building, a sticky, stretched chewing gum intervention spanning the atrium. Another fine, industrial-style building houses furniture showrooms and the superb Zanotta restaurant. It is as close as anywhere beyond Miami Beach that the city has to a pleasant, walkable area and. with striking buildings, cool boutiques and galleries emerging, it is a real work in progress, an answer to Manhattan's Meatpacking district.
Few cities have modern architecture as euphoric as that of Miami Beach. The Art Deco District is unsurpassed in its ice-cream-toned feel-good architecture, and it was one of the cities to take full advantage of its architecture as a tourist destination. Start a tour from the Art Deco District Welcome Centre. The big boutique hotels are beginning to look dated but Philippe Starck's theatrical remodelling of the Delano stuns. Lincoln Road, one of the city's swankiest shopping streets, was redesigned in 1960 by MiMo's biggest star. Morris Lapidus (motto: "Less is never enough"). The wavy roofs and sun shades that snake up the middle of the road make it the city's most walkable street even on the hottest of days. Even the Starbucks is in a star deco building.
At the top of Lincoln, where the urbanity runs dry. stands an unmissable landmark. A massive multistorey parking garage, replete with boutiques, bookshops and artworks, a spiky concrete landscape by Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron. it is successor to the grand downtown train stations as urban marker.
Round the corner is the concert hall by Frank Gehry. still being built. Finally, don't miss the beautiful Bacardi building. Built in 1963 by Puerto Rican architect Enrique Gutierrez, it is a seductively simple piece of corporate modernism, which would have slotted seamlessly into Fifth Avenue if it wasn't for those huge blue and white azulejo tile murals on its side.
Miamis highlights shine in a swamp of sprawl. But the fruits of those booming booms are as ripe and sweet as architecture anywhere.
November 28th, 2009
When culture meets commerce
by Nicole Swengley
Culture converges with commerce in Miami next week as designers, collectors, dealers and critics from around the world zone in on the city’s annual art and design shows. Now in its fifth edition, Design Miami could be considered the younger sibling of Art Basel Miami Beach (last year it attracted 22,000 visitors against the art show’s 40,000) but is proving equally effective as a force for change in an area now known as Miami Design District.
Five miles from the art deco hotels along South Beach, Miami’s previously blighted midtown area is undergoing radical change in the hands of property developer Dacra, which for the past 10 years has been turning an 18-block, semi-industrial area of neglected 1920s and 1930s buildings into a hub for design, art, fashion and cuisine. “I’ve always believed in art and design as an economic driver,” says Craig Robins, chief executive of Dacra. “We try to combine quality, long-term businesses with alternative uses such as cultural events, art exhibitions and limited edition experiences. Then the area becomes an amazing, unusual place. It’s this dynamism that creates long-term growth.”
Barbara Hulanicki, founder of the iconic London store Biba in the 1960s and now a Miami resident, whose design work was instrumental in revitalising many South Beach hotels, agrees. “Design has been the real impetus for the changes,” she says. “The art and design shows have been very important for the city, encouraging galleries to open up, while restaurants keep the district alive in the evenings and at weekends. Miami Design District is a commercial area that doesn’t look commercial. It’s taking a while to warm up because of the general slowdown but there’s an energy there and, thankfully, always parking.”
Robins, 46, is the lawyer son of a local developer, an avid collector of art and design and a member of the Board of Trustees at the Miami Art Museum . Dacra, the company he founded in 1987, played an integral role in the revitalisation of Miami’s South Beach district through the restoration of art deco landmarks including the Marlin, Tides and Victor hotels. In 1999 Robins acquired 8.5 acres on the southern tip of Allison Island and turned the area into Aqua, a gated residential enclave with modern architecture and site-specific public art. Around the same time, he began buying properties in Miami’s run-down midtown area.
Robins takes a curatorial approach, courting a mix of high-profile design showrooms (Vitra, Driade, Cassina, Kartell, Fendi Casa, Poltrona Frau, Knoll, Ligne Roset, Poliform, The Rug Company), fashion houses (Tomas Maier, Marni, Marimekko and Y-3) and restaurants (five of Florida’s top chefs have opened here). It’s an ongoing process, with French fashion designer Christian Louboutin’s flagship store and showrooms for Bisazza, the Italian glass-mosaic tile specialist, and avant garde furniture company Cappellini opening this month.
Site-specific sculpture and architectural hardware, commissioned by Dacra, have enhanced the ambience. These include Zaha Hadid’s “Elastika” sculpture in the historic Moore Furniture Company building, Marc Newson’s bespoke fence for the Design & Architecture Senior High School and Cuban artist José Bedia’s murals in the Buick Building. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco’s eye-catching mural “Sol” and Kenny Scharf’s “Fountain of Life” enliven the Buena Vista building’s atrium while “Diamantina”, an outdoor installation by Brazilian designers Fernando and Humberto Campana, was the site-specific commission for winning Design Miami’s Designer of the Year award 2008.
“All these pieces give the neighbourhood a very special sense of space,” says Robins.
New public art commissions to be unveiled this winter include Cosima von Bonin’s mixed media sculpture called “Life is Too Short to Stuff a Mushroom”. Another work in wood, glass and metal by Rirkrit Tiravanija replicates architect Philip Johnson’s glass residence on a child-sized scale. “Untitled 1997 (Playtime)” is designed to introduce youngsters to architectural ideas and was originally shown at the sculpture garden Johnson designed for New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Also in the mix are commercial art galleries, artists’ and photographers’ studios and other creative businesses. Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz’s personal art collection is now open to the public in a new 30,000 sq ft gallery, while the Rubell family’s private art collection (including work by Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Cindy Sherman) can be viewed by appointment, as can Robins’ own design/art collection at Galleria Aqua. Worth visiting is Martin Margulies’ growing collection of photography, video and sculpture at the Warehouse and Ella Fontanals-Cisneros’ art space dedicated to contemporary artists from Latin America.
It is an emerging creative scene that Robins nurtures with monthly art and design nights, online social activities and initiatives such as Limited Edition Experiences, the first of which will see pop-up shops by Fendi, Proenza Schouler, Christian Dior Homme and other top fashion groups offering limited edition designs from this Monday until the Super Bowl in February. Audi will also hold the launch of its A8 model on Miami Beach on Monday alongside specially created art and design elements.
Previous visitors will be surprised, promises Robins, by “new material, a very special installation by Dutch designer Maarten Baas [Design Miami’s Designer of the Year 2009] and performance art in partnership with Fendi. All the retailers will be doing something special at their showrooms too.” Robins’s belief in art and design as an engine for change is endorsed by Dacra’s property statistics. Commercial property values in Miami Design District rose from $100 to $400 per sq ft between 2000 and 2009 compared with a $250 to $750 per sq ft increase in South Beach. It is also bucking the current national trend. “There are few places in the US where there’s growth – everywhere is suffering – but Miami Design District is growing, just more slowly than it would have done,” says Robins.
However, Tony Goldman, chief executive of New York-based Goldman Properties, which has developments in Miami’s Wynwood area, believes “it will take three to five years for the [Miami] market to absorb an oversupply of housing built in the bubble two or three years ago.” In the meantime the rental market is coming to the rescue. “The volume of residential real estate leases in the design district has surged over the past 12 months – so much so that investors are being drawn to the area by the lure of being able to easily rent their new investment properties,” says Ron Shuffield, president of Miami-based EWM Realtors. “The area has a New York-feel, which appeals to our international clients.”
Goldman takes a long-term view. “It’s a quality product but it will need perseverance,” he says. “The area needs a street-life that’s more than 9am-5pm weekdays. But the showrooms have given the area prestige and a cosmopolitan flavour. People no longer have to go to New York for these products.”