December 4th, 2013
The New York Times
Four Square Blocks: Miami
by Julie Lasky
Two weeks before Art Basel Miami Beach, the annual art fair and beachside bacchanalia that opens Thursday, the Miami Design District was a mess. Loose bricks littered the sidewalks, or what was left of them. Construction fences surrounded dusty, chewed-up lots. The fences were wrapped in plastic stamped with slogans: “Where Art Happens,” “Where Design Happens,” “Where Food Happens,” “Where Luxury Happens.”
Construction workers swarmed around, lifting, grunting, driving heavy machinery. But these slogans are no joke.
Craig Robins, a 50-year-old developer, is overseeing the latest phase of his plan to transform a 21-acre patch north of downtown Miami into a Shangri-La of culture and commerce. In the mid-1990s, he began buying, restoring and adding buildings in the neighborhood, a moribund wholesale furniture district that had lost business to a suburban design center. He persuaded high-end design companies like Waterworks and Holly Hunt to move in, commissioned public artworks, repaired sidewalks and planted trees. In 2005, he sealed the identity of what he called the Design District with DesignMiami, an annual fair that ran concurrently with Art Basel Miami Beach. (DesignMiami later moved to Miami Beach, to be close to the main event.)
Now with his company, Dacra, in a 50-50 partnership with L Real Estate, a venture fund in which LVMH is a minority investor, Mr. Robins is ramping up his efforts. He wants to make the Design District a hive of progressive art and architecture, exquisite fashion, ambrosial meals and rooftop gardens — all in conformity with LEED gold standards. He wants design to remain in the picture, he is quick to add, although the area’s furniture showrooms and materials suppliers will be increasingly sharing the stage with fashion brands like Christian Louboutin and Louis Vuitton.
“I always saw it as a creative laboratory, and first wanted to bring back the furniture design,” Mr. Robins said of his earliest ideas for the district. But “as it became incredibly successful as probably the premier place in Miami to buy furniture,” he added, “I realized that that alone was not going to attract people.”
The neighborhood comprises some 20 blocks, and Mr. Robins’s ambitions reach out to all of them. But a close look at the four blocks between Northeast 39th Street and 41st Street to the north, and between Northeast Fourth Court and First Avenue to the west, tells the story.
The centerpiece of these blocks — the seed of the entire district, in fact — is the Moore Furniture Building, a handsome structure of reinforced concrete faced with brick at 40th Street and Northeast Second Avenue. Built in the 1920s by Theodore Vivian Moore, a pineapple plantation owner who diversified into real estate development and furniture manufacturing, it was bought by Mr. Robins in 1994 for $2 million, or $22 a square foot. Eleven years later, he installed a giant Zaha Hadid sculpture in the four-story atrium that looks like chewing gum, or maybe ligaments.
Today, Dacra and L Real Estate own 60 to 70 percent of the district, by Mr. Robins’s account. And the retail space on the Moore Building’s ground floor houses Jonathan Adler, the Rug Company and Ornare, a Brazilian producer of kitchens and closets.
When I visited, all three were preparing displays for the week of the art fair. But more activity was happening across 40th Street. There, a midblock pedestrian thoroughfare called Plumer Alley was being extended into a 30-foot-wide promenade that will extend north to 42nd Street, breaking through the buildings currently housing Pucci and Cartier, and terminating on each end in a three-story retail building. (If any one thing suggests the district’s fortified cosmopolitanism, it is that the little street is being renamed Paseo Ponti, after the Italian architect and designer Giò Ponti.) At the south end of this promenade will be Palm Court, a gateway marked by R. Buckminster Fuller’s 24-foot-tall Fly’s Eye Dome replica, which was displayed at DesignMiami in 2011.
Pucci and Cartier, along with several of their 40th Street neighbors, will be moving to new homes. In all, 15 buildings are under construction in the district, with planned completion by December 2014, in time for the next Art Basel Miami Beach. Among the architects who have been commissioned to design them are Aranda/Lasch, Sou Fujimoto, Leong Leong, Carlos Ferrater, K/R Architect and Iwamoto Scott.
And that’s not the end of the construction boom. By 2015, more than a dozen additional buildings will open. Ultimately, the area is expected to have 120 stores (including a number lured from Bal Harbour, long considered the Miami area’s premium shopping center), more than a dozen restaurants, a 14-story building with condominiums and a boutique hotel, and five parking garages, including one with a John Baldessari mural.
Like any adolescent experiencing a growth spurt, the Design District is awkward as well as hungry. Businesses are hopping in, out and around. And though Mr. Robins said he has offered all of his design tenants 10-year leases at affordable prices, he is not the only landlord there. Nor does that gesture ensure a confident future.
Rosemary Pringle, a fashion instructor at the Design and Architecture Senior High, a magnet school on Second Avenue that has been in the district since 1990, said: “It’ll be great for us to see students intern in showrooms here. We just won’t be able to afford lunch as government employees.”
Or as Rick Lieberman, of Casa Cielo Tile & Mosaic on 40th Street, said, “It’s been a nice year when we can say we’re between Cartier and Hermès — and we’re cheaper.”
He added: “All I can say is, it’s safe now. Ten years ago, you had to be out by 5.”
(Security guards, on which Dacra said it spends “a significant amount” each year, are much in evidence, with apparent reason. In March, the Miami New Times website reported that several crimes had taken place in the district in a recent six-month period, including one aggravated assault and four robberies.)
But Oliver Sanchez, an artist and fabricator who directs an art gallery called Swampspace on 42nd Street, is mentally packing his bags.
“I have a date with the wrecking ball,” he said, explaining that his low stucco building with its stepped roofline is slated for demolition.
Mr. Sanchez, who grew up 10 blocks from the Design District and has been working there for a decade, was elegiac about the artists who used to occupy 38th and 39th Streets — a dozen or more, he said — who have moved on. Still, he showed no bitterness toward the man everyone in the neighborhood seems to refer to as Craig.
“I’ve had a good ride,” he said.
October 24th, 2013
The New York Times
Upstart in Miami Lures Luxury Stores From a Chic Citadel
by Hilary Stout
MIAMI — For decades, the wealthy tourists and transplants who flock to South Florida bought their Chanels, Cartiers, Diors and the like at one place: Bal Harbour Shops, an open-air mall housing many of the highest-end retailers in the world around a courtyard of palm trees and koi ponds at the northern end of Miami Beach.
This was where Gucci opened its first shopping center boutique in the 1970s. It is where, last week, a 22-carat yellow-diamond ring priced at more than $1 million glittered in the window of the jeweler Graff. Last year, the International Council of Shopping Centers pronounced it the single most productive shopping center in the world as measured by sales per square foot of retailing space.
But recently a string of big-name tenants — Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Cartier and others — has been abandoning Bal Harbour’s rarefied confines for a scruffy city neighborhood 10 miles away. More than a dozen other Bal Harbour tenants, including Valentino, Giorgio Armani, Fendi and Harry Winston, have signed leases in the area and are expected to follow.
Their destination is the Miami Design District, once an enclave of furniture showrooms, low storefronts and empty streets in the shadow of two interstate highways. There, Craig Robins, 50, a local real estate developer with a passion for contemporary art and design, is engaged in a more than $1 billion effort to transform the neighborhood, and to crack Bal Harbour’s hold on the increasingly important local luxury market.
With middle-income families still struggling after the recession, spending by affluent consumers has been a critical ingredient in the economic recovery in the United States. While New York and Los Angeles have long been magnets for high-end shoppers, Miami’s popularity as an attraction for moneyed foreigners, particularly from Latin America and Russia, has created an increasingly vibrant luxury market. More than 70 percent of Bal Harbour’s sales these days are to foreign customers. Brazilians, in particular, have become so important that many of the stores in Bal Harbour employ Portuguese speakers.
In no city is the battle for the high-end consumer more intense than here.
“I realized there was this crazy situation going on in Miami,” Mr. Robins said in an interview in his office, an airy loftlike space that displays his personal collection of contemporary art. “This is the third-largest luxury market in the United States and there was this remote, inaccessible, beautiful mall that controlled 100 percent of the market share.”
The issue is a clause in the Bal Harbour lease — a common feature in shopping center contracts — that bars tenants from opening another retail location within a certain distance. (At Bal Harbour it used to be a straight radius of 20 miles but it has been modified slightly in recent years.) Bal Harbour’s intimate size — it is less than 500,000 square feet, compared with more than two million square feet for some other malls in the region — meant many tenants yearned for more space. But the success and cachet of the location kept them from seriously considering decamping — until Mr. Robins came along.
“Miami is completely under-retailed in terms of luxury and in terms of potential of the city,” said Emmanuel Perrin, the president and chief executive of Cartier North America. He said the jeweler had increased its retail footprint in the area twelvefold by leaving Bal Harbour and opening stores in the Design District and another mall in the area called Aventura. “It’s unfortunate we couldn’t find an agreement with Bal Harbour to have a multistore presence.”
Mr. Robins’s firm, Dacra, has entered into a 50-50 partnership with a private equity fund, L Real Estate, whose investors include LVMH, one of the premier luxury companies in the world. Its labels include Pucci, Celine and Louis Vuitton.
For several years, he quietly bought up property in the neighborhood at attractive prices — holdings now are valued at more than $1 billion after debt. Mr. Robins said the partnership was spending “hundreds of millions of dollars” to create a new street with pedestrian plazas at each end, buildings by renowned architects, luxury condos, restaurants (and of course, four vast parking garages so the people will come).
Referring to the family that built Bal Harbour in 1965 and still owns it, Mr. Robins said, “I don’t consider this a war between me and the Whitmans. I believe Miami is a two-location market and I want to be one of them.”
Mr. Robins said he asked the Whitmans a few years ago to waive their radius restriction so tenants could open a second store in the Design District, and he still hopes the two parties can have a collaborative relationship. But in the meantime, he has set about luring brands away. One of the big prizes in his sights was Hermès.
“When I met Craig Robins and he presented his vision of what the Design District could become, I was really convinced from the first minute that he started talking,” said Robert B. Chavez, the president and chief executive of Hermès of Paris. “We just thought, wow, this is really important and is really needed in Miami and something we wanted to become a part of.”
Hermès closed its 4,300-square-foot Bal Harbour boutique after its lease expired last December and has opened a temporary shop in the Design District. It has begun work on a flagship store to open in the neighborhood in 2015 with a three-story, 13,000-square-foot space and a roof garden. “You can imagine the breadth and depth of what we can offer,” Mr. Chavez said. “That’s something that’s not possible in a shopping mall.”
The Whitmans are fighting back with expansion plans of their own. Earlier this month they submitted plans to the village of Bal Harbour to expand the shopping center by about 250,000 square feet.
“We are responding to the needs of the marketplace, and what our tenants tell us they need, which, in two words, is more space,” said Matthew Whitman Lazenby, the 36-year-old grandson of Bal Harbour’s founder and president and chief executive of Whitman Family Development, the parent company of Bal Harbour Shops.
The Whitmans have also entered into a partnership with a Hong Kong real estate company for a new project in downtown Miami’s financial district called the Brickell CityCentre, nine million square feet of offices, hotels, condos and retail space. They will develop some 600,000 square feet of that for retail use, and tenants at Bal Harbour will be permitted under the lease to open a second location there.
To study the changing market, Mr. Lazenby went back to school last year for an intensive one-year master’s program in real estate development at the University of Miami. His conclusion: Go where the tourists are — which, he said, isn’t necessarily the Design District.
“All signs in our mind absolutely pointed to Brickell,” he said. “It has for a long time been the Wall Street of the South. It is where Latin America does its banking. It has a healthy reputation for being a solid business tourist destination.”
With five-star hotels like the Mandarin Oriental and the Four Seasons in the area and more luxury hotels on the way, he added, “That said to us in flashing red letters, that is the next luxury tourism area of town.”
Mr. Robins, who has experience in revitalizing neighborhoods — he was instrumental in the renaissance of South Beach more than two decades ago — says his vision extends far beyond shopping. He wants to turn the Design District into a cultural, as well as a commercial, destination. He has already brought galleries and the world-renowned annual Art Basel fair to the neighborhood. “We don’t intend to be a luxury ghetto,” he said.
To some prospective tenants, Bal Harbour is still the most desirable. The Webster, a boutique that sells a collection of high-end labels in South Beach, recently announced plans to open a new shop at Bal Harbour.
“I think it’s one of the most luxurious and beautiful malls in the world,” said Laure Hériard-Dubreuil, the Webster’s chief executive and founding partner, noting that she began shopping there when she first started visiting Miami around 2006. “It’s a place that I personally love.”
December 5th, 2011
The New York Times
Design Miami | Art Is Still in Fashion and Vice Versa
by Marina Cashdan
"I'm from that generation of artists who tries to think very hard about new sets of relationships between people and spaces and how people work with artwork," said the artist Liam Gillick, who was one of several artists in Miami's Design District this year exploring a relationship with a big fashion brand. Cross-disciplinary collaborations, often accompanied by pop-up stores, are the name of the game during Art Basel Miami Beach, with often brilliant — and on occasion, less-than-brilliant — results. This year's brilliant moments included Gillick and Pringle of Scotland; Beatriz Milhazes and Cartier; and Anselm Reyle and Dior.
"I didn't really want to do an ironic, one-off deconstructed sweater," said Gillick of his collaboration with Pringle, the Scottish cashmere brand. "I'd rather do something that has more complicated implications." The result, called Liamgillickforpringleofscotland, is a capsule collection of cashmere sweaters and leather accessories incorporating Gillick's signature modernist color-block designs and retro color palette. "I try to think of how to extend a collaborative mentality and how to deal with things that work in parallel in the art context," said the artist, who even conceived how the collection would be displayed. Gillick continued his exploration of "how things acquire meaning and value" at the Casey Kaplan pop-up gallery (conveniently located above the Pringle store), where 200 pounds of red glitter — a re-creation of the artist's 2004-05 work "The hopes and dreams of the workers as they wandered home from the bar" — covered the floor, crunching under visitors' feet.
Around the corner, at the Fondation Cartier's pink-frond temporary space, "Aquarium," a massive mobile by the artist Beatriz Milhazes dangled from the ceiling of the dimly lit room. Comprising 14,980.82 carats worth of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, quartz, beryl, turquoise, coral, feldspath, tourmalines, opals, topaz and peridot, the larger-than-life piece of jewelry was reminiscent of Milhazes's kaleidoscopic paintings and sculptures and evoked both her art-historical influence (namely in geometric abstraction) and Brazilian background.
Meanwhile, over at Dior's pop-up shop, the German artist Anselm Reyle took the brand's DNA and ran with it, "Blade Runner" style, to create a postmodern wonderland befitting the collection of accessories on which he collaborated. Reyle reimagined the classic Miss Dior bag with neon stitching and dangling charms made of colored plexiglass, one of his signature materials. Two walls of video screens showed Reyle creating one of lush impasto works — the artist makes sweeping gestures in the purple paint using a large spatula and scraper — as well as a neon relief, both present in the store, along with a foosball table and, for those who can afford neither a Reyle original nor a Reyle Dior bag, a "nail bar" featuring Dior nail polish in Reyle's vibrant color palette.
October 5th, 2011
The New York Times
For Miami, Dior Goes Arty
by Suzy Menkes
The bags were in high-octane colors — the camouflage nature tones replaced by a digitalized landscape of purple, red, green and gray. Only a familiar lattice or "cannage" pattern, set at a rakish angle, suggested that these colorful products belonged to Dior .
The accessories collection by the Berlin artist Anselm Reyle, who said he had never before done a fashion collaboration, will go on sale in a pop-up Dior store at the Art Basel show in Miami in early December.
The modernistic bags, bracelets and key rings dangling with geometric plastic — not to mention nail polish inspired by the artist's work — are a departure for Dior, orchestrated by Delphine Arnault, deputy general manager for the brand.
"Mr. Dior in his time was fascinated by artists like René Gruau and Christian Berard," Ms. Arnault said. "Art is part of the DNA of Dior." Suzy Menkes
Greek at her 'Kore'
Joining a widening band of designers who think that looking after the planet should be a fashion consideration, the Greek-born designer Sophia Kokosalaki introduced a new line called Kore , in collaboration with the online retailer Asos.com.
Lacy handwork, made in Sri Lanka using an age-old technique, formed the basis of the new line, which sells at one-third to half the cost of the designer's main line. Ms. Kokosalaki also has designed a collection of wedding dresses that will go on sale at Net-a-Porter.com.
After two seasons off the runway, following the rupture of her collaboration with the Diesel group, Ms. Kokosalaki came back to Paris with a collection that had less of the Greek twisting and shaping of her early designs, but still a sense of that country in the liquid draping. Like all forward-looking designers, she also played with new fabrics, keeping the signature she has already established but giving it a modern push. S.M.
Vuitton's puppet master
The lobster, its claws wrapped round its carapace as it nestled behind domed glass, looked almost as lifelike as its companions: stuffed foxes, cats and leopards frozen in time at Deyrolle, the famous Paris taxidermist.
But the creatures — the frog with its open mouth, the fluffy little bird, the furry squirrel and the cute kitten — turned out to be interlopers, pieces made by taking small leather goods from Louis Vuitton and twisting and turning them so that they appear to be part of this animal kingdom.
The British puppet maker Billie Achilleos was the creative force behind the tiny treasures, designed to celebrate 100 years of Vuitton's inventiveness in leather. S.M.
Uniqueness on sale now
On screen, the designer Alessandra Facchinetti could be seen putting the finishing touches to her mini show. There is nothing new about this idea of allowing the front of house backstage. But the idea of presenting clothes during the fashion season that go on sale instantly is a product of the Internet age.
Uniqueness 1.01 is the new label for Ms. Facchinetti, who previously designed for Valentino, following a stint at Gucci. She showed a streamlined wardrobe, adding military details to separates and giving a girly touch to a trench coat by making it in sugar pink. Part of the Italian Pinko group and with prices from about €500, or about $665, the clothes are on offer now at www.uniqueness.it. S.M.
Karl Lagerfeld rocks
Karl Lagerfeld as a 21st-century rocker? Maybe the designer wants to keep in touch with his wilder side, for the collection he did in collaboration with Hogan was filled with zippered leather jackets and patent leather bags with a bubble effect on the surface. A techno nylon trench coat was an example of strength without weight.
In its third season, the link with the Italian house allows the couture designer to nurture his graphic and edgy side, using plasticized and stretch materials and bringing high tech to leather. The shoes were mostly sporty variations on sneakers, sleek in black and white python or two-toned leather. But the collection also included ballerina flats with floral -patterned perforations that reflect current casual style. S.M.
Knitwear for all seasons
"Jane Birkin going off to Ibiza for the summer," said Claudia Schiffer to describe the summer spirit of her cashmere collection. But the hippie-du-luxe vibe was not just for casual clothes, like a maxi crochet dress with color block stripes. The summer journey also took the former model to Paris and London, to create appropriate wardrobes with the German knitwear expert Iris Von Arnim.
With a web as her signature, Ms. Schiffer also produced an intarsia knit with spidery mesh — a contrast to simple sportswear like a denim check dress.
Her aim is to make this knitwear line appropriate for more than cold weather, by mixing cashmere and cotton or silk and linen to make an easy boyfriend sweater dress alongside a Paris-worthy little black dress. S.M.
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.
November 27th, 2005
The New York Times
Parties, Boldface Names and, Yes, Some Art
by Julia Chaplin
The most sought after invitation at Art Basel Miami Beach, the four-day annual art fair spinoff from Basel, Switzerland, that began in Miami Beach in 2002, has always been the lavish garden party at the Key Biscayne estate of Rosa de la Cruz, the Cuban-born art collector, and her husband, Carlos, chairman of Eagle Brands. Held the Tuesday night before the fair opens, it's where prominent art world figures have sipped champagne overlooking the ocean and viewed the couple's museum-quality contemporary art collection. But last December, after more then 2,000 people showed up to a dinner for 700 people, a few so unruly that they had to be escorted out by security people, Ms. de la Cruz, pulled the plug on her celebration.
"Friends said, just make people wear wristbands this time," said Ms. de la Cruz?. "But I would be embarrassed to do that at a private house. I guess the fair has outgrown my home."
Such are the growing pains of what has become the biggest contemporary art fair in the world and increasingly a "must stop" on international social calendars. Last year over 35,000 people attended the fair, according to Art Basel Miami Beach's director, Samuel Keller. This year, beginning on Dec. 1, thousands more, with their asymmetrical haircuts, platinum cards, and/or European accents, are expected to descend on Miami Beach's convention center where 195 galleries from Sao Paolo to Tel Aviv will be exhibiting. And that doesn't even include the ever-expanding sprawl that has cropped up around the show, with alternative art fairs, rogue openings and parties held in slickly designed hotel lobbies, boozy dive bars and warehouses in emerging arts districts across the bay in greater Miami.
But when too may people arrive at the party, especially when an increasing number have more interest in the open bar than in buying art, is that a good thing?
"Its starting to feel like Cannes film festival," said Jeffrey Deitch, the New York-based gallery owner whose party, the "it" event for the 10 p.m.-to-2 a.m. time slot on Wednesday night, will have the Citizens Band, a loose collective of 26 artists, performing cabaret-style around the oh-so-chic Raleigh Hotel pool. "But I think it's healthy for the art world because it creates a dynamic situation."
If anything, the fair's appeal reflects a general mainstreaming of contemporary art. Art Basel Miami Beach is a trend-spotter's paradise, where the latest ideas in art, fashion and music are on display in one electric setting.
Naturally, the corporate world wants in. Gift bags stuffed with T-shirts and schwag, corporate banners and logoed invitations are now staples at the dizzying number of after-parties and receptions as brands in-cluding DKNY, Bombay Sapphire and Gucci piggyback on the fair's reputation. And Fer-ragamo, will be host for a luncheon for area socialites on a yacht rented out for the fair by Esquire magazine.
"It's about spreading more of an underground vibe in terms of what our brand stands for," said James Gager, creative director for MAC cosmetics, comparing the Miami Beach affair to other events the company sponsors during the Oscars and Golden Globes. (MAC is sponsoring Mr. Deitch's party at the Raleigh.) Hotels have been booked up since early October, despite inflated room rates 40 percent above normal prices and four- and five-night minimum stays, according to Nicholas Christopher, president of Turon Travel, the official travel agent for the fair.
In mid-November, the Victor was charging $815 for rooms, while the Delano had a deluxe city-view room for $830. The Sagamore had sold out of $630 standard suites.
And R.S.V.P. lists for hot-ticket events such as Visionaire's "Taste" party for 500 lucky guests at the recently opened Setai Hotel, where rooms start at $900 a night, are full up. This may be why many important art collectors and V.I.P.'s jet in on Tuesday before the fair starts for private viewings and dinners and leave town the day the fair opens to the public.
"Obviously we'd prefer attracting big collectors or art students then just a group of people who don't know what to do on the weekends," said Mr. Keller. "But we see no reason why one can't party while being very serious about the quality of art."
But the much-hyped socializing, instead of diluting the fair's purpose, may have the side-effect bonus of contributing to the value of the contemporary art market. "Collectors want the scene to be fun and have a good time," said Mr. Deitch, who says he jogs every morning on the beach to maintain his stamina during the fair. "It's part of the reason why there is so much excitement around contemporary art right now. Last year at a party we co-hosted with Taschen for Terry Richardson, Benedikt ended up naked in the pool. The fair shouldn't feel like its work." Mr. Deitch was referring to Benedikt Taschen, the publisher of art books.
Exclusive private dinners at collectors' homes, like the one Craig Robbins is giving for Zaha Hadid, the Pritzker architecture prize winner, are not yet extinct, but are much harder to finagle. Mr. Robbins, a real estate developer, is starting a companion design fair at the same time as the art event, called design.05 that will show the work of architects and designers including Ms. Hadid, Ron Arad and Mattia Bonetti in galleries throughout the design district.
But this year, in the spirit of art's democratic nature, many events are designed to be more inclusive.
Collectors are now holding morning receptions, a safer way to let the public view their art, as most hard-core revelers will still be sleeping off their hangovers. But it will be worth setting alarms for the debut breakfast of the curated private collection of Ella Fontanals Cisneros, a Venezuelan philanthropist, in a 12,000-square-foot converted boxing gym in downtown Miami along with exhibited such artists as Marina Abramovic and Bill Viola.
The Delano Hotel is actually putting away the velvet rope for its Art Bar evening events featuring celebrity hosts including Lauren Hutton and Ms. Hadid. "Last year there was some frustration about not getting into parties because of tight guest lists so we just decided to let everyone in," said Mark Tamis, general manager of the Delano. "It's not like the summer where we need to pick and chose to get the right crowd."
Furthermore, the next young art star probably has better and more cutting-edge parties to attend. And the obsession with discovering this new talent has reached a frenzied pitch. At least four alternative fairs will showcase "emerging artists" this year. Scope Miami has 70 exhibitors set up in the guest rooms of the Townhouse hotel; Aqua Art Miami will have 35 at the Aqua Hotel; 60 galleries will try their luck at Pulse in a 30,000-square-foot space in the Wynwood district of Miami; and the New Art Dealers Alliance, a favorite among the hip cognoscenti when it made its debut at the Ice Palace Film Studios in downtown Miami last year, is a cooperative effort involving 83 galleries in 18 countries.
The art fair has kept pace by expanding its emerging artists section, called Art Nova, where 54 booths will sell works that have been made in the last two years. Most of them cost under $5,000.
"The problem is there is not enough young talent to meet the demand," said Dennis Scholl, a Miami-based collector whose recently renovated private collection space, World Class Boxing, will open during the fair with an exhibit by Julie Mehretu, a painter who won a MacArthur "genius award" in September. "But the thing is, you never know at which out-of-the-way exhibit one might turn up," Mr. Scholl said.
Which explains why chauffeur-driven BMW's will be prowling around the sun-bleached streets of Wynwood, an industrial area filled with wholesale outlets and factories across the bay from Miami Beach.
Miami's fast-track art scene is now firmly entrenched in Wynwood. Near the already established Rubell Family Collection and the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse are several new high-profile offerings that will debut during this year's fair. The Paris-based gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin will open his complex, designed by Chad Op-penheim, the minimalist Miami architect, in a converted I950's Miami Modern concrete building, with a show of emerging artists, and the MOCA at Goldman Warehouse will unlock its iron gate a few blocks away with a virtual funhouse, called "Cloud City," by the Miami art duo Friends With You. One of Miami's most important dealers of young artists' work, Fredric Snitzer, recently relocated to the neighborhood and will have an opening by emerging art stars Luis Gispert and Jeffrey Reed. The vacant lot next door is being converted into a drive-in theater with old cars as seating for art videos projected on a concrete wall.
Still, the best place to spot new talent will likely be in plain view right on Collins Ave nue in South Beach. The French proprietors of Le Baron, the Paris nightclub of the moment, are taking over the divey karaoke bar in basement of the Shelborne hotel for five nights, the perfect place for the art world's hi-lo inhabitants to collide late into the strobe-lit night.
December 21st, 2003
The New York Times
A Century-Old City Still in the Process of Being Invented
by ABBY GOODNOUGH
Just past the shadows of a highway overpass, a curiosity rises from the sidewalk: two walls of a giant living room, papered in pink and open to the sky, with a beckoning couch and a window looking west, away from the beaches that have long been this region's wealth and pride.
The artists who created this unfinished room, in a neighborhood most visitors never glimpse, say the work is a metaphor for Miami, the so-called Magic City - just over 100 years old and still deciding what it wants to make of itself.
Miami, as ever, is yearning to be taken seriously. Not as a workaday annex of its hedonistic neighbor, Miami Beach, but as a cosmopolitan center in its own right.
Evidence of the city's ambitions is abundant these days. Along Biscayne Boulevard, whose 40's-era motels became ramshackle drug and prostitution dens after Interstate 95 drained it of tourist traffic, billboards trumpet planned luxury condominiums named Nirvana, Blue and Mist.
A Four Seasons just opened downtown, in a new building that Miami brags is the tallest in Florida. Two miles north, a $344 million performing arts center is going up, the largest built in this country since the Kennedy Center. Its vision statement proclaims that the center, designed by Cesar Pelli, "will transform Miami into the cultural capital of the Americas."
The city is also competing to be the headquarters of the Free Trade Area of the Americas - it bristled when one of it rivals, Atlanta, proclaimed itself the "Gateway to the Americas," a moniker Miami has long considered its own.
Pointing to the real-estate frenzy - not along the ocean, for once, but in the long-blighted downtown, which used to be as deserted as a suburban office park after 5 p.m. - some people say Miami is on the brink of attaining the status it has coveted for years.
"I can't think of any city that's had more development energy and ambition than Miami has at the moment," said Michael Hardy, president of the Performing Arts Center Trust, which will run the center after it opens in 2006. "The city and county leadership finally believe it's important to develop everything and not just be a beach community if they're going to have a future beyond tourist dollars."
With 362,500 residents, Miami proper ranks nowhere near the nation's largest cities - according to the 2000 census, it is less populous than Albuquerque, Fresno, even Tulsa.
Yet its social problems are those of a megalopolis. It has a history of racial tensions, drug-fueled violence and corrupt political leaders giving developers free rein. It has a higher percentage of people in poverty than any other American city of 250,000 or more, census figures show.
This is a city with few common memories, since most residents come from somewhere else. And since it is just a way station for many, Miami, which was incorporated in 1896, has historically lacked a collective civic soul.
Though dizzyingly diverse, it is not a melting pot: Miami's many communities - Cuban, Haitian and Colombian, New York Jewish, African-American, gay and European - often clash and many are still focused on the places they left behind, pledging their money and sympathies there.
But that may be changing: a recent poll found that Cuban-Americans 45 and younger are more focused on improving their quality of life here than on overthrowing Fidel Castro. Younger residents have the potential to make Miami a world-class city, some longtime residents say.
To those people, Miami is the kind of mecca that New York has been to so many. But unlike immigrants in New York and Los Angeles, who are often stuck at the bottom of the economic ladder for at least a generation, many Latin Americans here move quickly into the middle class, and even into wealth.
They are contributing to Miami's evolving identity on every level: in low-paying service jobs, as artists and musicians, as political leaders and banking executives, even as developers helping to revitalize downtown.
"In L.A., if you're Latin you're in the restaurant kitchen," said Roberto Behar, half of a husband-wife artistic team that created the model living room on North Miami Avenue in 2001. "Here, the mixing of cultures occurs in the banks, at the art openings, on every level. And Miami is such a baby - whatever you do, you feel you can be part of the history of the place."
Mr. Behar and his wife, Rosario Marquardt, have made their mark with toylike art projects, which they say befit a young city playing with ideas for its future. In addition to "The Living Room," they include a giant red M at a downtown commuter-train station and a house of cards surrounded by scaffolding, a symbol of Miami's state of precariousness.
Mr. Behar, who moved here in the mid-1980's from Argentina by way of New York City, compared Miami to New York in the early 1900's, when that city's cultural institutions, landmark buildings and neighborhood characteristics were still being created. Mr. Behar and Ms. Marquardt are among a small but vocal group calling for more careful, creative urban planning here. One bright example they point to is the so-called Design District, a gritty neighborhood just north of downtown that one developer is trying to transform into the city's creative laboratory.
The developer, Craig Robins, started buying up buildings in the neighborhood in 1994 and now owns 35. He is replacing neglected, nondescript structures with provocative designs, each by a different architect.
Mr. Robins is picky not just about who designs his buildings, but about whom they attract as tenants. He wants artists, furniture and clothing designers, architects and music executives.
Is this place on its way to becoming something big? The answer, people like Mr. Behar say, lies in what Miami can teach other cities about the future. Miami may be the prototype for what American cities will look like a century from now, with residents from other countries bringing new languages, interests and values to transform the culture, economy and landscape.
Approaching this city from the air, the view is often of ocean, then the island that is Miami Beach, then islands scattered in the bay, the city sprawling just beyond. Mr. Behar and Ms. Marquardt have a vision for one of the islands, a tiny patch named for Henry Flagler, the oil baron who built a railroad to Miami, opening it to the world.
Their idea is to carve Flagler Island into a star, so that the myriad people who arrive by plane can latch onto a landmark.
"In every culture, stars stand for destiny, for finding your future," Ms. Marquardt said. "It seems right to have such a thing be part of the invention of this place."