Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mondo Miami

Bay Watch Looking acroos Biscayne Bay to downtown Miami. 

Text by Andrew Sesa, Photographs by Blasius Erlinger

Whether for food or fashion, art or architecture, there’s never been a better time to visit Florida’s Magic City, where the dazzle of Art Basel week suffuses a thriving cultural scene.

Strolling through the city's Design District en route to the beach

It is well after 11 p.m. on the night before the night before Art Basel Miami Beach officially begins, and the party is already buzzing. This particular fete, a somewhat unlikely collaboration between Sotheby’s, Ferrari, and Interview magazine, has been going on for three hours. And though the champagne has largely run out, Solange Knowles (sister of Beyoncé) is still spinning beats from the DJ booth, and rising R&B chanteuse Janelle Monáe has commandeered the stage, joining friends for an impromptu dance party.

The setting for all this rollicking fun? The fifth floor of a parking garage—but not just any parking garage. 1111 Lincoln Road is a marvel of contemporary architecture designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the Pritzker Prize–winning firm responsible for London’s Tate Modern and Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” Olympic stadium. Combining retail, residential, dining, and parking spaces, the wall-less structure, supported by trapezoidal concrete columns, is more sculpture than garage. And in Miami right now, that makes perfect sense. Because art and architecture—and fashion and design—aren’t just commerce here. They’re a way of life.

Juvia’s vertical garden

In its decade of existence, December’s annual Art Basel Miami Beach bacchanal—an offshoot of the eminent Swiss art fair, which also now owns a majority stake in Hong Kong’s Art HK—has become the western hemisphere’s most important contemporary art event. Today, Basel week is as much about who goes where and when and with whom as it is about who buys what from whom and for how much. And everyone who’s anyone—and every luxury brand worth its fleur de sel—has to be there.

Thus, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, together with the Kingdom of Morocco and the ultra-luxe carmaker Maybach, hosts a vastly oversubscribed dinner party at the beloved Art Deco hotel The Raleigh, during which the editor in chief of Artforum can be seen chatting over cocktails with billionaire Eli Broad, L.A.’s most influential art collector, not long before Paris and Nicky Hilton show up for a photo op. Thus, Louis Vuitton mounts a “beachside barbecue” at Soho Beach House, to celebrate something of which no one is quite sure, but Wendi (Mrs. Rupurt Murdoch) Deng and Dasha (the almost Mrs. Roman Abramovich) Zhukova are hosting, so everyone will talk about it for days. Thus, on any given night, the head spins at the number of celebrity-studded soirees. As Luis Rigual, the new chief editor of Miami magazine, puts it, “It’s not even possible to keep up with the invitations, much less attend all the events.”

a deer sculpture by Illinois artist Ron English at Wynwood Walls

Which isn’t to say Art Basel is not about the art. When all is said and done, the four official days of the fair will have seen more than 260 carefully vetted galleries from 30 countries showing work by over 2,000 artists. And that’s just the main event, held at the Miami Beach Convention Center; this was orbited by as many as 16 so-called satellite fairs, held around the city. By most accounts, sales were stronger at the 2011 edition than they’d been since the Great Recession began. A ray of light. A glimmer of hope. A corner turned.

Miami itself has turned a corner, too. After booming big through the early aughties and then busting even bigger when the real estate crisis and credit crunch hit, Florida’s second-largest city has come back from the brink. And it has Art Basel and its cultural trickle-down effect to thank. Today, nearly every new hotel, restaurant, boutique, or bar that opens has to have art of one kind or another on the walls, not to mention a clientele that considers itself a part of the cultural cognoscenti. Call it the Basel Effect.

behind the bar at the St. Regis Bal Harbour

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the latest arrivals to Miami Beach, the 13-kilometer-long resort town across the bay from Miami proper. For the W South Beach, a gleaming hotel tower that appeared on the scene in 2009, developers David Edelstein and Aby Rosen assembled a dream team of artists and designers, icing the cake with highlights from Rosen’s personal collection of postwar and contemporary art (works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, and the like). Farther up Collins Avenue, Soho Beach House, the third American branch of the London-based boutique hotel and social club Soho House, has amassed 150-plus pieces of art, some of which even non-members can admire in the lobby and the alfresco Italian restaurant Cecconi’s.

“Art Basel really changed Miami from being about beach and nightlife to being a place of substance,” says Marco Selva, general manager of the newly opened St. Regis Bal Harbour, which itself spent US$2 million on original art for its 243 ocean-facing guest rooms and sleek public spaces. The hotel’s designers, George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg, looked to the glamour of Miami’s mid-century heyday for inspiration, updating a certain Rat Pack aesthetic and commissioning work from a variety of artists, including Miami’s own Santiago Rubino, whose black-and-white triptych Eye of the Stars hangs in the bar. “It’s a little bit ‘More Is More,’” explains Yabu, quoting the late, great Miami Modern architect Morris Lapidus. “It says, ‘The recession is over. Let’s have fun.’ ”

The beachfront at the St. Regis Bal Harbour. 

Fun is certainly the order of the day in South Beach, where the Raleigh, Delano, and Shelborne hotels—all dating from the 1940s—are unveiling renovations, and where the hotly anticipated SLS Hotel will make an April debut in the former Ritz Plaza, one of Collins Avenue’s Deco gems. The latter marks Philippe Starck’s first major design project in Miami since his white-on-white redo of the Delano in 1995, and will see the walls of every guest room covered with sketchily drawn trompe l’oeil canvases depicting French chateau–style millwork. And Starck isn’t the only big name here. The molecular cuisine of José Andrés will feature at The Bazaar, an offshoot of the Spanish chef’s restaurant at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. As for the penthouse suite and a poolside bungalow, they’re by rocker-turned-designer Lenny Kravitz.

“Miami has really grown,” says SLS owner Sam Nazarian, explaining why the city is ready for his new property. “You just don’t see many U.S. markets outside of New York that have the cultural cachet that Miami does right now.”

Atlantic Ocean views from the St. Regis Bal Harbour.

Miami Beach’s restaurants have upped the ante, too, with chefs like London’s Alan Yau and New York’s Daniel Boulud, Scott Conant, and Geoffrey Zakarian all setting up shop here over the last few years. But homegrown talents are making names for themselves as well.

In the pink on Collins Avenue, Miami Beach’s legendary hotel strip.

“Miami was never known as a food city,” says Andreas Schreiner, co-owner of a trio of venues enlivening the culinary scene here: the Asian-inflected gastropub Pubbelly, its sibling Pubbelly Sushi, and a Spanish mercat and bistro called Barceloneta. “But the influx of people Art Basel brings into the city demands that we change and evolve to satisfy more savvy palates.” All three of Schreiner’s restaurants are situated on one short block in Sunset Harbour, on the west side of Miami Beach, and all three present an inventive East-West mix of flavors—pot stickers filled with pork belly and scallions; shortrib tartare with apples and quail egg; sushi rolls of heirloom tomatoes and creamy burrata—to bustling and highly appreciative crowds.
Back at 1111 Lincoln Road, meanwhile, the 150-plus-seat Juvia opened on the garage’s penthouse level in February, with indoor and outdoor spaces overlooking the Deco cityscape and the ocean beyond. There’s also a lush, Amazon-inspired wall of greenery by vertical-garden designer Patrick Blanc, who also created the verdant lobby installations at Hong Kong’s Hotel Icon. The seafood-focused menu, a mix of Asian, South American, and French influences, comes to the table courtesy of chefs who trained in the kitchens of Daniel Boulud and Nobu Matsuhisa (who also has a Miami outpost).

Happy campers at Miami Beach’s South Pointe

The city’s retail scene is thriving as well. 1111 Lincoln Road is home also to Alchemist, a glistening fifth-floor glass cube stocked with designer goods from the likes of Azzedine Alaïa and Delfina Delletrez. Nearby, society fixture–turned–boutique owner Monica Kalpakian holds court at her year-old home and accessories shop, ETC. The place is a cabinet of curiosities stocked with pieces brought back from Kalpakian’s global travels: a tray of fossilized wood and silver from Portugal, say, or a diamond-accented bracelet made of vinyl beads from western Africa. Kalpakian, too, feels she has Art Basel to thank for her store’s success. “During Basel, everyone gets what I do,” says the Argentine-born art patron, who sits on the boards of London’s Tate Modern and the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. “I sell the same amount in that one week that I do during the entire rest of the year.”

More than any other boutique, however, it’s The Webster that best embodies the city’s move to a more elevated sense of style. Founded by fashion veterans Laure Heriard Dubreuil (who’d done time at Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent) and Milan Vukmirovic (who co-founded the cult Parisian concept shop Colette before holding top design positions at Jil Sander and Gucci), the three-story emporium inhabits a restored 1939 Art Deco masterpiece in Miami Beach. Exuding impeccable taste, sumptuous materials, and pitch-perfect tailoring for both men and women, it’s a significant departure for Miami, one that relates right back to Art Basel.

Pork belly-and-scallion pot stickers are on the Asian-inflected menu at Pubbelly in Sunset Harbour

“People had this image of Miami as either for elderly people or for the most tacky people on the planet,” says Dubreuil. “Art Basel changed it to a more sophisticated, refined place. We still have the tacky, too. It’s that mix that I love.”

The Webster has also championed art and artists, hosting a plethora of parties during the fair and mounting salon-like gallery shows year-round, all of which further cements the position of both the store and the city as a nexus of art, fashion, and design.

On the mainland, the best place to experience this cultural intersection is the Design District, a once derelict section of town that sits just across a causeway from Miami Beach. Here, over the course of a decade or more, developer and art collector Craig Robins has staged his own art-minded urban renewal, replacing warehouses with galleries, restaurants, and, increasingly, elite fashion boutiques. Today you’ll find Marni, Tomas Maier, and Maison Martin Margiela scattered among the home-design showrooms: beloved, one-of-a-kind spots like Luminaire and Niba, which vie for attention with new flagships from Alessi, Armani Casa, Moroso, and Poltrona Frau. Over the next couple of years, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, and Cartier will be moving in, too.

Inside the Webster

“Miami has always been a much more impressive place than people realized,” says Robins. “Because it’s such a beautiful place, it’s been more associated with sun and fun than with culture. Now we’re getting to show off the other side of our city.”

The Design District also showcases two of the city’s top chefs, Michelle Bernstein and Michael Schwartz, whose restaurants here have earned them national attention and copious awards. Bernstein’s Sra. Martinez turns out tapas and other South American and Spanish specialties (the Catalan-style butifarra sausage, stuffed with duck and foie gras, is a standout), while her year-old café Crumb on Parchment does light soups, sandwiches, and salads, plus a bevy of classic American baked goods. Meanwhile, Schwartz’s industrial-chic Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, along with his six-month-old Harry’s Pizzeria, plays with the unsung bounty of South Florida in dishes such as shrimp and grits with house-smoked bacon, escarole, and wood-roasted tomatoes. (At Harry’s, the braised-fennel pizza and polenta fries are must-orders.)

the Miami Beach skyline

 one of many street murals in the Wynwood area

Schwartz opened in the Design District half a dozen years ago. He was one of the first chefs to arrive on the scene, and it took some convincing to get others to come along for the ride, at least at first. The art fair quickly changed all that, and now he sees the Basel Effect everywhere he looks. “It gave people with an artistic identity some hope in a place that was really dominated by a trendy, clubby sensibility. I think it sort of coaxed those people—and there are a lot of them—out of the woodwork, spurring the creative direction Miami’s gone in.”

If the Design District has already up and come, it’s the Wynwood neighborhood, just to the south, that’s riding the crest of the next wave. Home to two private contemporary art museums—the Rubell Family Collection and the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse—this still-industrial area is now ground zero for Miami’s gallery scene. One of the most prominent spaces is Fredric Snitzer, with its roster of established and emerging talents, many of them local; another is the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, which concentrates on female and minority artists.

Inverted Berlin Sphere by installation artist Olafur Eliasson, on exhibit at the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse

Other businesses have been slower to arrive, but they’re finally coming along. “I couldn’t get a cup of coffee the first year here. The first five years, actually,” recalls gallerist Snitzer. In the last two years, however, the area has received a jolt of energy from Wynwood Walls, an ambitious, ever-expanding mural project that to date has brought in more than 20 international street and graffiti artists. And from this public-art initiative, a neighborhood has grown.

Goldman Properties, the family-run developer that spearheaded the Walls project, now owns a pair of restaurants in Wynwood: a modern Italian café called Joey’s and the art-filled Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, whose covered dining patio overlooks the murals. The run-up to the latest edition of Art Basel also saw the opening of the Wood Tavern bar, a branch of the Miami Beach design shop Elemental, and clothing boutique Haus Fashion.

Herzog & de Meuron’s modernist parking garage, 1111 Lincoln Road.

Back in Miami Beach, a few weeks after the fair has ended, event designer-cum-hotelier Barton G. Weiss still has Basel on the brain. “It’s a big party for six days, but it’s a party with a purpose,” says Weiss, who recently took over the former Versace mansion on Ocean Drive, rechristening the 10-suite Rococo hotel fantasy the Villa by Barton G. “I only wish it could be six months out of every year.”

He pauses to reconsider this. “Actually, Art Basel’s existence is year-round. It’s a whirlwind when it comes in, but even when it’s gone, it leaves behind all this art. It has changed businesses and changed lives, changed the landscape and the entire community. It gives Miami a whole different meaning, a new depth. It’s a total inspiration.”



Getting There
There are no direct flights from Asia to Miami, though the city’s international airport is well connected to hubs in Europe and elsewhere in North America.

When to Go
Weather-wise, sunny Miami is a year-round destination, though summers can be oppressively humid. The season for art openings and events runs from September through April, reaching a crescendo during Art Basel Miami Beach, which this year runs from December 6 to 9 (

Where to Stay
The months-old St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort & Residences (9703 Collins Ave.; 1-305/993-3300;; doubles from US$850) is located a 15-minute drive north of South Beach in the village of Bal Harbour. All 243 rooms overlook the Atlantic, and facilities include a Remède Spa and a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant, J&G Grill. Farther down the strip, Soho Beach House (4385 Collins Ave; 1-786/507-7900;; doubles from US$495) combines the exclusivity of a members’ club with the sophistication of a full-service boutique resort.

In South Beach, options range from such Art Deco classics as The Raleigh (1775 Collins Ave.; 1-305/ 534-6300;; doubles from US$305) to relative newcomers like the sleek W South Beach Hotel & Residences (2201 Collins Ave.; 1-305/938-3000;; doubles from US$459), where dining venues include New York chef Andrew Carmellini’s The Dutch. Slated to open in April is the SLS Hotel South Beach (1701 Collins Ave.; 1-305/674-1701;; doubles from US$325), with rooms designed by Philippe Starck and Lenny Kravitz.

A condo on Ocean Drive 
Where to Eat 
Combine a visit to Miami Beach’s most eye-catching parking garage with a dinner at Juvia (1-305/763-8272; mains from US$24), perched on the penthouse level of Herzog & de Meuron’s 1111 Lincoln Road. At Soho Beach House, Cecconi’s (4385 Collins Ave.; 1-786/ 507-7902; mains from US$18) lures a beautiful crowd with its classic Italian fare and breezy courtyard setting, while hipsters head to Pubbelly (1418 20th. St.; 1-305/532-7555; small plates from US$9), an Asian-accented gastropub in the Sunset Harbour neighborhood.
Murals meet mixology at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar

On the mainland, the Design District is home to Sra. Martinez (4000 N.E. 2nd Ave.; 1-305/573-5474; tapas from US$9), which dishes up Michelle Bernstein’s superb Spanish fare in a revamped 1920s post office building. Nearby, Michael’s Genuine (130 N.E. 40th St.; 1-305/573-5550; mains from US$15) and Harry’s Pizzeria (3918 North Miami Ave.; 1-786/275-4963; pizzas from US$11) focus on more local provender. Another memorable spot is Wynwood Kitchen & Bar (2550 N.W. 2nd Ave.; 1-305/722-8959; mains from US$11), though the art-filled interiors are perhaps more of a draw than the menu.

Shops and Galleries 

Fashionistas will want to make a beeline for The Webster (1220 Collins Ave.; 1-305/674- 7899;, where the luxe couture for men and women ranges from Sergio Rossi stilettos and Alexander Wang frocks to Tom Ford formal wear. Then browse the fashion-forward racks at the Lincoln Road branch of Alchemist (1111 Lincoln Rd.; 1-305/531-4815; before stocking  up on bijou jewelry and accessories at Monica Kalpakian’s ETC. (1628 Jefferson Ave.; 1-305/673-4382; In the Design District, retail highlights include Maison Martin Margiela (3930 N.E. 2nd Ave. ; 1-786/718-1931; and  Tomas Maier (170 N.E. 40th St.; 1-888/373-0707;, alongside edgy design emporiums like Luminaire Lab (3901 N.E. 2nd Ave.; 1-305/576-5788;

Nearby Wynwood is the city’s gallery hub, home to such esteemed spaces as the Fredric Snitzer Gallery (2247 N.W. 1st Pl.; 1-305/448-8976; Other must-sees include the Rubell Family Collection (95 N.W. 29th St.; 1-305/573-6090; and the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse (591 N.W. 27th St.; 1-305/576-1051;, though public access to both is seasonal. For those who prefer their art alfresco, there’s the graffiti garden of Wynwood Walls (N.W. 2nd Ave. at 25th St.;

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