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Arts / Galleries

Miami Vices — Breakfast, Dramatic Design and Old Texas Friends

When You're at Art Basel, You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zones and Embrace the "Work"

BY // 12.31.18

Editor’s note: As we head into a new art year, PaperCity’s Billy Fong looks back at his adventures in Miami at Art Basel to help look ahead. This is the second part of this series.

MIAMI — Uber access VIP card in hand I was ready to head out for a day of salivating over gorgeous design and memorable art. I hope you caught my first piece in my 2018 Art Basel Miami series.

Meredith and I like to stay as close to the center of the action as possible so this year went with the Royal Palm South Beach. A room with a balcony and ocean view provided a tranquil and zen-like moment each morning as we chose outfits. The hotel has a great breakfast which we always enjoyed al fresco — as once the official business at hand began we rarely got sun time.

I’m normally not a breakfast person, but I always have that meal during Art Basel week since lunch can sometimes come-and-go without happening and dinners often start as late as 10 pm. Keep that in mind as champagne intervals at 1 pm, 4 pm and 7 pm often don’t provide enough sustenance to make it through the day.

Design Miami/ opened on Tuesday this year and that was my official beginning of “work.” Design Miami/ is the global forum for design. Each year bringing together the most influential collectors, gallerists, designers, curators and critics from around the world in celebration of design culture and commerce. Occurring alongside the Art Basel fairs in Miami each December and Basel, Switzerland each June, Design Miami/ has become the premier venue for the world of design.

I’ve been impressed over the years that this fair has continuously expanded and enriched its program. Design Miami/ seeks to not only satisfy the demand for a high-end design fair, but also to broaden awareness of modern and contemporary design, fuel the market for collectible design, and provide an exciting yet accessible destination for collectors, enthusiasts and most importantly me.

I was in Crazy Rich Asian heaven when I came upon the installations done by Fendi and Louis Vuitton.

Fendi had a dramatic booth with a blown glass bag which beckoned visitors into a space filled with mixed media pieces, many of which incorporated water. Was this a commentary on the fluidity of design and particularly that of the iconic house as it has seen many a creative director come and go?

Vuitton had a gorgeous room installed that seemed like it was ready for lounging or an important meeting about the future of the French house under Virgil Abloh. Louis Vuitton showcased its Objets Nomades collection at Palazzo Bocconi in Milan, last April 2018. On this occasion, an exclusive preview of the first Louis Vuitton Les Petits Nomades collection was presented: a creative, elegant and poetic line of decor objects.

A British Sensation

I fell in love with all I found in the Stephen Webster booth — even the wallpaper. The black and white design from afar seemed reminiscent of Chinoiserie, but upon closer inspection were weapons and crustaceous creatures. Stephen Webster has been finding inspiration in music, fashion, literature and art to produce contemporary, bold and glamorous collections for over 40 years.

Built on a foundation of technical excellence founded at the workbench in London’s Hatton Garden where Webster began his apprenticeship at the age of 16, this distinctly British heritage and passion for traditional goldsmithing remain at the heart of the brand today.

I chatted up the staff at the booth and learned that Webster draws from subjects as diverse as William Blake’s illustrations for Albion Rose, the pop culture iconography of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album cover, Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea or reinterpreting the plumage of England’s game birds.

I spent time in the VIP lounge and people watched while sipping champagne and texting friends back in Texas that they were missing a great time at Design Miami. I rarely spend more than an hour or two at this fair, but this year found myself there for well over five hours. It was fun bumping in to former Dallas art star, Justine Ludwig, who left the Dallas Contemporary to assume the role as executive director of Creative Time (based in New York) and hearing of her recent successes at her new home.

Also, I noticed a great outfit from afar only to realize it was being worn by another local style icon, Diamond Mahone, in town for Art Basel as well.

Look for my next story with details on the best Art Basel Miami party in recent years.

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