Agatha Christie fans and anyone interested in the romance of the rails will be delighted with this year’s Design Miami, which heralds the relaunch of the Orient Express. Visitors strap on headphones and experience a virtual reality journey on the lavish train to Istanbul, with Asian music playing in the background.
The star of Christie’s iconic ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ – the carriages with their panels of glass and Lalique marquetry encrusted in gold and ebony – had mysteriously disappeared after the luxury train company closed about half a century ago. A worldwide search began in 2015 to find the missing wagons, which were eventually found in an open field on the border between Belarus and Poland. Today, the French hotelier, the Accor Group, is reinventing the train, combining the grandeur of the past with contemporary improvements.
Plans for the newly designed Presidential Suite aboard the Orient Express (X/04) can be viewed for the first time by visitors to the annual design show located across from the Miami Beach Convention Center. The famous French architect Maxime d’Angeac designed everything, down to the door handles and the color of the lighting. The original cars had 10 cabins and a shared bathroom; the new version has three cabins per car, each with its own shower. “In the presidential suite, you have a bathtub, which is extremely rare,” d’Angeac told the Miami Herald. The suite, which takes up an entire car, also has its own kitchen and a butler.
The immersive exhibition is one of 50 Curio galleries and presentations at the 18e edition of the fair. The opulence of the Orient Express is emblematic of the fair’s theme: The Golden Age: Looking Ahead. “This is the future, how we are advancing a kinder, gentler, more sustainable world,” explained Jen Roberts, CEO of Design Miami. “It makes sense to me. My parents took the QE2 and the Oriental Express. As more travelers choose to travel by train rather than plane, Roberts predicted, travel will take longer, but amenities will become more lavish, allowing people to slow down and enjoy the ride.
Some of the galleries have taken the Golden Age to heart and feature items that sparkle or are made of real gold. The Ippodo Gallery (G/36), based in Tokyo and New York, offers beautiful vessels and vases for the tea ceremony. Two vases by Hirotomi Maeda illustrate craftsmanship in gold-silver-copper alloy. They sell for $100,000 each. But the gallery has something for everyone’s wallet, including incense holders for $640. One of the most interesting works are the ceramic teapots and bowls by Yukiya Izumita, whose hometown was devastated by the 2011 tsunami that followed a 9.1 magnitude undersea earthquake.
“His work is about recovery and rebirth after the tsunami,” said gallery director Shoko Aono. “He used wave textures and driftwood to bake the clay, giving it a dark color. He has a patient and humble nature and has found beauty in a natural disaster.
Attached to the gallery is a latticework tea house. The gallery plans to hold a modern Japanese tea ceremony for 10 lucky visitors each day from November 30 to December 4, between 3 and 4 p.m. Email the gallery to reserve your spot: MAIL@IPPODOGALLERY.COM.
At the other end of the scale is Harry Nuriev (C/03). The always innovative and fun New York designer turns trash into gold. His ironic examination of the city’s daily dumping of trash led to the creation of a sofa that looks like an assemblage of black plastic trash bags. They are not. In fact, they are more like sturdy beanbags filled with gritty pellets. The work is made up of nine individual bags attached to each other. It comes in an edition of 10 and is priced at $50,000 each.
Other models not to be missed:
The Design Talks Theater – Theaster Gates, the iconoclastic installation artist from Chicago, has created a place of grace to celebrate the life of artist and designer Virgil Abloh, his friend who died on the opening day of Design Miami last year. Instead of chairs, Gates installed 10 wooden benches, each with its own pockets for hymns.
The collectors’ lounge (X-11) – Sponsored by AIG Private Client Group, the show features the work of two men with Miami connections. The entrance features ornate light fixtures created by Bradley L. Bowers, who founded his eponymous brand in Miami’s Design District and now runs a New Orleans-based studio. Bowers won the award for best contemporary work at Design Miami last year for his large tabletop Halo lantern in pleated and folded paper. Bowers partnered with talented young architect Alexis Cogul Lleonart of Doo Architecture, based in Barcelona and Miami, Cogul’s hometown. B&B Italia also provided some of the most comfortable and self-absorbed pieces of furniture in the living room – a wrap-around armchair with a tennis ball-shaped ottoman.
The potter’s bodega in the village of Roberto Lugo (C/09) – Collectors can pick up an original Lugo for a few hundred dollars. The beloved artist aims to make his art accessible to everyone and uses themes and imagery that resonate with urban appeal. There’s a fire hydrant-shaped tumbler ($450), a Philadelphia subway car-shaped butter dish ($750), and even an ode to Robert Mitchum’s character in the 1955 film, “The Night of the Night.” hunter”. – a pair of brass knuckles with the words “Love” and “Hate” created in ceramic.
R& Company (G/32)the New York gallery that represents Lugo, also has urns similar to the one on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as well as the artist’s take on the orange and black Greek pots – a black man walking a pack of pit bulls in front of a phalanx of Philadelphia townhouses.
For those who can’t get enough of Lugo, he’s also on display at the Wolfsonian Museum in Miami Beach until May 28, 2023.
Wexler Gallery (G/23) – Be sure to stop by to see the Nyala Chair, which steals the show in the recently released film ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’. Ethiopian American furniture designer Jomo Tariku created the curvaceous black wooden chair. Another of Tariku’s signature works – The Mido Chair – resembles an Afro peak and is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s permanent collection.
Jason Jacques Gallery (G/07) – Think of your favorite fairy tale characters, life-size and in bright green flocking, and you’ll get an idea of the universe Finnish designer Kim Simonsson has created inside the Jason Jacques booth .
AGO projects (G/21) – If you like pictures of perky cats bouncing off the wall like they’re having a caffeine fit (the Haas Brothers), Mexican tiles that can cover your floor and wall and spread for miles (Ceramica Suro), and a sofa so sexy you might want to stroke it (Ryan Belli), then stop and see the Mexican offerings of Rodman Primack and Rudy Weissenberg. Before Primack opened his gallery, he was executive director of Design Miami.
The Southern Guild (G/30), always an annual favorite at Design Miami, did not disappoint this year. “I think they’re so amazing,” said Beverly Berman of Naples, Florida. Berman is a big fan of the work and owns two from Zizipho Poswa, who creates oversized ornamental vessels with handles that resemble African headdresses. “The legacy of them, their size and stature… I don’t like figurative work, but they are like portraits, inspired by African hairstyles from Cameroon and South Africa.” Diana Wyant, who winters in Miami, also spoke about Southern Guild. “They always have things that are out of the ordinary. They have lots of pottery and ceramics – which I love. I find the fair in general to be funky and much more relaxed than Art Basel.
Best in Show winners:
Best of Show – Gallery (tie)/
Best of Show – Curio (tie) /
Pair of Max Lamb armchairs at Galerie FUMI
Historical piece /
Dining table by Jose Zanine Caldas at Dilentante42
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