Feast Your Eyes: The Razzle of Basel Begins with Artist Karel Fonteyne

A month ago, our MGFD Café was a parking lot outside the Miami Beach Convention Center. Today, some of the finest design houses in the world have put together their finest pieces for a show that we are thrilled to keep espressoed and fed. It is a tense, purposeful silence that floats through the tent above low conversations. Gone are the buzz saws, the drills, and the dust, here is the design. This is Design Miami/.

The international art community has descended upon us for Art Basel, one of its most influential global forums, and back in the Design District Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink and Harry’s Pizzeria have dressed for the show.  The walls in our flagship’s main dining room shimmer with a new installation by talented artist and our restaurant designer Carl Myers. In the Gallery Room and at Harry’s hang the works of Karel Fonteyne curated by Director Chana Sheldon of our neighborhood art cooperative, Locust Projects. Natural objects are photographed with a technical camera and printed in extremely high resolution in these limited edition, embossed prints. The starkness of a rose branch or a pine needle is seen so vividly it’s felt, and contrasted by the comfort of each piece of nature.

Karel spent his childhood in Belgium. He wandered through the woods drawing inspiration from all that surrounded him. “In photographs I work more like a painter by starting with an idea that I sketch putting the different elements of my emotions together.” Like a recipe, starting with ingredients. Not surprisingly, Karel likes to cook. “It is for me the same as making my photographs, giving the ingredients a twist by putting them together in another way so you create an unexpected taste.” Like food for the eyes.

For forty-five years Karel has taken pictures. He has lived in Italy, New York, Tokyo, Spain, and France. From 1981 to 1994 he worked as a fashion photographer, with images gracing the covers of Vogue Italia and Vogue Japan. “[The photo] has to keep the onlooker awake,” he said, “so it has an impact on his way of thinking.”

Art Basel Week is about finding what is eye-catching, discovering a piece that unearths something within you, stumbling upon a work that causes an impact on you in that moment, and forever. Embrace this inundation of forced thought. Come say hello at Design Miami, and find Karel’s work at Art Miami in booth 16. Happy Basel Miami, it’s showtime.

Interview with Carl Myers, Artist, Architect & Genuine Designer

IMG_0923In a story often told, a steadfast dreamer leaves his Podunk town in search of bigger and brighter things, and in this case, he found them. Carl Myers, the designer of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, both our Miami Design District flagship restaurant and its sister in Grand Cayman, has another story to tell, this one through his portraiture. This Thursday, while we say thanks, eat, nap and then eat some more, the walls of MGFD will undergo an artistic transformation showcasing the newest installation of Carl Myers’ work, just as our Magic city transforms into the contemporary art and design mecca it becomes annually the first week of December. I sat down with Carl last week to catch up since we last connected, and talk art, inspiration, Mennonite heritage and Miami’s evolution.

You’re a Harvard Man turned artist, how’d that happen?

I was just a nerd out of high school, I studied really hard. I came from bum-fuck Virginia, and I never wanted to go back there, so I wanted to go to really good schools. I follow my heart a lot. Literally picking up and moving to another state or country, I closed a 15-person business in a day just because my heart wasn’t in it anymore.

What’s your heritage?

Born in Illinois, and raised in Virginia. My family comes from hearty Mennonite stock. They started out being schoolteachers for Amish children in central Illinois, and then decided to come back east near they’re families, but not too near so they could be more modern and cool. They had a phonograph but they never had martinis after work. My dad was a “Black bumper Mennonite”, he painted all the chrome black. My grandmother wore the traditional clothing until the day she died.

Are you religious?

I used to do a lot of pictures of religious icons. I have a collection of colonial carved statues of saints. I had a crown of thorns made, and I would put it on my friends and take pictures of them. I’m just fascinated by these forms, they are statues that people revere and worship. I’m not conventionally religious, but I find them fascinating. It’s a fascination with how other people treat them.

You’re living right now in a pretty religious place, (Guatemala) do people like it?

They do, but funny enough, I don’t think they buy it because it is religious, I think it’s more because they remind us of a place or time. People have even asked me to lay off Jesus a little bit because I would become a Jesus freak, you know him and his mother. So it became more about portraiture, the feeling of the person in the piece.

I use these religious images as inspiration, in a non-conventional way, but still using.

What else do you use for inspiration?

Love in my life. The people that are really important to me. All the people and things I did in this series are my boyfriend, my car, the dog, the views here. I was feeling mushy, sensitive and emotional. I had taken time off to do some architectural projects, but I decided to take the time and do the pieces and put a collection together for a show.

It was an intention to make them in a way that other people could appreciate and like and find something of their own in it, by things that I was inspired to make.
What I really wanted to do was do a portrait of Michael. I’ve always wanted to do one of him, I did Tamara and the kids in Cayman, but I don’t know why it never came up.

What is your technique for creating these pieces?

My technique is quite simple. I photograph living people and sculptural facsimiles of people. While travelling I also take hundreds of photographs of ancient and contemporary figural statues and busts. Then, I digitally manipulate and modify the photos to create pixilated images. Each image becomes a figure ground study comprised of 10,000 to 30,000 pixels. The final images are ‘constructed’ in a variety of mediums: coins, dice, beads, lead shot, straight pins, paints and metal leaf. I continually search for new materials and methods. I am not attempting to capture an image. I am trying to create images.

With the religious references I want to explore the line between the sacred and profane, the real and unreal. Sometimes I only want to memorialize, and other times I want to manipulate. The result is often an image that is recognizable from afar, but when viewed close-up becomes distorted and indiscernible.

How did you end up in Guatemala?

I was working for a hotel as their design director, traveling like a mad man and working 100 hours a week., so I said I was going to take a month off. Back at Harvard I took Spanish classes, because I’ve always had this pull towards Latin (Spanish) culture. A neighbor took me to Guatemala and to this day all my friends there are still my friends. Then September 11th happened and all my hotel jobs were canceled and so I decided to go to Guatemala and start doing furniture.

Obviously Miami has changed, and you were here for most of that. What was it like?

I think the quality and creativity and design in restaurants in Miami has flourished. There’s a lot more talent in Miami now, there’s this energy to explore, not so much by the book, but to go out of the box and do different things.

I had an art gallery on Lincoln Road with 3,000 square feet of space and $900 and we still couldn’t afford the rent. When that started to change and people got upset, I was so happy. I try not to spend time with people who keep change from happening; I like to roll with the punches.

And things are changing in the Design District now.

Is it working? Are people actually shopping at Cartier?

They are.

It’s good, because for a while Miami was looking pretty bleak.

I moved to Miami in the late eighties when all we did was have so much fun and you could buy a one bedroom in south beach for $8,000. It was so cool. Lincoln Road was like a wasteland. It was a playground.

[All I see are scenes from the Birdcage] Have you exhibited at Art Basel before?

No, I haven’t, I haven’t actually focused on it as much before, as with the last two years. And I’m not exhibiting at Basel, but I’m having a show at Michael’s during Basel. But two years ago during Basel when someone saw some of my pieces at Michael’s was when it really started taking off.

There is this esoteric side of the art world, and that’s really hard for me because I don’t really speak the language. But I try. I use a $10 word every now and then.

Here’s a sneak peak of the new work as Carl and Michael Kump unpack the first crate yesterday!!

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Our Lua Rossa Wine, Blended and by Design

Head north from Santa Barbara through rural San Luis Obispo County about sixty-six scenic miles and you’ll find yourself in the picturesque Santa Maria Valley at the Bien Necito Vineyard. To the east rise the granite peaks of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range, the Salinas River below them has meandered down almost two hundred miles from Steinbeck country, and about twenty miles to the west rocky cliffs give way to the Pacific Ocean. From here the salty breeze, cool fog and California sunshine are never far from the vines.

This is where winemaker Jim Clendenen chose to open his winery, Au Bon Climat more than thirty years ago, and it is good climate indeed. Historically it is a fine climate for grapes to grow, as vines have been grown in the area since the Mexican colonial period of the 1830s.

The relationship between Jim and Michael Schwartz is not quite as old, however it has stretched about as far back as the winery itself. “I met him when I was living in Vail, Colorado,” Michael says, “at my first chef job. We did a wine dinner together, it had to be 1990, maybe 1989.” Back in the days of Nemo they worked together on a few private wine labels named for Michael’s daughters, a white Italian blend called Cuvee Ella and a red for Lulu, long before Lua Rossa came about.

Those bottles had pictures of baby Ella’s foot and baby Lulu’s hand respectively, so it was no surprise that the proud papa debuted his latest private wine label, Lua Rossa,with a label that was designed by a more refined and artistically developed hand of Lulu’s – an idea Michael had decided upon even before the blend.

I spoke to Eric Larkee about how that blend came about.

“Au Bon Climat is a great California wine maker, well known for their pinots and chardonnays, but also has a passion for Italian varietals. Il Podere is the label that they produce Italian wines under and we opened Harry’s with an Il Podere Barbera. Apart from it being a guest favorite, and perhaps more importantly, it was Chef Schwartz’s favorite of the eight wines we opened Harry’s with. Of course the wine ran out, then last December I got a phone call from Jim. We were just catching up and talking shop, and he mentioned that he had a few barrels of the ’07 Barbera unbottled that was beautifully aged, and beautifully aged Barbera is a great base for a blend. I told Jim that I would need to talk to Chef about it, and as I hung up the phone Michael walked in the door. I told him I had an idea. After we talked about it, he said, ‘Lulu will do the label’ and within two weeks we were in California.”

Once in California at the Bien Necito Vineyard, Michael and Eric tasted the barrel sample of the Barbera. There were a few things it needed to be complete: aromatics, fruit and structure. The day carried on with a tasting of fifteen of the Au Bon Climat family wines, followed by them smelling about thirty barrel samples and tasting seven of them. Finally, they broke out the graduated cylinders and started making blends. Both the Nebbiolo and the Syrah had the beautiful aromatics and tannic structure that had been lacking, and the Syrah added the fruit and spice.

“We were thinking about these wines of Langhe Rosso, very versatile, tomato sauce wines, wanting some acidity,” Eric continued, “we were most happy with the wine being 70% Barbera. That meant we couldn’t label it a vintage, because it has to be 75% to be a vintage. Honestly, I think people would be surprised how often older wine gets mixed with new juice in California. Say you’ve got a barrel of 2011 Pinot Noir that tastes a little old, add something new to give it a little fruit and make it taste fresher, and you don’t have to change the vintage. Not having a vintage date ruins the narrative for most people, they want a vineyard and a year, and the story becomes convoluted when you blend vintages. But for us, the wine was never about a vintage, it’s about it being a wine. It’ll never be made again, because it was unintentionally done.”

Born out of a couple of extra barrels, our Genuine house wine has grown an anatomy of its own, a body coming together with individual parts. The Nebbiolo is like the skeleton, creating a structure in the wine, an uprightness, the Barbera is the soft tissue, adding depth and roundness, and the Syrah is like the muscle and skin that holds it all together and makes the wine function. The face would be the bottle, and so Lulu was presented with a creative brief including this metaphor. She created a label that has a fluid spirit, that is both masculine and feminine, and which gave the wine its identity.

Lua Rossa comes together in what some blind-tasters have called “an old world wine”, and what without question has been finished by an artists touch.  Next week, find Lua Rossa in good company of fine design at our Design Miami Cafe, but until then come to our Michael’s Genuine happy hour to taste a glass weekdays from 4:30pm – 6:30pm, anytime at Harry’s Pizzeria, and at any of your lunch or dinners at The Cypress Room.

From Bars in Genuineland, a One-Two Punch

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 11.50.03 AMIt’s time to get lucky.  Monday is finally winding down, and although the weekend is long over, we’re still feeling the one-two punch from burning the candle at both ends.  This calls for punch of a different kind, and as luck would have it, we have two from bars in our world.  To cure your case of the Mondays, make one at home tonight and sample the other next week on South Beach.  Cheers to the week ahead!

WHATTA LUCKY GUY:  Fresh from the rock and last week’s first annual Cayman Cocktail Week, TGHG Beverage Director Ryan Goodspeed’s “Lucky Guy Punch” is here for your home-mixing enjoyment.  Nothing says island like rum punch, so we are using a favorite spirit of the moment,  gin, to mix things up a bit, with the addition of Framboise, St. Germian, Orgeat, lemon, sugar, raspberries, lime, Sparkling wine.  Here is the recipe, including how to make homemade Orgeat – which Mr. Goodspeed claims is pretty well-known.  For those of you (like me) who haven’t yet had the pleasure of its acquaintance, Orgeat (pronounced or-gOt), is a sweet syrup made from almonds, sugar and rose water or orange flower water, most often used in the Mai Tai.  It’s feeling like we’re on island time already.

RMS_Shrimp Toast

GETTING LUCKY: Next up, we’ve got a little Bombay, a little Dewars and a whole lot of LUCKYRICE coming your way.  This traveling culinary festival celebrating Asian cuisine and culture is in its fourth year and making a stop in Miami at the Raleigh Hotel and hosted by chefs Michael Schwartz and Masaharu Morimoto on November 15th from 7:30 – 11:30pm (purchase tickets here.) Restaurant Michael Schwartz is presenting two signature cocktails from Ryan and Raleigh Hotel barman Trevor Alberts — Bombay Sapphire Punch with Bombay Sapphire EAST Gin, Lemon, Orgeat, Lemongrass, Pineapple, Raspberry, Rosemary and Highland Orchards with Dewars Highlander Honey, Cold Pressed Apple Cider, Berentzen Apfel, Velvet Falernum, Lemon Juice.  Chef de cuisine Danny Ganem will have two items for the tasting, one of which is our favorite snack from the restaurant’s menu, Shrimp Toast, and soon to be new favorite “Lucky Rice Salad” combines lemongrass ginger chili sauce, cilantro, lime, curry, tomato, and shallots topped with puffed rice.  There will be plenty of other local haunts represented as well, including our neighbors at Katsuya, who are tuning in Tokyo at the VIP lounge with Toro hand rolls, Salmon caviar hand rolls, Pork and truffle Tsukune robata with Asian pear and yuzu garlic aioli, and Baby corn Robata with Parmesan and smoked paprika.  As luck would have it, Phuc Yea!, one of Miami’s first pop-up restaurants, will be blasted from the past to make its return at LUCKYRICE. We hope it sticks around for a bit longer!

Renier the Good: Genuine Handyman, Genuine Philanthropist, Genuine Guy

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TGIF, it’s Renier’s special day!

My day began yesterday around 9:30 a.m., which translates to about 2 o’clock p.m. for Mr. Renier Bautista. On an average day he’s up, in the Design District taking care of business around 4 a.m. See, he can’t work when we’re all at the restaurants, because they are being readied for service at that point, and then in service for the majority of the day and night. He is a little mystical, fixing everything when no one is looking. So when Jackie suggested we do a blog post about him I thought why not?  He keeps all the gears well oiled around here, and I’m sure he’s got a thing or two up his sleeve. I had no idea.

We agreed to meet in Renier’s new workshop, built out of the back room at Harry’s Pizzeria this spring, and a place he’d be comfortable. There, sitting on chairs formerly of The Cypress Room, in the company of a sawdust-covered work bench, drills, ladders, saws and the rest of The Genuine Hospitality Group storage, Renier told me his story.

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