In a time when major art events like Art Basel Miami are overwhelmed by commercial brand sponsorships, high-paid celebrity appearances and overall media hoopla, it’s still possible to remain committed to the arts—you just have to know where to look.
For Thomas Fuchs and husband, Michou Mahtani, of high-end interior product design firm Thomas Fuchs Creative, bringing the focus back to art during Art Basel was their main goal, and they’ve accomplished this by creating the Tavolo Art Dinner Series, a one-of-a-kind, exclusive evening that highlights a featured artist aimed at connecting the community and bringing about civic awareness. The design power duo’s collaborative dinner series involves showcasing groundbreaking artists in all mediums to display their talents in the intimate setting of a home dining experience at Fuchs’ and Mahtani’s home in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood.
The idea is Mahtani’s brainchild, which he conceptualized as a brand ambassador for Rémy Martin’s Louis XIII cognac. He would host uber-exclusive, high-roller $500,000 dinners alongside globally celebrated artists like Louise Bourgeois, Dror Benshetrit and Matthew Rolston, among others. Mahtani has taken this same concept and applied it to his and his husband’s eponymous company in an effort to bring the focus back on artists who deserve a true platform among like-minded individuals. This way, artists are provided a unique platform outside of a traditional gallery model.
“Art Basel is way too competitive for people’s schedules and big brand buyouts and people are spread far and wide, traffic suspends people in the air and the conversation is off the art and the evening and more about logistics,” Mahtani tells Robb Report. “We always pick late October or November as we know the key local heavy hitters are in town. We like to be by the locals, for the locals and when we know museum directors are able to hold the night way in advance for us.”
This true artistic movement works like this: Fuchs and Mahtani clear their (ultra-chic) home of furniture, decor and art so their highlighted artist of the moment has a blank canvas to create a setting for intimate dinners. They host 18-20 people ranging from gallerists, collectors, potential collectors, media and socialites at a 12-foot-long vintage table, handmade by Fuchs.
“We empty out our apartment—luckily our neighbor above allows us to move all furniture upstairs—and repaint or wallpaper our living and dining room,” Mahtni tells Robb Report. For example, at a past dinner, they have wallpapered their living room with a custom piece from Frost Museum’s “Art After Stonewall” exhibit showcasing images from the show that featured 150 works from artists like Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Tim Miller, Nan Goldin, Holly Hughes and more. Past featured artists include Tom Criswell, sculptor Frida Baranek, Aidan Marak and mixed-media artist Tony Vazquez. Mahtani invited artists from the LNS Gallery, like Vazquez, to further tell stories about the local and evolving Miami culture through these dinners.
“This way it has the feel of the old school dinners we hosted in New York where people of different avenues of life all come together and the people who are invited want to be there,” Mahtani says. “It’s an underground movement and Miami’s best-kept secret.”
For this year’s dinner on November 12, the theme is Madame Reve – On Cloud 9 and will highlight featured artist Capucine Safir, a Parisian multi-disciplinary artist known for her ethereal cloud constellations who Mahtani was introduced to via art curator Gabrielle Hatchuel Becker. Her floating sculptures are inspired by watching clouds in Brittany, France as a child and are crafted from repurposed ping pong balls that would otherwise be discarded to create shiftable, malleable pieces. It’s also a commentary on climate change, and guests will dine under the clouds. In addition to Safir’s 3D installation, Fuchs, known for creating hand-blown Murano glass chandeliers ranging from $20,000 to $100,000, will unveil a new chandelier creation alongside Safir’s work.
“This is the first time we have had a 3D installation,” Mahtani says. “We had the apartment rewired to be able to have her hanging floating clouds light up. Thomas mimicked her cloud-like structures with his Bollincine Chandelier ($28,000) made to match her clouds. He used colors that evoke good weather and bad weather using black, amber, mauve and opaline and leaving the drinkware all white—to signify hope—with a process he invented called “feathering” where a feather is used to create cloud-like floating movement in the drinkware. I covered the table with live moss, and Capucine created cloud-like dinner plate chargers that raised the plates.”
This year’s dinner, in keeping with the theme of the earth and sky, is in partnership with Whispering Angel rosé and dinner is home-cooked by Fuchs, whose pieces, including the chandelier and glassware, are available for purchase. Fuchs and Mahtani’s line includes tabletop, barware and lighting and are thoughtfully created with refined shapes and Fuchs’ hand-blown Murano glass expertise.