High Life in Miami

“More is More”, by Christie van der Haak, an hommage to Dutch design presented on the façade and in the lobby of the Wolfsonian, a 1927 Mediterranean Revival building in Miami Beach

Little did I know two years ago, when I met the extravagant Mitchell Wolfson Jr, (Micky to his friends) in Paris,  that I would end up being so impressed by his museum, the Wolfsonian, in Miami Beach. I was there last week to visit the current show, « Modern Dutch design » curated by Silvia Barisione and could not leave the place, so fascinated was I by every single object and book.

Teacart, 1906 by Ernesto Basile for the Ducrot company in Palermo, polychrome beach and brass

The Wolfsonian has « a mustidisciplinary approach looking at objects as both agents and expressions of change ». Mostly a design museum in that it holds many pieces of furniture, posters and pieces of decorative arts, the 7 floor high building is especially fascinating because every single object, photograph or painting is shown there for a purpose.

Extraordinary Micky Wolfson by Dorothy House, cast aluminum

Micky Wolfson, who also founded the « The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda arts », has devoted his 180 000 objects collection to the 1850-1950 period in Italy, Holland, Germany, Great Britain, Japan and the US. It is now part of Florida University. Every piece he finds at antique dealers or at the flea market, are then researched and documented in depth by the museum curators and exhibited with all the background items, including many books. His mix of a fabulous eye for discovering curios and huge culture has made miracles.

Gas range, Magic Chef c.1935, American stove company

And that is what fascinated me, the brilliant background research around each piece. I was lucky to be toured around the Modern Dutch design show by Silvia Barisione a  curator from Italy, who used to work at the Wolfsoniana, in Genoa, another museum founded in 2005 by Micky Wolfson.

Advertising display J.W. Smitt’s Tea and Coffee, Etalage Palace possibly for the 1893 Chicago World’s fair, inspired by the Mughal architecture introduced in the Dutch East Indies

She aknowledged the fun of finding objects as late as last summer in Amsterdam to complete the show which has unveiled many rare pieces that Dutch museums wish they could own. Such as a colonial desk with stool in Javanese teak from the 1930’s or the extraordinary portfolio stand by Theo Neuhuys in mahogany. Calendars dating back to 1899 by Carel Adolph Lion Cachet are good testimony of « popular art » as are the advertisements for Delftsche Slaolie (Delft salad oil) which are beautifully designs.

Silvia Barisione in front of the portfolio mahogany stand by Theo Neuhuys,1905

Each chair, lamp, clock , suspension is tracked back to the building it was designed for, the liner it stood on, the conference room it decorated.  The furniture for the living room by Michel de Klerk with its mahogany feet that look like clogs…Batik lamps, but also mailboxes, and wrapping boxes from Metz & Co are all fabulous examples of beginning of the 20 th centuriy’s designs.

Armchair fro the waiting room of Crane-Bennett by Edwin Lutyens, 1931

The 1928 Amsterdam Olympiade   is present through vases and ashtrays. A table lamp in the shape of a cigar comes from the Hajenius cigar shop. A brass and bronze gate from the Aniem building in Utrecht tells a complete story. As does the project for low income housings in Amsterdam in 1917 by Michel de Klerk.

A Russian plate celebrating modernisation in the fields

In mixing daily life utensils and exceptional furniture, the exhbition becomes lively and fascinating. The cover of the catalog is made of a record cover by Chris Lebeau in 1928 with exceptional design.

The catalog uses a record cover from 1928

And the inside covers show projects for  the decoration of airplanes. The world of Dutch trade and expansion in the East is wonderfully represented here through objects and furniture. I wish the show was coming to Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris … The place is filled with whimsical art pieces and one leaves the museum on Washington avenue with a big smile. (until June 11, 2017)

My visit went on to the Margulies collection in Wynwood where the Kiefer and Kounellis pieces are outstanding and to the Perez museum with a large kinetic Le Parc show. The restaurant is a delightful place to have lunch at. And after visiting the Emilio Sanchez’ show at Lowe Art Museum at Miami university, I jumped  into the pool of the Biltmore hotel, the largest one in the United States…with a 1929 flair…

The swimming pool a the Biltmore, the best way to spend Sunday

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6 Comments on “High Life in Miami”

  1. Patrick Lavoix

    Bonjour Laure, vous avez marché sur mes traces car il y a deux ans je suis allé à Miami où j’ai dormi au Biltmore que j’adore puis je suis allé à Miami Beach où j’ai visité la sublime exposition au Wolfsonian Institute sur les années 30 italiennes (pour ne pas prononcer le mot facisme!) Endroit absolument exceptionnel et totalement méconnu de l’Europe qui se croit le nombril du monde. Si j’avais su que vous alliez en Floride, je vous aurais conseillé de prendre le temps de faire un petit saut ( en avion) jusqu’à St. Petersburg à côté de Tampa mais toujours en Floride, qui en dehors d’être un endroit délicieux, possède un extravagant musée Salvador Dali.
    Bises de Marrakech où en ce 28 février il fait 28°… de même que
    l’eau de la piscine du Es Saadi!

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