The opening night of Art Basel Miami Beach is traditionally a time to pull out all the stops, with extravagant dinners planned to catch those collectors who only drop by for the VIP preview. Accordingly, Vanity Fair and Cadillac joined forces with a dinner for the Wynwood Walls open-air street art museum; Louis Vuitton feted a full-scale replication of late designer Charlotte Perriand’s La Maison Au Bord De L’Eau; Swarowski threw their annual affair; and W editor Stefano Tonchi and entrepreneur (and Vionnet owner) Goga Ashkenazi helped celebrate the new Perez Art Museum Miami. Meanwhile Kanye West was, well, being Kanye, with a much-publicized conversation between the entertainer and art world staples Marina Abramovic and Hans Ulrich Obrist, co-hosted by Surface Magazine.
Further up the beach, however, director Baz Luhrmann and his costume and production designer wife, Catherine Martin, brought a dose of Hollywood at what felt like an escape from Miami altogether. The two were guests of honor at an elegant Argentinian spread, hosted by hotelier and developer Alan Faena and mogul Len Blavatnik, partners in an ambitious plan to convert several blocks of Miami Beach into the Faena District. Stretching from the beach to Indian Creek, from 32nd Street to 37th Street, the massive development project will boast some of the most impressive architecture to hit the beach: an 18-story residence, Faena House, designed by Foster+Parters; Faena Gardens, designed by Raymond Jungles; the Faena Arts Center, Bazaar, park and marina, all designed by Rem Koolhaas and OMA. To top it all off, Luhrmann and Martin, as was announced yesterday, will design the project's Faena Saxony Hotel, from interiors down to uniforms and music. The two will tap into the hotel’s glamour-soaked history as one of the first luxury hotels in America, playground to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Marilyn Monroe. Among the 150 guests at the sit-down dinner were Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby star Leonardo DiCaprio, Harvey Weinstein, art dealer Larry Gagosian, curator Jeffrey Deitch and photographer Bruce Weber.
Luhrmann was first approached by Blavatnik in Cannes earlier this year, just moments before the director was due on the red carpet, for the premiere of Gatsby. “Len said to me, 'I've got this very small, independent, low-budget project.' I heard the words ‘small,’ ‘indepdendent’ and ‘low-budget,’ and thought, 'Well, that has our name written all over it.'” The next step was to meet Faena and “his secret weapon” -- Faena’s wife, muse and creative powerhouse, Ximena Caminos -- in Buenos Aires, where the developer has transformed the warehouse district of Puerto Madero in one of the city’s chicest addresses. Luhrmann recalls, “We fell in love with them, their romance, their big dreaming and the world they had created." Martin agrees: “It's incredible to be working on a project that is really about trying to realize something beyond the ordinary, which is something Baz and I always work with in the imaginary world of the cinema. It's incredible to be collaborating with people who work with it in reality.” In a short promo video Luhrmann created for the project, he tells Faena, “You do in reality what we try to do in theater. That’s why we connect. Miami is like a movie, only it’s real.”
The dinner certainly felt cinematic, as if plunging guests into one of Luhrmann and Martin’s productions. On an outdoor terrace, long tables stretched out under the gently fluttering canopy of an installation by Argentine artist Manuel Ameztoy. (“He was one of the first artists we showed in the Faena Art Center in Buenos Aires,” Caminos explained later.) Faena wines complemented courses by star chef Francis Mallmann, with the dinner periodically paused for tango dancers and toasts. Blavatnik finished his own speech with a reminder to diners that all this could be their daily routine, should they choose to buy an apartment at Faena House. “It’s only a fraction of the price of the art sold by our good friend Larry Gagosian.” It was a fleeting reminder that we were still in Art Basel Miami Beach.