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Posts Tagged ‘Cathy Leff’

Seven Questions for Cathy Leff

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As the UnBeige snowbirds migrate south into the Miami cacophony of art and design this week, we’ll be looking to local museum The Wolfsonian – Florida International University to be our home away from home. This oasis of design in the heart of South Beach has become a formidable institution and research center on the international stage, mostly due to the tireless leadership of one Cathy Leff, who has served as the museum’s director since 1998. Leff stepped away from her 18-hour workdays dusting off the collection in anticipation of Art Basel and wrapping chocolate bars on behalf of Stefan Sagmeister to answer our questions:

1. What’s the first thing(s) you read in the morning?
Email, then New York Times–for the national/ global view–and Miami Herald for the local picture.

2. Last book you read?
What Orwell Didn’t Know: Propaganda and the New Face of American Politics.

3. Best/most memorable design/designer-related encounter?
Hosting Zaha Hadid as a guest speaker for The Wolfsonian-Florida International University and accompanying her with then-NY Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp to see the space where she would deliver her lecture. I had tried very hard to locate a venue that would excite Zaha as opposed to the typical anonymous auditorium. I was so excited when the Fontainebleau Hotel agreed to let us use the Bam-Bam Room, one of the only rooms–well, cabaret theater–that was still in its original Morris Lapidus-designed condition (though a bit run down). When Zaha saw the red and blue lights and this over-the top cabaret theater, I think Zaha freaked out, saying she could not give a lecture in that space, but Herbert came to the rescue and calmed her down when he reminded her that she invented bling and this was the perfect venue in which to deliver a lecture.

4. How would you describe Miami’s design scene?
HOT and getting hotter–from high to low–and there’s certainly a growing audience that both appreciates and consumes design. I think there has been a lot going on in Miami for many years–it’s all been cumulative–from the work of Judith Arango and the Kassamalis, to the schools of architecture–to what we, The Wolfsonian, aim to do: promote the study and appreciate of how design affects human behavior.

5. Why is this Art Basel Miami/Design Miami thing such a big deal?
Because it brings together during a few-day period a critical mass–approximately 100,000–of international designers, institutions (museums), design manufacturers, press, luxury brand promoters, cultural consumers, dealers, and artists. And that encounter is quite spectacular.

6. This holiday season, I’m giving…
…my friends and family a break from the silly gifts, and I will make a donation in their honor to the Sundari Foundation, which provides shelter to homeless women in Miami, some of whom have infants.

7. This holiday season, I’m hoping to get…
…a holiday. I am heading off with friends for two weeks in Japan (Tokyo and Kyoto) and southeast China, ending it all with five days in Beijing.

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The U.S.’s First-Ever Design Criticism MFA Program Is Official

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We heard that SVA would be starting a design criticism program about six months ago and now we’ve got the official word: “The Master of Fine Arts in Design Criticism will prepare graduates for careers as design critics, journalists, curators, educators and design managers, by providing the intellectual tools for researching, analyzing, evaluating and chronicling all aspects of design.”

The program will be launched in Fall of 2008 and will be chaired by UnBeige fave Alice Twemlow, with a pretty exciting thesis plan: An annual public conference dedicated to design criticism (could it be the first ever, too?), to be inaugurated in the spring of 2009.

And would you look at this faculty? Kurt Andersen, Paola Antonelli, Michael Bierut, Ralph Caplan, Peter Hall, Jessica Helfand, Steven Heller, Karrie Jacobs, Julie Lasky, Cathy Leff, and Phil Patton. We’d say those MFA candidates are definitely getting the best in the business.

T+L Awards the Best Design Near and Far

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This year, using an initial in your company name was the key to victory for Travel+Leisure’s Design Awards (in alphabetical order):

Best Large Hotel: G Hotel, Galway, Ireland
Best Resort: W Maldives
Best Travel Gear: Y‘s Mandarina

Other than those letter-perfect winners, Alessi’s new flagship store took top retail honors, and the widely-praised Serpentine Solar Shuttle in London was named best transportation. Ian Schrager is the mag’s first-ever Design Champion.

The illustrious jury featured Sheila Bridges, Rob Forbes, Cathy Leff, Craig Robins, Kate Spade, Robert A.M. Stern, consulting editor Chee Pearlman, and, of course, Yves “We fantasize about you when we use our Slingbox” Behar.

What Art Basel Miami Beach Sounds Like

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Tons of content is still pouring out of Miami, and some of the audio persuasion can be found on WPS1, the official art radio station of Art Basel Miami Beach. Most of the coverage is quite arty in nature, but there were are few that caught our ears:

“Art Sound Lounge: Music by, for, and about Plants, Insects, and Birds” by David Weinstein, a kind of sound installation for the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens.

“Beyond Burning Man: Arne Quinze” aka the “Belgian Waffle” of Black Rock Desert debauchery.

“SVA Hour: Art and Design with Steven Heller” features co-chair of the SVA Designer As Author program, Lita Talarico, artist Deborah Buck, the Wolfsonian Museum’s Cathy Leff and Le Sagmeister. Worth it just to hear Sagmeister’s accent. Downright dreamy.