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Posts Tagged ‘I’m hoping to get…’

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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Seven Questions for Stefan Bucher

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Besides being one of the nicest designers on the block, Stefan Bucher has suddenly become one of the most popular. While minding his own business at his firm, 344 Design, Bucher embarked on an experiment called Daily Monster, which not only celebrates its one-year anniversary today, come February, it will also be a book. This month he’s also putting the final touches on the products for the Echo Park Time Travel Mart, the latest 826 retail establishment, which will open December 15. Luckily, he had a few minutes between monsters and time travel to answer our questions…

1. What’s the first thing(s) you read in the morning?

I usually go to bed around 3 or 4AM, so technically the first thing I read every morning is the New York Times e-mail digest that tends to roll in around 1AM. I follow that by catching up on Russell Davies and Last Night on ER. Once I actually manage to crawl into bed, I usually read a New Yorker article or two before I turn off the light.

Once I wake up again, I actually really look forward to going through my stack of e-mails, because there is always something new and fun and exciting in there.

2. Last movie you saw?

The last movie I saw was Elizabeth: The Golden Years. I was in Seattle to give a talk the next day, but I had the night off. The night before out-of-town talks is as close as I come to complete relaxation. The files are done, I’m away from the office, nobody expects me to do anything other than show up the next morning. It’s how I used to feel during summer vacation in high school. As beautiful as Seattle is, I just had such a longing to go see a movie, something sprawling and epic that would be so much better on the big screen. So I walked from my hotel to the theater, got myself a hotdog, a pretzel, and some M&Ms and let it all wash over me. It’s a fun movie, too—both gorgeous to look at and satisfyingly soapy. That was one of the nicest nights I’ve had in a while. Thank you, Shekhar Kapur.

3. Best/most memorable design/designer-related encounter?

Earlier this year I had the great honor of designing the catalog for David Hockney‘s new show of paintings “The East Yorkshire Landscape.” In the process I got to present the design to Mr. Hockney at his Los Angeles home. I’ve been a huge fan of his work for years, as well as of his writing. I was trying to figure out how to steer the conversation towards his book Secret Knowledge about the use of optics in Renaissance painting without coming off as a Trekkie (which I also kind of am, but that’s beside the point.) As it turned out, I didn’t have to do anything. Within minutes he started telling me about his latest findings.

It’s rare that you get to meet one of your heroes and have them exceed your expectations. It’s even better when you get to meet them not as a fan, but as part of your work.

Along those same lines, I visited Stefan Sagmeister‘s studio in the spring of 1999 and he was such a kind and gracious host. He must’ve spent an hour talking with me, when I had nothing more to offer than wide-eyed enthusiasm. His kindness has always stuck with me. On that visit I also met his then apprentice Hjalti Karlsson, which led to a long friendship with both Jan Wilker and Hjalti, which led to my first book [All Access: The Making of Thirty Extraordinary Graphic Designers] which led to… everything else.

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