Vicente Muñoz and Audrey Rose Smith. Photo: Emiliano Granado.

A decade ago, Audrey Rose Smith and Vicente Muñoz met in a scene straight out of a New York fairytale. “Vicente and I met at an opening Ellie [Rines] had for Dylan Bailey at her 55 Gansevoort gallery,” recalled Smith, who is now a director at Mendes Wood DM. “It was January and freezing and we all stood on the sidewalk sipping whiskey from paper cups. Somehow, Vicente and I got to talking. It snowed something like 18 inches that night and I just remember tromping down 6th Avenue trying to hail a cab home, which never happened. The rest is history, as they say.” 

The Routa lamp by Vicente Muñoz. Courtesy of Estudio Piedras.

The couple soon moved into a Clinton Hill apartment together (where they still reside) and married in 2015. “We got married at City Hall like all good New Yorkers do, and with not too much notice,” added Muñoz, who is an architectural photographer, designer for Estudio Piedras, and a well-known “tennis fanatic.” Today, their apartment has “a lot more books” and is a beloved refuge where these two art world mainstays have hosted dinner parties, spent long days reading, and conjured up their publishing collaboration—Balcony, an independent print journal that chronicles the lives of artists, which the two started in the spring of 2020. 

“It had been something burning in my mind for quite some time,” said Smith of the magazine, “I dreamed of creating a print journal that felt more like the film My Dinner with Andre than a heroic artist profile. We created Balcony in collaboration with two incredible designers, Ben Fehrman-Lee and Julia Novitch.” The publication has released three issues to date and is known for its frank and intimate approach to artists. Its pages have included such gems as rarely seen photographs with Isamu Noguchi, a “cigarette-laden” interview with Dennis Cooper, a short story by German sculptor Katinka Bock.

“We’ve had so many proud moments, I think because we had very few expectations going in,said Smith. Muñoz does have one high point in the magazine. “When we published issue one, Graydon Carter wrote us an email about Balcony after having read it. He told us he loved it, but that we should charge more for advertising. He wasn’t wrong. We laugh about that email to this day as it’s just very funny and very him.” Both treasure the world of print publishing, saying that “the support and enthusiasm people share for one another’s projects is genuine.” 

After a whirlwind year of travel for the couple, Smith and Muñoz plan to stay in Brooklyn for Christmas and New Year’s and make merry with their favorite local routines—a trip to the Met, a meal at the Odeon, and—unsurprisingly—lots and lots of reading. Below, the couple takes us through their year-end wish list.

On How to Keep the Holidays Close to Home

“We usually are traveling for the holidays so this year is unusual in that we have absolutely no plans—for us, it will be a New York Christmas and New Year’s… the first in quite some time!” said Smith. “We’re happy to have the city to ourselves.” The couple will have a guest, too; Smith’s mother will be staying in the city for a few weeks. “That’s a treat because I can go do all the girlie things with her like look at the windows at Bergdorf’s.”

Last year the couple spent Christmas in Ecuador (where Muñoz is from). “Every other year we spend December in the Southern Hemisphere. I have family in Argentina and Ecuador,” he explained. “Being south is also a great occasion for playing some red clay court tennis, which is a special treat. I’ll miss that this December and January, but in February I’m heading to Argentina for some tennis work and I’ll get my fill then.” 

Courtesy of Balcony Publishing Inc.

On Christmases of Yore, From New England to Ecuador 

Smith said the perfect Christmas takes her back to her childhood. “Being from New England, I’m a bit of a Christmas traditionalist,” she admitted. “I do like a tree, to cook something festive, et cetera. Heck, I even like church this time of year.” Smith fondly recalled the decorations and garlands her mother adorned their stately Tudor home with—and one in particular holds her memory. “We had a great stuffed pheasant she pulled off the side of the road—it had been hit by a car. She had it stuffed and that was our table centerpiece every Christmas. Pretty exceptional!” she said. 

For Muñoz, his holiday memories are of sun, surf, and, of course, tennis. “Growing up in Ecuador, Christmas and New Year’s for me meant summer solstice,” he said, “but I have learned to embrace the cold. A few years ago we spent Christmas in Marfa, Texas, with Audrey’s mother and got to experience frozen fog, which is pretty spectacular.”

On Their New York Itinerary

While they’re focusing on downtime, Smith confessed she’s eager to see a few museum shows. “I am definitely planning my art route. I think I will revisit a few I saw but could see again, like Barkley Hendricks at the Frick. Grace Wales Bonner also curated a small but powerful exhibition titled ‘Spirit Movers’ at MoMA. I am also looking forward to seeing the Korean art in the ’60s/’70s show at the Guggenheim before it closes,” she said. “I’ll also go see ‘Manet/Degas’ at the Met for a second, maybe a third time, and do the uptown museum disco. Then, I’ll probably treat myself to my favorite hot dog in town at Schaller’s Stube.”

As for restaurants, Smith said the Odeon is a favorite at Christmas time. “In my mind, paying a visit to Café Sabarsky would feel special, if we can defeat the crowds,” added Muńoz, though he’s also looking forward to exploring neighborhood spots in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. “A new restaurant opened up, Sailor, which seems impossible to get a table at, so maybe we will try on an off hour to go there,” he said. 

What’s on Their Reading and Watching Wishlist

Muñoz will be relishing the chance to dive into some books during the holiday week. “I’ve been accumulating and collecting some incredible photo books and historic titles in recent months that I want to finally spend some time with,” he noted. Smith has her winter reading list lined up, too: “I just bought three books by Byung-Chul Han, so I’m preparing myself for a deeply depressing next few months. I’m also going to reread Speak, Memory because it’s one of my favorite books by one of my favorite writers, Vladimir Nabokov.” 

This year, television isn’t off limits—at least when New Jersey gabbagool feasts abound. “The Sopranos. We’re in season four and completely and utterly addicted. We’re not TV show people and we’ve missed nearly every eventful series in the last 20-plus years. But this one has got us good,” said Muñoz. As for the silver screen, Smith wondered, “Maybe we’ll go see Napoleon?”

On the Traditions They Keep 

For the perfect holiday meal, Smith sticks to the holy trinity: cheese, wine, and oysters. “We love shucking oysters, it’s a fun activity, just wear gloves!” she joked. A Christmas tree is also a must. “Having grown up cutting down our tree every year, it always feels a little sacrilegious to buy one off the street in New York,” Smith confided. 

Muñoz keeps in mind cultural traditions and superstitions from his childhood. “From eating 12 grapes at midnight (for good luck) to counting the cash in your wallet (for abundance) to walking around the block with your empty suitcases (for good travel auspices)—it is nice to remember and try to relive some of those traditions that the older generations had.”

Paulo Nimer Pjota, Mito e chuva (2023). Courtesy of the artist and Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo, Brussels, Paris, New York

On Hosting Tips and Tricks

“Vicente is a better cook than me so he’s usually leading the meal decisions and cooking,” Smith noted of their hosting responsibilities. “I do make a very pretty cheeseboard, however. I also make a very nice tiramisu which always seems to impress people, even though it’s very easy. I recommend this recipe, though a client’s husband just shared his family recipe with me and I might need to try that!” 

When it comes to hosting, Muñoz said it’s not the time for experimentation. “I stick to proven recipes that I know I could make blindfolded. It just puts everyone at ease. I also enjoy making cocktails and can make a mean negroni—I studied bartending when I was in college and can make pretty much anything, along with a few bar tricks,” he added. 

On Holidays Keepsakes, Soundtracks, and Wardrobes.  

When it comes to Christmas music, the couple said they’ve gone overboard on occasion. “One year we went hard on an Andy Williams’ Christmas Album on vinyl—we’ll never do that again,” said Muńoz. “Arthur Russell always feels right in the winter, we’ll usually play something like that.” Smith meanwhile called to mind her childhood treasures. “I’m very nostalgic for my Jan Brett children’s books, to be totally honest, but they are all packed away. Trouble with Trolls was my favorite—I always thought Treva had the perfect life, she lived alone in the forest with just her pony and her dog Tuffi,” she recalled. 

As for what they’ll be wearing, Smith brightened: “This time of year I love pulling out my Toteme shearling hat. I feel like Julie Christie in Doctor Zhivago—it’s very dramatic!” Muñoz, meanwhile, will be wearing his newly self-gifted Falke sock collection. 

What’s on Their Gift Wishlists 

Muñoz enthused over sports biometric tools and gadgets. “They help quantify the new year’s resolutions into tangible data. If I get one more sports gadget in the house Audrey might lose it, but let’s see,” he said.

“I told Vicente I wanted a pony for Christmas, but that’s probably not happening. In all seriousness, I’m not really in the gift-getting mood. My closet (and heart) is full at the moment. I’m just happy to be with family and friends and enjoy that time together,” Smith remarked. 

 New Year’s Resolutions and 2024 

For this couple, the New Year is a chance to look back and celebrate rather than shifting gears entirely. “I think it’s better to just keep moving forward, step by step, and try not to make the same mistakes over again,” said Smith. “That being said, I’d like 2024 to be the year I finally get my Italian citizenship. I’ve got to work on fine-tuning several languages this year…Spanish for love, Portuguese for work, and Italian for the E.U. passport. I’ve got a lot of studying to do!” Muñoz also has some new ambitions; “I would personally like to continue getting involved with bigger brands in regards to tennis and culture projects and to have my Estudio Piedras products travel abroad through shows.” 

Smith’s excitement for the New Year focuses on art and travel mainly. Mendes Wood DM will open a show of São Paulo-based artist Paulo Nimer Pjota that she’s particularly excited about. “Paulo synthesizes contemporary objects, signs, and symbols with baroque and historical ones, offering a unique lyricism that, I think, investigates our material affections and socio-visual hierarchies.” As for travel, she’s looking forward to experiencing more of Asia. “I am excited to be in China and Hong Kong in March for Art Basel. I was in Korea and Japan this past fall and I have high hopes for my next travels,” she said. 

Muñoz, meanwhile, is looking forward to showcasing some of his own creations—and making new ones. “I’ll be in a group exhibition with Estudio Piedras opening at the beginning of 2024 with Studio S II in a townhouse they are redesigning here,” he said. In terms of his own work, he noted, “I am seeing moving image and video as a new frontier. I have always been on the fence about it and it’s time to get my feet wet with things like that and develop some new skills in that space.” He’s also looking forward to seeing artist Kristi Cavataro’s first museum show at the Aldrich in the new year. “We have a piece by her in our collection and it’s nice to see her have her first U.S. museum show,” he said.

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