What I Buy and Why: Miami’s Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs on Their Artist-Featured Dinner Parties and Their Wall of Dog Paintings
The collector couple hosts an annual art dinner during Miami Art Week, letting a local artist transform their home.
Art is at the heart of the relationship for Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs. The couple got married 15 years ago on their shared birthday, March 13, and celebrate their anniversary each year by buying a new work for their collection.
There is also their business, Thomas Fuchs Creative, which works with skilled artisans to help bring their high-end handmade design objects to a broader audience. Fuchs, a graduate of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design in Washington, D.C., is the creative director, and Mahtani, the former global brand director of Rémy Martin, is the director of public relations.
But where their passion for art really shines is during Miami Art Week, when they host their annual Tavolo Dinner Series, inviting a local artist they love to completely make over their apartment to create an immersive art installation.
Mahtani had experience hosting events with artists at Rémy Martin—albeit with the power of a major company behind him—and started the series as a way of connecting to the local art scene after the couple moved to Miami five years ago.
Past artists have included Tom Criswell, Tony Vazquez-Figueroa, and Aidan Marak. For a dinner with Frida Baranek, who had recently done a photography project on a zero-gravity flight, Mahtani even created a fanciful tablescape with melamine plates floating atop waves of industrial chicken wire.
We spoke to Mahtani about what attracts them to a work of art, and how they live with each work in their collection.
What was your first purchase?
Our first joint purchase was made in Paris fifteen years ago. We were in a taxi speeding to the airport when we were stuck in traffic and looked to our right and saw a HUGE cow staring at us from a gallery window. We stopped the taxi immediately and rushed into the gallery and bought the cow by the artist Wang Zhiwu!!! I felt like we literally were in a scene out of a movie. We both got to the airplane gate and we could not believe what we had just done.
What was your most recent purchase?
In 2020, for our birthdays, we purchased a collage of a robot entitled Madness Will Out by Addie Herder. We were in lockdown and Thomas was surfing the web and fell in love with her collage. Flash forward to 2023, and the artist is having a solo show at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Art Museum at Florida International University in Miami. Thomas sits on the board of the museum, and she will be the featured artist for our Tavolo Dinner Series in December.
Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year?
More Lalanne. We are huge fans of the couple François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne and own a piece gifted to me by my parents. On a trip to France, my mother was so taken by the birds that my father bought her one. That bird ended up being a Lalanne sculpture, which has now taken flight and landed ever so gently up on a perch in our bar area.
Black Mirror V by Tony Vazquez-Figueroa sits above our bed, however the one I pine after is his large canvas works. They are a play on the petrol from Venezuela that is in abundance, but ironically the locals can’t benefit from their own country’s rich resources.
What is the most expensive work of art that you own?
Bernard Buffet. Both Thomas and I are huge fans of Buffet, who we discovered on one of our many sojourns to Paris. He had a rich personal history having been the ex-boyfriend of both Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. We recognized the allure both designers saw in a young Bernard Buffet—apart from his matinee idol features. We acquired the piece we have from his “Bug” series at a gallery in Paris which now frames our dining room. Thomas was even inspired by the piece to create our bug table linen collection.
But for us, it’s more the journey to discovery and how we acquire the piece that holds the value for us. We have a wall of dog paintings that range from exquisite valuable pieces to flea market finds that continually bring a smile to our face every time we walk by them.
Where do you buy art most frequently?
We absolutely love living in Miami. With Art Basel Miami we are surrounded by local and international art and artists, but the truth is we acquire most of our artwork when we travel. In all the countries we travel to for manufacturing our collections—India, Italy, Egypt, France—our passion for discovery and finding new artists, new galleries, and new ideas is what feeds our souls. More times than not, it ends up in us bringing home a piece of art.
Is there a work you regret purchasing?
No. All our artwork, whether sculpture or painting, is so highly personal to us. The art is not just an investment, but also an emotional transaction. Everything we’ve bought has meaning for Thomas and I both, so we’ve yet to regret or resell anything we have purchased.
What work do you have hanging above your sofa?
Our living room is a mix. There’s a sculpture from artist Sharon Berebichez, a set of floral paintings by our friend and renowned teacher and artist Mary Beth Mckenzie, and the large-scale showstopper of a piece was gifted to Thomas over twenty years ago. We only know it was done by a Brazilian artist. Surrounded by windows, the reflection of light at different times of day illuminates the depth and dimension of the painting. It’s a fan favorite of all our guests.
What about in your bathroom?
We have a modern photograph by the photographer Mary Beth Koeth of the legendary WNBA player and Olympian, Lisa Leslie. This photograph was initially for an ESPN “Legends of Basketball” exhibition, and they wanted a yellow background to make it bright. Mary Beth gifted this to us a few years ago and we love it in the bathroom hanging next to our collection of Rosenthal plates by Danish artist Bjørn Wiinblad.
What is the most impractical work of art you own?
Where do I start? A huge 180-pound life-size Han Dynasty ceramic dog sits on a pedestal in our dining room overlooking our table. While on a manufacturing trip in Hong Kong, Thomas toured the infamous Hollywood Road antique neighborhood, and came across this dog that he fell in love with. Being dog lovers, we resonate with any artwork featuring dogs. After our wall of dog portraits, this was a natural progression for us to acquire the dog sculpture. It’s impractical because of its size and weight—it’s almost like having a Great Dane living in our dining room!
What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?
Katherine Bernhardt. I am such a big fan of her style. I remember seeing a huge Pink Panther I liked for under $10,000 a few years ago, now her work sells for upwards of $150,000. My love for the Pink Panther can be traced back to my childhood. My mother actually painted my bathroom grey and pink and made a Pink Panther-themed bathroom. So naturally, I live in daily regret for not buying it when we had the chance.
If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?
Would we really steal? If no one was looking…maybe! First on the list would be a piece by Morris Louis, inventor of the Color Field movement. We love Morris Louis’s work because it is classic but yet so modern. What could look to the naked eye as simple has a depth and a current that moves one’s soul. Is that too deep and poetic?
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