Dinner

What I Buy and Why: Miami’s Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs on Their Artist-Featured Dinner Parties and Their Wall of Dog Paintings


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.

Capucine Safir, for Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs Creative's Tavolo Art Dinner Series. Photo by Nestor Sandoval.

Capucine Safir, for Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs Creative’s Tavolo Art Dinner Series. Photo by Nestor Sandoval.

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.

Tony Vazquez, <em> Black Mirror V</em> in the bedroom of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs. Photo by Josue Acosta.

Tony Vazquez, Black Mirror V, in the bedroom of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs. Photo by Josue Acosta.

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 in Miami. Thomas sits on the board of the museum, and she will be the featured artist for our Tavolo Dinner Series in December.

Addie Herder, <em>Madness Will Out</em>. Photo by Mateo Serna Zapata.

Addie Herder, Madness Will Out. Photo by Mateo Serna Zapata.

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.

Bernard Buffet, <em>Bugs</em>, in the dining room of Thomas Fuchs and Michou Mahtani. Photo by Josue Acosta.

Bernard Buffet, Bugs, in the dining room of Thomas Fuchs and Michou Mahtani. Photo by Josue Acosta.

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.

Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs's "Dog Wall." Photo by Carlos Urdantea.

Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs’s dog wall. Photo by Carlos Urdantea.

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.

A work by an unknown Brazilian artist in the living room of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs. Photo by Michael Stavaridis.

A work by an unknown Brazilian artist in the living room of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs. Photo by Michael Stavaridis.

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.

A Mary Beth McKenzie painting in the living room of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs. Photo by Michael Stavaridis.

A Mary Beth McKenzie painting in the living room of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs. Photo by Michael Stavaridis.

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.

Mary Beth Koeth, <em>Lisa Leslie</em>. Collection of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs.

Mary Beth Koeth, Lisa Leslie. Collection of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs.

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!

A Han Dynasty dog sculpture in the dining room of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs.

A Han Dynasty dog sculpture in the dining room of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs.

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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The Best Gifts Art-World Insiders Have Ever Received, From a Mapplethorpe Photo to Dinner Plates by Laboratorio Paravicini


Welcome to The 12 Days of Artmas, our new, non-denominational holiday extravaganza—an advent calendar with gift ideas and stories for art lovers of all stripes, dropping daily through December 24.

 

Earlier this weekend, we put together a round-up of the best presents art-world insiders have ever given.

Today, we turn the tables and ask them about the best gifts they’ve ever received.

 

Bernard Lumpkin, collector

Visitors to “Young, Gifted, and Black: The Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art,” which accompanied the publication of a catalogue. Image courtesy Bernard Lumpkin.

The best gift I’ve received is seeing “Young, Gifted, and Black: The Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art,” (which inspired the book) hit the road again after a pandemic hiatus. The exhibition was most recently on view at Gallery 400 on the campus of the University of Illinois in Chicago, where students, faculty, and artists from the community were able to experience the show in person.

When I traveled to Chicago myself, and observed visitors at the show, I had the pleasure of seeing first-hand how art literally makes us stop and think about ourselves, others, and the world around us. The next stop on the tour is Lehigh University Art Gallery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, opening February 1, followed by the Manetti Shrem Museum at the University of California, Davis next summer. So this nationwide traveling exhibition is definitely a gift which will keep on giving!

 

Neil Hamamoto, artist

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The Miyabi Birchwood SG2 6 Piece Magnetic Easel Knife Set given to Neil Hamamoto.

My grandfather gifted me his old set of Japanese chef knives a few years back, and I don’t think any gift will ever top it. It’s a highly personal gift with tons of real-world utility, so it’s the sort of gift that continues to bring me joy and reminds me of my fondest memories with my grandfather every time I cook.

 

Alia Al-Senussi, collector

Robert Mapplethorpe’s photo of Lisa Lyon. Courtesy Alia Al-Senussi.

I was given an incredible photograph of Lisa Lyon taken by Robert Mapplethorpe. How could that not be the best gift ever? This came at a time when I was deeply upset by the 2016 election and all that I saw happening in America, and [the attack on a] world that I thought we were moving towards, a more open, progressive, cosmopolitan humanity. Every day when I look at the magnificent Lisa Lyon it makes me stronger too.

 

Claire Sherman, artist

Claire Sherman table

Claire Sherman’s palette table. Photo courtesy Claire Sherman.

My husband, Jonathon Cancro, is a wonderful artist who works with video in his own practice. He’s also a great problem solver and fabricator. He made this palette table for me 10 years ago when we moved to New York, and it is perfect. There is a place for everything.

 

Natacha Polaert, gallerist

Claude Rutault’s définition/méthode : peinture-suicide n°.

The best gift I ever received was from Claude Rutault, one of the most important French artists of his generation and a pioneer of Conceptualism. He presented it to me at Café de Flore in Paris, circa 2017. The gift was an artwork titled définition/méthode : peinture-suicide n°. It’s a very special and intimate work in the artist’s oeuvre. It came in a form of a handwritten text, what Rutault calls a “protocol.”

peinture-suicide n° is intended to live very near to the collector, known as the “charge-taker,” throughout his or her life. In my case, it is in my bedroom. According to its specifications, it is to follow me to my successive places of residence, even temporary homes during summer vacation. It changes colors as many times as the wall is repainted. Claude refers to it as a “peinture d’accompagnement, intime”—an intimate painting that accompanies.

Remarkably, it includes no provision for bequeathal after my death and no possibility of changing hands through sale. In other words, this is a work that will accompany me to the afterlife. It is a very beautiful and profound gift—unsettling, sure, but incredibly powerful because it carries all from within.

 

Marcello Kwan, auctioneer

Marcello Kwan’s son with the cutout. Photo courtesy Marcello Kwan.

This is the best gift I have ever received. It is a life-size image board of my first son, Jace, when he celebrated his first birthday. My ex-colleagues worked with the designer who made our auction catalogue. They all signed the back with very sweet messages. I still keep it and Jace is now 8.

 

Vicky Chen, gallerist

Tony Oursler draw a New Year spring couplets.

Tony Oursler’s drawing. Image courtesy Vicky Chen.

Tony Oursler drew Chinese New Year spring couplets and gifted them to me when he visited Taipei earlier this year. I framed them so I’ll always remember the good times we had together writing the couplets together.

 

Lawrence Van Hagen, advisor

lawrence van hagan emin

Tracey Emin’s note for Lawrence Van Hagen. Courtesy Lawrence Van Hagen.

I recently received a gift that I really appreciated: a Tracey Emin signed note that my partner got me. A couple of months ago, Tracey had a small exhibition with my friends Laura de Gunzburg and Gabriel Chipperfield at Shreeji Newsagent. Tracey designed some postcards for Shreeji to complement her show. My partner went to grab a coffee in the morning and Tracey was there and he got her to write a note for me and sign one of the postcards. It was a very spontaneous idea he had right on the spot and I definitely wasn’t expecting it. I luckily have a beautiful work by Tracey Emin already, but this one is way more special, as the text she wrote was directed towards us.

 

Dan Palmer, curator

The Instant Pot sent to Dan Palmer by N. Dash.

I’ve been so grateful to all of the artists who have given me artworks and other generous presents over the years, but I think the most unique and thoughtful gift I’ve ever received was an Instant Pot from my friend, brilliant artist, and healthy human N. Dash. It just showed up one day out of the blue and now I use it all the time. It has pretty much revolutionized my life. Plus, the company is also based out of Ottawa. Who knew!

 

Alia Williams, dealer

Laboratorio Paravicini Zodiac dinner plates.

Recently, as a wedding gift, we received these wonderful Laboratorio Paravicini Zodiac dinner plates that I can’t get enough of.

 

Previous stories in this series:

The Best Gifts Art-World Insiders Have Ever Given, From an Old Master Painting to a Zanzibarian Key

Who Couldn’t Use Gift Guidance From the Cosmos? We’ve Consulted 5 Experts in Art and Astrology

If You’re Looking for a Fragrance to Gift, We’d Suggest a Bottle of Chanel No. 5—an Icon and Artists’ Muse Celebrating its 100th Anniversary

Still Shopping for the Art and Fashion Lovers in Your Life? Check Out This Chic Museum Merch (Think The Met x Brother Vellies)

For Travelers, Consider Virgil Abloh-Designed Luggage That Reimagines Louis Vuitton’s Legacy

On the First Day of Artmas, My True Love Gave to Me… a Step-by-Step Guide for Gifting an NFT

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