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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Did Snoop Dogg Really Buy Crypto Artworks Worth $17 Million Under the Moniker ‘Cozomo de’ Medici’?

About a month ago, a new Twitter profile was created under the name Cozomo de’ Medici, an apparent reference to Cosimo de’ Medici, the Renaissance-era patriarch of the dynastic Italian banking family. Like his namesake, the Twitter user billed themselves as a patron of the arts, but rather than trafficking in Donatellos, their passion was NFTs.

Almost overnight, Cozomo established themselves as a real player in the market, amassing a collection of CryptoPunks, Art Blocks, and other NFTs worth an estimated total value of more than $17 million. The Twitter admirers came too: thousands followed the account, where they found updates about new acquisitions peppered with nuggets of investment advice, such as: “For there is a strange, cultural ‘ponzi-nomics’ to NFTs, [where] much like contemporary art, no one wants to sell for less than the previous high price.” 

The myth grew, and quickly, as others online came to wonder about Cozomo’s real identity. Surely this was somebody of note, right?

Speculators soon got their answer. On September 20, Cozomo announced a contest to reveal who was behind the account. A celebrity, the anonymous figure explained, would publicly claim the Cozomo name on Twitter, and the first person to spot the tweet would be gifted 1 ETH, worth roughly $3,000. 

“I am @CozomoMedici,” rapper Snoop Dogg tweeted later that day, ending the mystery and sending the crypto-community into a tizzy.

In a way, it made sense: the seemingly bottomless supply of cash, the Medici bit, the bizarre courtly air of the tweets. Snoop—given name Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr.—is predictably unpredictable, and belovedly so. He’s also proven to be a hungry investor, backing tech businesses, plant-based food companies, and ​​cannabis startups through his venture capital firm Casa Verde.

But then again, maybe it makes too much sense—an elaborate troll job neatly packaged in a little Twitter flimflam?

At least that’s the theory some online are now pursuing. VICE recently broke down all the holes in the Snoop story, comparing the geo-tags of the rapper’s social media photos to those of Cozomo, who appears to spend a lot of time in Italy. The NFT influencer also once tweeted out a photo of himself with fellow collector Jason Derulo on the shores of Lake Como. Both of their faces were covered with avatars, but it’s clear which one was Derulo and which one was not, and the one who was not was…well, it wasn’t Snoop.

D-O-Double G or not, this modern-day Medici is sitting on an impressive hoard of crypto artworks. In addition to Punks and Art Blocks, they own a Cai Guo-Qiang NFT and recently acquired a character piece by artist XCOPY for 1,300 ETH, or about $3.9 million—which should ensure the fickle art world’s continued attention.

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What I Buy and Why: Artist Julian Opie on How Collecting Inspires His Own Practice and the Teensy Carl Andre Work He’s Afraid of Misplacing

Collecting objects and artworks has been a habit of artists throughout history, from Henri Matisse, who drew inspiration from his collection of decorative arts from Africa, to Andy Warhol’s dedicated patronage of young artists. British artist Julian Opie is no exception.

Opie’s art practice plays with ways of seeing by challenging our perception of the everyday, and he has built his own visual language that is informed at once by the vocabulary of classic portraiture and Japanese woodblock prints, Egyptian hieroglpyhs, as well as ordinary public signage. As such, the artist has throughout his career assembled a wide private collection of work that spans Roman sculpture to classical 17th-century portraits to work from contemporary artist peers.

A selection of works from Opie’s private collection will be shown alongside his work at a forthcoming exhibition at Newlands House Gallery in Petworth from November 6. We caught up with the artist about his collecting inspirations, how he badly covets a Monet, and the teeny Carl Andre sculpture that is constantly disappearing.

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), No. 14. Koshigawa in Musashi Province (Musashi Koshigaya zai). From the series Fuji sanjurokkei (Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji). (1858). Collection of Julian Opie.

What was your first purchase?

Not really sure. I think it was a Japanese Ukiyo-I print by Kunisada (not my favourite). With Ukiyo-I prints you can buy some of the greatest art works ever made for not so much money. The artists of this period did make unique paintings but their greatest works are arguably the large run woodblock prints. Condition and fading vary greatly but you can buy a Hiroshige or an Utamaro for modest sums.

What was your most recent acquisition?

Honestly? Today I asked to buy a piece of ambient music by a young musician. I often use music in my installations and have bought or swapped these with various musicians. The last object I bought was earlier this week, a 19th-century wooden ancestor figure post from the island of Timor. Over the last year I have been collecting a lot of things from Indonesia from Sulawesi and Borneo and now Timor.

How does your own practice as an artist inform your collecting?

In two ways. I get guidance and inspiration from what other artists have made and also what I am currently interested in making leads me to find ways to understand and enjoy other artist’s work.

Joshua Reynolds, <i>Wilson Gale Braddyll</i> (1788). Oil on panel. Collection of Julian Opie.

Joshua Reynolds, Wilson Gale Braddyll (1788). Oil on panel. Collection of Julian Opie.

Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year?

I don’t have a plan. It depends on what I come across. There are gaps that I’d love to fill. I’d like to buy the third great triptych of Hiroshige and also to own another and less damaged Fayum portrait from Roman period Egypt. These are painted in coloured wax and have survived well giving a clear and realistic snapshot of the people of the ancient world.

Which work do you most cherish?

Although I continue to enjoy and learn from the things I have bought, on a daily basis, for me collecting art is a way of engaging in the world rather than an amassing of treasures to cherish.

How do you acquire art most frequently?

From galleries. I always try to buy from good trusted galleries. They know their area and one can build up a good relationship, learn a lot and find great works.

Is there a work you regret purchasing?

When I start buying in a new area I can get a bit carried away and buy things that in retrospect weren’t perhaps necessary. I did sell a few of these recently which felt good.

Patang Statue, Dayak tribe Borneo. 19th C. Collection of Julian Opie

Patang Statue, Dayak tribe Borneo. 19th C. Collection of Julian Opie.

What work do you have hanging above your sofa? What about in your bathroom?

Sofa: Roy Lichtenstein large interior print. Bathrooms are not great places to hang most art due to humidity. At the studio lavatory I rotate Hiroshige landscape prints.

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

Who thinks up these questions? I own a tiny magnetic Carl Andre sculpture that family members keep rearranging and is constantly in danger of being lost.

What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?

One of Alex Katz’s small paintings. There were a set of these in the next door booth at an art fair many years ago and I didn’t have the courage.

If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?

Stealing is disrespectful. If it were a gift… A Monet of the Houses of Parliament on the Thames.

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If You Had $300,000, Would You Buy a Winston Churchill Painting or a Banksy Screenprint? We Asked an Expert to Choose

Should a single Damien Hirst painting cost more than an entire Old Masters sale? Should Adrian Ghenie’s auction record stand higher than Frida Kahlo’s? The strange, fickle, mostly subjective nature of art valuation is one of the industry’s most enduring enigmas (and sources of complaint). To analyze what’s behind some of the confounding prices in the art market, we ask experts in our series “This or That” to compare two very different works of art offered at comparable prices.

With the London auction season upon us, we spoke with Nazy Vassegh, an art advisor and founder of the city’s Eye of the Collector fair, about which of two offerings from the upcoming sales she’d buy: Winston Churchill’s View in the Italian Alps (ca. 1934), a painting by the former British prime minister estimated at £200,000 to £300,000 ($279,000 to $418,000) at Sotheby’s, or the screenprint Nola AP (Green to Blue Rain) (2008) by Banksy, another British artist whose work marks moments of political upheaval in world history, albeit in a very different way, offered for the same price at Christie’s.

Here’s what she said.

This or that: If I were buying for myself, or for one of my more contemporary collectors, I would buy the Banksy. I believe Banksy is the artist of our time. He’s a visual spokesman for the persecuted, the dispossessed, and the underrepresented. This particular picture, Nola, is about Hurricane Katrina and its long-term impact, and how the vulnerable parts of the community were betrayed. He signifies this very cleverly by the use of children. It’s very, very poignant.

Sir Winston Churchill, Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque(1943). ©Christie’s Images Limited 2021.

Sir Winston Churchill, Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque(1943). ©Christie’s Images Limited 2021.

On aesthetic considerations: Until very recently, Churchill’s art was considered almost a novelty. It was more about Winston Churchill than about his skill as a painter or artist, and you have to ask the question, do people buy Churchill for his art or because they love Winston Churchill? Equally, you might say, do people buy Bansky because of the works? I mean his are not works of contemplative beauty.

If you think of the creative skill of the two artists, one you look at in the traditional sense—you judge it by the technique and colors and subject matter; the other is stencils, screenprint, and protest art. Banksy’s is cynical, yet hopeful; moral and yet authentic, whereas the work by Churchill, you look at it and think, is this a work of beauty? What elements of this painting appeal to me? Obviously in the background you have the fact that it was from a private collection, it was painted in the 1930s, and it is by Winston Churchill.

Churchill’s paintings all have a story behind them. On his travels he painted, and there are many famous artists throughout history who painted on their travels, so there’s this sort of romanticized element. It’s definitely not an art with a cause, like Banksy’s, but it is unique and a journal of his travels.

Banksy, Game Changer (2020). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Banksy, Game Changer (2020), sold for $23.1 million. Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

On investment considerations: With regards to Banksy, the prices are already high and active and you do have to think, how much more can they go up? But then you get something like his painting Game Changer (2020) coming along—such a powerful work—which suddenly fetches £16.8 million with premium ($23.1 million) and you go, OK, there’s so much more. It’s complicated because the fact that his images initially appear in situ puts a context to them and I don’t think it’s a classic case of compare and contrast this work against that work.

The highest price Churchill has ever achieved was for his Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque, which is in Marrakesh, and it was estimated at £1.5 million to £2.5 million, which is already very strong, and it went for £8.3 million (including premium). So this one coming to auction is £200,000 to £300,000 I guess because it’s just a picture of the Italian alps, not a famous monument or site. But it was painted in 1934 and it’s got good, fresh provenance coming from a private collection.

If I were buying for one of my more traditional collectors, I’d probably look at the Churchill very carefully. Even though he’s only recently been reevaluated as an artist, rather than a politician, the work is unique by virtue of the fact he died in 1965—there’s a seriously limited supply. And he was a prime minister of Great Britain and one of most famous politicians of the 20th century.

What I Buy and Why: Real Estate Developer Bob Rennie on Collecting Performance and Installing Extremely Clever Bathroom Art

Vancouver-based art collector and real estate mogul Bob Rennie, who showcases his extensive contemporary art collection at the eponymous Rennie Museum, has a collection most art lovers would kill for (okay, maybe not kill, but… maim?).

Rennie, whose real-estate business earned him the nickname “Condo king,” serves on the boards of the Tate Americas Foundation and the Art Institute of Chicago. Below, he dishes on his most prized possessions, what it was like to negotiate with artist Charline von Heyl, and the most impractical works in his collection.


What was your first acquisition (and how much did you pay for it)? 

A Norman Rockwell limited edition print, On Top of the World (1972), for $375 in 1974. I was 18 years old.

Nina Chanel Abney, <i>Being Mixie with my Fixie</i> (2019). Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

Nina Chanel Abney, Being Mixie with my Fixie (2019). Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

What was your most recent acquisition? 

Nina Chanel Abney’s Being Mixie With my Fixie.

Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year? 

I’d like to continue our journey with Dawoud Bey’s trilogy by adding “Louisiana,” [a series of] 24 large-format photographs. We are proud to have in the collection the 16 diptychs and video of Dawoud’s “Birmingham” [series] and the 25 photos of “Night Coming Tenderly, Black.” I would also like to add a set of 14 heads by Thomas J. Price.

Kerry James Marshall, <i> Garden Party</i> (2003). © Kerry James Marshall. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Kerry James Marshall, Garden Party (2003). © Kerry James Marshall. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

What is the most expensive work of art that you own? 

That is a tough question. I would narrow it down to two masterpieces: Kerry James Marshall’s Garden Party (2003) and his trio Untitled (2011–12), in which the colors red, black, and green echo the Afro-American flag. We stacked the three Untitled canvases vertically [to evoke] a portrait of Kerry, but they are not typically displayed in this format. You miss the rich details in these subtly complex canvases when they’re upwards of 26 feet high on the wall!

Where do you buy art most frequently? 

Through trusted relationships with art dealers who are aware of the diversity, inclusion, and social injustice threads that weave the fabric of the collection together.

Is there a work you regret purchasing? If so, why?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately and, in the end, there are no real mistakes. The works that do not fit anymore, those that do not speak to the collection anymore, end up being lessons learned that help us understand better our true goals.

Charles White, O Freedom (1956). Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries.

What work do you have hanging above your sofa?

In the family room hangs Charles White’s O Freedom (1956) and Adrian Piper’s Race Traitor (2018). A Charline Von Heyl carpet is on the floor, part of an edition of 20 produced by BravinLee. I asked Charline if she would consider leaving the bottom edge unfinished, with spools of thread still attached, and she agreed. Ours is the only one like this. I have young grandkids and a dog, so the bottom edge is usually tucked safely under the sofa. 

Charline Von Heyl, <i>After Zenge (unfinished)</i> (2017-2019). Courtesy of Bob Rennie.

Charline Von Heyl, After Zenge (unfinished) (2017–19). Courtesy of Bob Rennie.

What artwork, if any, do you have in your bathroom?

On the guest bathroom wall are three Robert Mapplethorpe photos from 1984. Jenny Holzer’s Survival Series: What Country Should You Adopt If You Hate Poor People? (1986) is embedded in the floor in a location that encourages contemplation while “seated.” Just outside a bathroom, appropriately, is Andy Warhol’s Oxidation Painting No. 11 (1978).

What is the most impractical work of art you own? What makes it so challenging?

Our (half) joke to dealers is, “If you can’t sell it because it’s too tough, we’re probably interested.” What would you consider impractical? There’s Allora & Calzadilla’s Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on Ode to Joy, No. 2, 2008 (a grand piano with a hole cut into it from which a pianist stands playing Ode to Joy backwards over the keyboard while slowly moving the piano around the room); Martin Creed’s Work No. 850 (2008), which involves athletes running at top speed throughout the space at precise intervals; and Gary Hill’s Frustrum (2006), which requires procuring a 425 oz., 24-karat gold bullion bar and enough black oil to fill a 10-inch deep pool.

What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?

Kerry James Marshall’s Black Painting (2003–6).

If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes (1612–13) from the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte in Naples, Italy.

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