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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cyril Duval's third and final report from Art Basel...

So I've covered the booths and the parties of Art Basel, but what about the beaches? Luckily enough, your loyal servant was cordially invited to miss an entire day of the fair to board a private plane and be one of the first visitors to Dellis Cay. And, for me, it was the best part of Art Basel.

What is Dellis Cay, you ask? Only the latest brainchild of Dr. Cem Kinay, a Turkish tycoon who's built a myriad of resort hotels all around the Mediterranean. Looking for a new challenge, the charismatic entrepreneur recently bought an entire 560-acre island in the Turks & Caicos archipelago off the Florida coast, not far from the Bahamas. Teaming up with the Mandarin Oriental hotel group, he then started crafting his dream of a luxury resort on the island chain, with living environments designed by some of the greatest architects of our time: Zaha Hadid, Piero Lissoni, Kengo Kuma and Shigeru Ban, to name a few. Forget Dubai, the Emirates and their dreams of glory and modernism! Just surf to Dellis Cay for a glimpse of the future architectural leisure paradise.

Sarah of Colette (with whom I have worked on several projects, including the opening of Colette meets Comme des Garçons in Tokyo) and I were excited to go to the island, invited by Nadine Johnson, who runs such a fantastic PR company. As Sarah and I are more actors in the fields of art, fashion and design than press, our idea was to "cover" the island with a different angle: taking tourist-style pictures of ourselves on the island with a disposable camera. We also brought on two other musketeers: Jina Khayyer, the Parisian correspondent of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, and Simon Castets, a mischievous friend of ours and a talented private art consultant.

We left early in the morning from the Raleigh Hotel and boarded the jet, where we met the others, about 40 people in all, including Dr. Cem Kinay himself, as well as Piero Lissoni to view the site of his future creation, the first on the island to be realized. When the plane took off and we all received little press kit of Dellis Cay (each contained in an engraved iPod nano!), we decided to indulge ourselves in the pleasures of the jet set. Here I am talking about Dom Perignon. Then I don't remember much, except that we entertained the other passengers with our tricks. At one point, I decided to challenge the supreme coolness of art collector Jean "Johnny" Pigozzi, who was talking with Sarah, by adopting a 1930's movie star look—I put on a fake mustache and read the Herald Tribune upside-down.

Landing in Providenciales, the main island of Turks & Caicos, we passed through customs, got a cool new stamp on our passport, jumped on a private boat and rode fast on the warm and clear azure water toward Dellis Cay, which is still absent of any buildings. (Construction will start in the beginning of 2008 and the island will officially open at the end of 2009. I can't wait to come back for the official opening.) Stepping foot on the island was like a Christopher Columbus dream—well, at least before we were welcomed by a small army of smiling staff, all dressed in white and handing us a personal beach kit to enjoy the day.

More champagne glasses later, and after a buffet of lobsters tails, I headed to the private massage parlor, where I had one of the greatest massages ever. But the clock was running so we decided to go swimming and start our tourist shoot. Simon and I had prepared everything, after hours of compulsive shopping in Miami's tackiest beachwear shops. We had a painted coconut bra for the Jina, an American flag beach towel for Simon, and a tropical sunset towel with flamingos for myself, as well as some special props I had brought from my favorite shop in Tokyo, such as sunglasses without the lenses. (Originally I gave these glasses to Mark Eley of Eley Kishimoto, as he said he couldn't live without them. We agreed he would produce them under his label, we would share the profits and that this collaboration would be our Kelly bag!)

The shoot we made was hilarious and the polaroids captured the colorful aesthetic I was trying to set up. Simon and I had picked out a colorful centipede floatie to play with in the water, but we couldn't fit more than three on it. Johnny then told us that it was exactly the same centipede that Jeff Koons had exhibited a few years before at Art Basel. Maybe he found it in the same shop where younger brains would dig it out a few years later.

The day was almost over, so we left the island to its beautiful original state and took boats back to Providenciales, heading to the house of Dr. Michael E. Misick, the Premier of Turks & Caicos, for late cocktails. Here at his residence, with its grounds laid with rocks in the map of the archipelago, we would enjoy our last moments, joking with the Premier and his son, who obviously shares the same passion for sunglasses and cigars. Simon took the opportunity to talk with Dr. Cem Kinay, who remained a man of mystery during the day, learning how he convinced the aforementioned stars of architecture to participate in the environmentally concerned yet luxurious project: by calling it a challenge.

That is all about Dellis Cay, but the dream has just started. One last anecdote: I arrived for sunbathing the next day on Miami Beach with the Dellis Cay bathrobe I was given, when Sarah asked, "But Cyril, do you realize that you are wearing the bathrobe of a hotel that doesn't exist yet?" As we realized the veracity and beauty of what she said, Simon added, "Cyril, you're a walking Pierre Huyghe."

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