Report From Art Basel: Chatting w/ Vik Muniz About Japanese Bonsai and The Artistic Fantasy Land



Kicking off the 2019 Art Basel Miami Beach was the star studded Ruinart champagne sunset fete, which celebrated Vik Muniz’s art series Shared Roots, the inspiration behind an evening that brought together high culture and sublime gastronomy.

The centerpiece of the evening was the launch of the Vik Muniz x Ruinart Champagne Leaf limited-edition prints, 100% of sales of which went to benefit Imazon, a Brazilian nonprofit dedicated to Amazon rainforest conservation. As the sun set, guests were treated to a delectable Mocequa fish stew by the legendary Chef Daniel Boulud, inspired by the artist’s Brazilian heritage and crafted to pair with both Ruinart’s beloved Blanc de Blancs, and the debut of the house’s first ever rosé.



Joan Smalls, Karolina Kurkova, Shea Marie, Caroline Vreeland, punk-architect Peter Marino, Gaia Matisse, Hank Willis Thomas, Aureta Thomollari, Marion Guggenheim, Jennifer Lopez and Olivia Perez mixed with the culture cognoscenti and art-world insiders within the lush Miami Beach Botanical Garden, as DJ (and fashion designer) Timo Weiland set the mood with a typically smart set of tunes.

As a sculptor and photographer, Muniz is passionate about understanding his subject – so for this project he took lessons on tree drawing at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

“The other student was a Japanese Bonsai artist and theatrical performer,” he recalls, “and she had this thing about what trees felt, and would emulate the trees with long arms.”



“When you see something up close with so much attention to particular detail,” he continues, “it becomes a mirror for the entire universe. This is an essential element to how trees behave. When you draw a live tree with a pencil, I realized you are also drawing a dead tree. So I decided to make a drawing out of pieces of a dead tree. A tree in itself is a narrative, vines go places and they are a portrait of what they are looking for.”

He proffers that art can function as a tool, or instrument, for bettering our relationship with the teetering environment – and that artists veritably help us connect with our senses for deeper engagement.

“When you have this kind of collaboration,” he reckons, “you recontextualize the meaning for people who work in the wine industry. You give them a different perspective on what they are working with. Being around Ruinart connected me to something I wanted to work with for a long time: trees.”


Yet he emphasizes that he does not wish to make his art blatantly political – hoping instead that it will inspire viewers to actually think for themselves.

“Artists live in a fantasy land that doesn’t reflect the realities of everyday,” he observes. “So we challenge people to think differently and see things in a different way.”

Muniz’s beautiful and textural Leaf prints can be purchased for $5,000 on, with just a total of 30 available for sale.




Historical Chic: Overnighting at D.C.’s Spectacular Riggs Hotel


Openings: The Conrad Tulum Riviera Maya


Winter, Charm City: BlackBook Returns to Baltimore


First Images: Motto Chelsea Hotel Opens in New York


Matthew Kenney’s New SCEN Restaurant Elevates His Plant-Based Ideology


Openings: New Thompson Hotels in Atlanta and Austin


Center City Chic: A Pleasure-Filled Visit to the New W Philadelphia Hotel


Tel Aviv’s Exalted Bellboy Bar Opens a Berlin Outpost