Jaguar F-Type convertible in the Florida Keys. Contemporary art in Miami. All in 85-degree weather.
My husband and I were invited by Jaguar to go to the contemporary-art event known as Art Basel in Miami and South Beach, which I've always wanted to do. It was the art world equivalent of going to Pebble Beach. When you get there, you discover there are numerous events spread across a wide area that take a car to get to, only everyone else is also in their cars, so it's a constant massive traffic jam. It's an offshoot of the original event, which is in Basel, Switzerland. The real selling points were these. Miami: eighty-five degrees and sunny skies for the whole weekend. Detroit: snow, single-digit temperatures, winds all weekend. Jaguar F-Type convertible. This was an easy decision. There were a lot of "lifestyle press" there: food writers, art people, a very eclectic group. Jaguar put us up at the Mondrian South Beach Hotel, another in an increasing number of avant-garde hotels in all the world's hot spots. L.A. and Miami are very similar places, with all these uber-hip hotels that are puzzling and disconcerting and inundated with techno versions of jazz, techno versions of folk, techno rock and roll, and techno techno. You can't escape it: it's in the pool, it's in the elevator, it's in the lobby, and it's crazy. The decor of the room was intriguing. It had this blue Delft-like porcelain-tiled kitchen area, and upon closer inspection, the tiles were old beach scenes. The room was vast, although there wasn't a lot of closet space. There were a lot of long horizontal shelves lining the room. In the bathroom, the shelf was like a long trough that ended under a faucet, so you put your stuff on the far left of the trough/shelf and wondered, when you turned on the faucet, if the water was going to run up and get your stuff wet, but it didn't. There was a chandelier in the shower surrounding the shower head, and when you woke up in the morning you were staring at an orange wall mirror on your left and a giant disembodied Barbie head with Miley Cyrus hair staring at you. These Barbie heads were also in the lobby on the walls. This was the beginning of me not understanding the art I was about to see, but at least it was eighty-five degrees. Every space in the Mondrian was bigger than life. The portico had giant gold lampshade-shaped structures hanging over it, with chandeliers inside of them. You can't stop looking. The buildings were very white, and there was a lot of Moroccan-patterned grillework and wallpapers. I was undoubtedly the least hip person staying there this weekend and the most normal person there, other than the fact that I did bring some hats. Frequently you'd get on the elevator next to an impossibly tall model, meaning 6'4", with a Russian accent. The next morning, we met at 9:30 a.m. in the chandeliered portico, and there was a lineup of Jag F-Type convertibles, which was really why I was there. There were two garish F-Types done in the Union Jack motif with F-Type written on the doors. The head of PR told me, "This is one of the ones you're going to drive," and I started laughing, and he said, "No, seriously," and I kept laughing. I have enough trouble with my driving record without driving one of these down to the Keys with the top down. Instead I was given an incredibly gorgeous orange F-Type that looked fantastic. Once I slid behind the wheel of this 2014 Jaguar F-Type S V8 convertible in Firesand orange, the most hilarious thing to me was to listen to the description for the obviously non-automotive journalists around me about how to turn the car on and practice putting its automatic transmission shift lever in and out of gear. You can understand the very careful instruction by Jag. The car I was in had a total suggested retail price of $100,370 (including destination charge). Now you can imagine sliding some art critic from New York City behind the wheel of one of those cars. It was hilarious listening to them all around me under the portico revving the engine over and over again like they'd never enjoyed the noise of a big V-8 before. What was even funnier was when, while one food critic from L.A. was revving and revving and obviously enjoying it, my husband slid into the seat next to him and pressed a button on the console, the one I call the Harmonic Maximizer, but which is actually called Active Sport Exhaust. It has the icon of an exhaust system, and it funnels more noise into the cabin. When my husband pressed it and suddenly the roar magnified, the guy lifted a foot off his seat in response to the gigantic blast of noise. He looked absolutely terrified and then burst out laughing. Exactly right, dude. The sound of the test drive at stoplights, at red lights, and in parking lots was the lifestyle press around me revving and revving and revving their engines like ten-year-olds. Like me, the first time I got my finger on that button. The F-Type already starts out with a really great 495-horsepower 5.0-liter supercharged V-8. Not only that, it's one of the most beautiful convertibles on the planet, with a top that opens and/or closes in twelve seconds flat and looks sleek in either position. What a great way to settle into the weekend. I wasn't sure where I was going or how to get there. I didn't quite understand the lay of the land. What I did understand was getting into this hot convertible, putting the top down, and blasting into the Florida Keys. The water is so beautiful. The sky was fantastic. Did I mention that it was eighty-five degrees? Am I tan yet? We went down to Isla Morada, stopped at the Cheeca Lodge and Resort, and had a spectacular lunch al fresco. The sugar sand stopped at the edge of the cement we were sitting on while we had lunch. I never wanted to leave. We probably stayed about thirty minutes too long, though, because, as we re-emerged from Key Largo, heading north to Miami, the traffic got thicker and thicker and the navigation system kept adjusting our arrival time until it was an hour later than it had started at Isla Morada.
Let's make no mistake and think that a drive down a straight road into the Florida Keys is going to exercise this car at all.
Even stop-and-go traffic is bearable when it's eighty-five degrees and you're in an equally hot car. A half-dozen times in the traffic jam, people who were slowly inching past shouted out, "I love your car!" I yelled back: "So do I, only it's not mine. I wish I owned it." Let's make no mistake and think that a drive down a straight road into the Florida Keys is going to exercise this car at all. The only thing that got exercised was the Active Sport Exhaust button and the convertible top. In the end, it was just a fine little road trip, said the girl from Michigan. That evening, we hit the art scene at an event called Wallpaper* Handmade with Jaguar in Miami. The premise was that everything in the exhibit was an object—luggage, an outdoor barbecue grill, a giant box of tools, an armagnac tasting cabinet with crystal decanters—made by artists, with manufacturing sponsorship. In the middle of it was the Jaguar C-X17 crossover. This is a handmade one-off concept car that was totally appropriate to the art exhibit. We wandered through, then back out, off to dinner, and then to bed. On Friday, I had to temporarily abandon Miami and fly in to Atlanta, joining the crowd of people pouring in for the Auburn-Alabama game. I was there to appear on CNN, which by the way was right next to the stadium, to talk about American car quality with the effervescent Poppy Harlow. It was forty-two degrees; who would think? I had left my coat in Miami, thinking I was down south. I got back to Miami in time to see Piston Head, an exhibit that our contributor Tamara Warren was totally tuned in to. She arranged for me to meet the curator, Adam Lindemann, who owns the gallery Venus Over Manhattan in New York City. The venue was an upper floor of an incredible parking structure, designed by the famous Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron of Basel, Switzerland. The guy who bought the space tore down the existing building and hired the Swiss firm to build the parking structure with a penthouse on the top floor. Curator Lindemann loves cars, and he decided to find artists who also love cars. It took some time, wrangling, and a bit of corporate sponsorship from Ferrari to bring all of these cars to Miami Beach. The day couldn't have been more perfect to walk around high above the street with the breeze blowing and a great view of Miami and palms and blue sky backing the wild cars displayed around me. Yes, there were a few cars I didn't understand, but that's art for you. Below is a gallery of some of the photos I took during the weekend. You will also be able to see Tamara Warren's writing about Art Basel soon, here on www.JeanKnowsCars.com and in Automobile Magazine. It was all perfect. Sadly, the weather at home this December is more like the weather we're supposed to get in January: howling winds, swirling snow, and single-digit temperatures. But I'm a Michigander, and the reality is, that's my home, and that's where I had to return. Sniff.