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Luxist.
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    Let's face it: even the best accountant in the world leaves the high net worth community paying more taxes than you would like. You drop all kinds of cash to the IRS every year, and it sucks. It really does. So, do you want to send that government body more?

    That's the question Orlando banker Jeff Ramsey is asking.

    He has organized a cigar dinner at Foxwoods in Connecticut to help rescue the house currently (and perhaps temporarily) owned by Jim Thorpe and his wife, Carol. Thorpe, once a pro golfer, won't be able to join you at the dinner ... because he's in prison after "losing a two-year legal battle with the IRS."

    The dinner will include silent and traditional auctions to fill the financial void left in Thorpe's life by the IRS.

    For $200, you can head up to Foxwoods on June 21, 2010, smoke a few cigars and dine with other civic-minded aficionados who are eager to give Thorpe a hand. For another $1,500, you can play in the ProAm golf course the next day.

    Note: This is indirect IRS support. Your money will not go directly to the government agency.

    Filed under: , ,

    New Cigar Dinner Lets You Pay IRS Again! originally appeared on Luxist on Tue, 08 Jun 2010 20:04:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    The numbers may not have big, but it felt like 2007 all over again during "Russian Week" in London. Russian billionaires descended on the art auction houses and fought fiercely for prized lots. Compared to last year, auction sales nearly doubled, with the Russians spending $86 million to repatriate icons, paintings, porcelain and Faberge items. This follows $18.5 million in Russian art sales by Sotheby's and Christie's in New York back in April.

    The most popular pieces were early 20th century modernist works, with the top lot Alexander Yakovlev's "Titi and Naranghe, Daughters of Chief Eki Bondo." It was good for £2.5 million, almost tripling its high-end presale estimate of £900,000.

    Sotheby's was the top auction house of London's Russian Week, generating £22.3 million by selling approximately 70 percent of its 615 lots. The result falls within the presale range of £19.3 million to £28 million.

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    Art Market: Russian Billionaires Are Back originally appeared on Luxist on Fri, 11 Jun 2010 18:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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  • 06/12/10--17:02: Wine-Inspired Cigar Released
  • Hendrik "Henke" Kelner has been busy this year. The blending guru not only released the Puro d'Oro and the new De La Concha house cigar, but he's also created Second Growth, a brand inspired by wine for importer Eric Hanson. It was launched on May 26, 2010 at Club Macanudo in Manhattan.

    The Second Growth sticks tend to be on the mild side, writes David Savona of Cigar Aficonado, and they were made specifically to pair with fine wines. The boxes are built from used wine barrels. Said Hanson, "I purchased 50 barrels from a second-growth Bordeaux chateau."

    The cigar comes in one size: 7 ¼ by 54. It sells for $32.50 a stick, and only 1,000 boxes were made.

    Interested in more from Henke Kelner? Check out his thoughts on the Davidoff Puro d'Oro.

    [photo via Cigar Aficionado]

    Filed under:

    Wine-Inspired Cigar Released originally appeared on Luxist on Sat, 12 Jun 2010 19:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    I'm about to celebrate my first Father's Day, so when I heard that the Beverly Hills Cigar Club had a few cigar suggestions for the occasion, I opened the e-mail immediately. In past years, I would have written the blog post for everyone else ... this year, I have something at stake!

    Vin Lee, CEO of the Beverly Hills Cigar Club, has put together an interesting menu of cigars for Father's Day this year. From this list, I'd go with the Oliva Serie V, though my personal favorite these days is the 601 Trabuco (hint, hint).

    Let's take a look at the five cigars Lee offers up as Father's Day suggestions:

    1. CAO America Monument Pinstripe Torpedo
    The wrapper on this cigar consists of two leaves arranged to deliver a pinstriping effect. One is a golden brown Connecticut Shade, and the other is a chocolate brown Connecticut Broadleaf. The filler comes from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and the United States. Notes Lee, "Warm summer nights this Father's Day, heat up the Kalamazoo 900 Grill and let Dad light up America while he slow grills his special burgers. No, he still won't tell you what's in the sauce though."

    Continue reading Five Cigar Recommendations for Father's Day

    Filed under:

    Five Cigar Recommendations for Father's Day originally appeared on Luxist on Mon, 14 Jun 2010 11:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    roman abramovichThe exclusive opening of Art Basel - for the most serious buyers - had the desired effect. The most famous art show in the world attracted the likes of art collector Roman Abramovich (however much it may be at the behest of his squeeze) and fetched some major sales, including $15 million for a sculpture by Pablo Picasso.

    So, who joined Abramovich in scratching the art itch ... one that's been hard to scratch since the art market collapsed in 2008? Well, Val Kilmer, Peter Brant and Laurence Graff were among the elite.

    Prices haven't returned to 2007 levels, noted art dealer Nicholas Maclean to Bloomberg News, but he added that the top stuff is selling well. This doesn't exactly defy common sense, of course. There are 303 galleries at Art Basel this year, and they're all hoping to ride this wave.

    A Christie's International auction in Paris the day before Art Basel started set the tone for the affair. A sculpture by Amedeo Modigliani moved for $53 million, setting a record for the French auction market.

    Filed under:

    Art Basel Attracts Abramovich, Kilmer, Millions originally appeared on Luxist on Wed, 16 Jun 2010 18:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Last week, cigar smokers took over the roof of upscale gentlemen's club Rick's Cabaret in Manhattan. With a view of the Empire State Building, not to mention the impeccable local talent, dozens came to cut, light puff and imbibe.

    The event, organized by Barry Stein the man behind the cigar blog "A Cigar Smoker," attracted a large and varied group of cigar smokers, making the Rick's roof feel like your local cigar shop (though with the obvious differences). As hors d'oeuvres were passed and drinks sipped, on-the-spot back rubs were delivered expertly by roving masseuses, and cigars were abundant. Conversation flowed freely and easily, especially with my new blogging buddy the Social Vixen.



    Continue reading A Cigar Smoker Invades Rick's Cabaret ... and Brings Davidoff Surprise

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    A Cigar Smoker Invades Rick's Cabaret ... and Brings Davidoff Surprise originally appeared on Luxist on Sun, 20 Jun 2010 14:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Growing up in New England, I've cracked into more than a few lobsters, ranging from the downright puny to a mighty 7 pounds. This continued experience with creatures (formerly, by the time they reached my table) dwelling off the costs of Nova Scotia and Maine, ingrained in me a baseline for lobster that has guided my expectations ever since.

    So, as the waiter at the Hotel Christopher on St. Barths explained the evening's specials last week, the langouste, which he translated for us as "lobster," caught my attention. Recalling my travails with French in high school and college, I vaguely remembered that Jean-Paul Sartre writing of a hallucination in which he fled an "homard." The different word for lobster led to the obvious question: "What's the difference?"

    Christian Langlade, who owns Hotel Christopher with his wife, Sandrine, explained that homard" refers to the tasty resident of northern waters, the creature I cracked open throughout my childhood - and which tormented the French existentialist. "Langouste," however, is the lobster found in the Caribbean, sans claws yet certainly delightful to chomp.



    Disclosure: Hotel Christopher picked up the tab for this trip. Nonetheless, my opinions are my own - they're certainly not for sale at any price.

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    Learning Lobster at Hotel Christopher originally appeared on Luxist on Tue, 22 Jun 2010 10:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    There worse places to wait out the end of the world ...

    Over the 2007/8 Christmas holiday season, artist Richard Prince developed and expected a vision of post-apocalyptic society. The world as we know it met its untimely demise as the protagonist, his family and crew sailed to St. Barthelemy, discovering the changed state of affairs only when landing on the island. Far from the decadent setting one would expect to find, the resort haven became the setting for a struggle for survival.

    I came to St. Barths under far different circumstances, of course. A small plane, with room for only six passengers, deposited me on the tarmac at a tiny airport, offering stunning and alarming views of the sea during our approach. The runway, sans fence or other barrier at the end, stretches right to the beach, with only a splash of sand separating it from the lapping waves of the Caribbean Sea. The customs agent inside the small, Spartan terminal served little purpose aside from a friendly greeting and a stamp and wave with a flick of the wrist.

    Continue reading Apocalypse Now? Spend It on St Barths

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    Apocalypse Now? Spend It on St Barths originally appeared on Luxist on Tue, 22 Jun 2010 16:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    The Cuban cigar industry is struggling under the dual pressures of smoking bans and economic malaise. Consumers around the world aren't buying as many sticks, and Cuba is cutting production. In Pinar del Rio, only 22.4 million leaves were harvested this year, off 14 percent from 26 million last year. Local media reports: "There was a reduction in planting due to limitations in resources caused by the economic crisis," according to the Financial Times.

    With 70 percent of the market - not including the United States - the Cuban cigar business is a global force. So, its financial performance has broad implications, and the data doesn't look good:

    According to the most recent report released by the government's statistics office, the industry has fallen on hard times in recent years, with production of cigars for export down from 217m in 2006, to 123m in 2007 and 73m last year as the business drew on its inventory.
    Export cigar sales plunged to $218 million last year from $243 million in 2008 ... but keep in mind that the effects of the late 2008 financial crisis didn't really come to bear until 2009.

    Of course, consumption in the United States is unchanged, because you can't go below zero. Nobody smokes Cuban cigars in the United States because they're illegal ... right?


    Filed under:

    Fewer Cigar Smokers Want Cubans, Production Drops originally appeared on Luxist on Tue, 22 Jun 2010 19:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    It didn't take me long to feel like I was at home in La Casa del Habano. Every inveterate cigar smoker knows the importance of having a great cigar shop to call home, and one of the travails of traveling is that you leave yours behind, not knowing where (or with whom) you'll smoke on the road.

    If St. Barths is in your future, there is no better place than La Casa del Habano. Look for the traditional wooden Indian out front; you should be able to see it as you're entering Village Creole in St. Jean, where the tobacconist is located.

    Inside, put yourself in the expert hands of Sandrine, the store's owner and managing director. Many Americans are familiar with only the major Cuban cigar brands; it's tough for us to keep pace with the new products being released from the "island south of Miami." Sandrine will acquaint you with the old and new of what we aren't permitted to have here in the United States.



    Continue reading La Casa del Habano: The Top Cigar Shop in St Barths

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    La Casa del Habano: The Top Cigar Shop in St Barths originally appeared on Luxist on Wed, 23 Jun 2010 16:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    There aren't many ways to get to St. Barthelemy, and your range of options shrinks with season and income. So, if you're heading out to this Caribbean island for a few days or more in the warmer months, you have only a handful of choices that don't include private aviation or yachts. On my recent trip to St. Barths, I flew St. Barth Commuter, an experience I won't soon forget.

    I stepped out on the tarmac in St. Martin, fully expecting to find a small plane waiting for me, but I wasn't prepared for the tiny six-passenger contraption into which I would climb (note: it is safe). The pilot smiled comfortably, putting me and the other passengers at ease as we pulled ourselves into the plane for a flight that would last only 10 minutes or so. He was an old pro: during busy season, he'll make this run up to 17 times a day.

    Continue reading St Barth Commuter: Small plane, Short Flight and a Hell of a View

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    St Barth Commuter: Small plane, Short Flight and a Hell of a View originally appeared on Luxist on Fri, 25 Jun 2010 14:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    I sipped a glass of rum as the plates were cleared. To my left was Christian Langlade, half the husband-and-wife team that owns and runs Hotel Christopher on St. Barthelemy and my host for dinner. After talking about his property, the conversation turned to my hometown, and I was amazed to learn his regular hotel on jaunts up to Manhattan: On the Ave.

    I spent several months at On the Ave in 2004, first on consulting assignments during my white collar travel days and then to facilitate my move to New York from Boston. Just the mention of this hotel brought a flood of memories so powerful that I had to put my glass down for a moment.

    On the Ave isn't glamorous, but is far better than sufficient - frankly, it was a business traveler's dream. Tucked away on W. 77th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, it's rarely the first choice of visitors looking for access to Times Square or Wall Street. Nonetheless, I fell in love with the property quickly. It offered easy subway access, simple accommodations that I found comfortable for late-night work and, best of all, a sixteenth-floor terrace with a north-facing view.

    Continue reading A St Barths Hotelier does Manhattan

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    A St Barths Hotelier does Manhattan originally appeared on Luxist on Sat, 26 Jun 2010 09:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    You can't experience the Eden Rock resort in St Barths without running into art. In addition to an on-property art gallery with an exciting artist-in-residence program, there is carefully selected artwork throughout the resort. When you get into the villas, however, a new level of care and attention is attained. One of Eden Rock's premier accommodations, Villa Nina comes with a five-figure a night price tag and is adorned appropriately. In this video, gallery director Natalie Clifford takes us on a tour of the unique Villa Nina art holdings.





    Disclosure: Eden Rock picked up the tab for this trip, and it didn't influence my coverage.

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    Eden Rock Villa Nina Art Gallery Tour originally appeared on Luxist on Mon, 28 Jun 2010 20:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Republican gubernatorial candidate John Stephen almost had a brilliant fundraiser. Running in New Hampshire, he was set to benefit from a July 11, 2010 fundraiser hosted by cigar distributor Victor Vitale, who planned a bikini contest for the event. And, let's face it: there's nothing like a handful of hotties to get guys to pry open their wallets (just visit any strip club if you need proof of that!

    According to Vitale, the bikini contest portion of the barbecue fundraiser was his idea alone, and Stephen didn't know it was coming. The fundraiser is still going to be held, but without this particular aspect. I'm sure it will still be fun ... but it's a shame about the contest.

    I had the chance to catch up with Vitale in Easton, Pennsylvania, at Cigar Expo, and he told me about plans for the Ortsac brand ("Castro" backward), particularly in the run-up to the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers show this summer.

    [video via Cigar Reader]

    Filed under:

    Spicy Cigar Fundraiser Scrapped originally appeared on Luxist on Mon, 28 Jun 2010 21:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    There is no shortage of choices when you step up to the bar. An endless array of gins, vodkas, rums and other spirits can almost be intimidating ... yet disturbingly similar. If you want to stand out while sipping and socializing, skip the norm and ask for an absinthe. Edward III, a new product on the market, distinguishes itself in many ways. A clear absinthe - so technically you aren't dancing with la fee verte - it's produced locally, with organic ingredients. And rather than prepare it traditionally, with sugar and water, it can be used as the foundation for a number of unique cocktails, as co-founder Mark Maurice explains.

    There's a new spirit in town ... and it's spirited, to say the least.

    Filed under:

    Absinthe in Manhattan: An Illicit Delight Comes Home originally appeared on Luxist on Wed, 30 Jun 2010 11:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Cigar Reader Summer Cigar Cheatsheet
    When you crack open a cold one this summer, what are you going to cut and light to go with it? Vin Lee, CEO of the Beverly Hills Cigar Club, has put together a list of cigar and beer pairing recommendations for your Fourth of July festivities, with eight ways to celebrate the birth of our nation. My favorite is the My Father #1, but I've always been a fan of Pepin Garcia's work. What's your choice for the best barbecue weekend of the year? Leave a comment, and let us know.

    [spreadsheet courtesy of John Biggs]

    Filed under:

    Cigar and Beer Pairings in Beverly Hills originally appeared on Luxist on Wed, 30 Jun 2010 14:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    If nothing else, you can expect a $20,000-a-night villa to deliver a few surprises. Eden Rock's Villa Rockstar, among the most ostentatious of the accommodations on St. Barths, does not disappoint. The resort demonstrates a clear commitment to art, with an on-property gallery that has hosted some impressive artists, but you have to dig a little deeper to find the truly unusual.

    Works of art are littered across the resort, from the in-villa gallery at Villa Nina on one end of the property to the top-of-the-rock lobby on the other. Villa Rockstar, the largest and newest spot in Eden Rock, has a seemingly endless supply of canvases hanging, visible from the moment you pass through the front door.

    The biggest name, however, is tucked away, far from common view.

    Descend into the villa's basement, en route to the recording studio that house the deck used to record John Lennon's "Imagine," and step into the bathroom. As soon as you open the door, you're face-to-face with a small piece by Richard Prince.

    And let's face it: nothing screams decadence like being able to keep a piece by Prince in the bathroom. It's a sign that you've come too far in life to care.




    Eden Rock picked up the tab for this trip, as it would have been unaffordable otherwise. My opinions are my own.

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    Richard Prince in the Bathroom: Art at Eden Rock's Villa Rockstar originally appeared on Luxist on Thu, 01 Jul 2010 10:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers annual show is right around the corner, and you can expect some new product to be unveiled in New Orleans, this year, as usual. The plans for the year run the spectrum. EO Brands unveiled its new cigar labels, the first visible change following the company's merger with Rocky Patel, and Drew Estate will reveal that it has something big coming out this year. But, why listen to me talk about it? I've had the chance to catch up with a number of cigar industry personalities recently. So, watch the videos below to hear it straight from the source.

    Drew Estate

    There's always something interesting brewing at the Drew Estate factory in Esteli, Nicaragua, and this summer is no different. Marvin Samel, co-founder of the company, hints that something interesting is coming his year.


    Continue reading Six Cigar Celebs Tease Their Secrets for IPCPR

    Filed under:

    Six Cigar Celebs Tease Their Secrets for IPCPR originally appeared on Luxist on Thu, 08 Jul 2010 18:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    What are you going to light up for the World Cup festivities tomorrow? I'll be on the road, unfortunately, but I know many of my friends will be gathering at our local cigar shop and digging into their usual favorites. If you want to do something a little different, follow the advice of Vin Lee, CEO of the Beverly Hills Cigar Club. He has a decadent pairing that will help turn the game into a memorable occasion, regardless of who comes out on top.

    Start with the club's Louisxs cigar. At $50, it's truly an investment in happiness. You'll plunk down a fistful of dough, but at least you'll get a lot of time out of it, thanks to the cigar's slow burn. You'll taste the rare Rosoda leaves from start to finish and enjoy the "pure magic [that] is meant to linger all evening." What could you possibly pair with a cigar of this caliber? Only Moet, of course.

    Filed under:

    Louisxs Cigars and Moet Champagne: Winning World Cup Pairing originally appeared on Luxist on Sat, 10 Jul 2010 18:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    A white hummer pulled up in front of the club, and armed guards were on hand to meet it and escort the passengers. A welcoming committee, of sorts, waited on the red carpet, flanked by me and people like me. The passengers, of course, were a pair of Louis XIII Rare Cask de Remy Martin cognac bottles, and their destination club was the Rick's Cabaret gentleman's club in Manhattan.

    Rick's may seem like a strange venue for such a rare spirit. According to Louis XIII senior brand ambassador Remi Brabant, only 786 bottles of the Louis XIII Rare Cask were made, and most will go to private buyers. This is also the case with the 30 bottles allocated to the U.S. market: most will not be featured in clubs. Yet despite these constraints, three bottles were made available to Rick's Cabaret - with the third going to the company's Tootsie's club in Miami.

    Frankly, I was a bit surprised that a gentlemen's club would get such a high allocation. Make no mistake: Rick's Cabaret is an upscale establishment, and it provides a luxury service that can get as pricey as you'd like. But, it's just not what you'd expect ... it's not what I'd expect, and I tend to be rather open-minded on these matters. I used to cover Rick's Cabaret and had the pleasure of interviewing the company's CEO, Eric Langan, on several occasions.



    Continue reading Louis XIII Holds Court at New York Strip Club

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    Louis XIII Holds Court at New York Strip Club originally appeared on Luxist on Sat, 31 Jul 2010 11:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    The cigar industry's major annual convention occurs in New Orleans next week, and there are plenty of new products being announced. From lifestyle brand Hammer + Sickle, which includes both vodka and cigars, look for the "Berlin Wall" to be introduced.

    Celebrating the twenty-first anniversary of the fall of communism in Europe, the Berlin Wall cigar is rich, flavorful and medium-bodied, according to a statement by the company. It will be packaged in a handmade marble box, said to be a first for the cigar industry. The cigar will deliver "a complex and powerful interplay of wood, spice and leather flavors with an earthiness reminiscent of pre-embargo era Cuban offerings."

    According to Eric Hanson, Chairman of Klin Spirits, "As a company, we would not be here without the fall of the Berlin Wall and the way it significantly transformed U.S. - Russian political and industrial relations," stated Eric P. Hanson, Chairman of Klin Spirits.


    [photo and video courtesy of Cigar Reader]

    Filed under:

    Look for the Berlin Wall to Rise in New Orleans at IPCPR originally appeared on Luxist on Sat, 07 Aug 2010 16:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    A new creation from Pepin Garcia's cigar factory will be unveiled in New Orleans this week. Miami Cigar is set to release its newest cigar, the Nestor Miranda Art Deco, at the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association's 78th Annual Convention and International Trade Show. This exciting new cigar's blend is 60 percent Nicaraguan Corojo 99 and 40 percent Dominican San Vicente, dual Dominican Criollo '98/Nicaraguan Habano '00 binder, and a dark, oily and aromatic Nicaraguan Corojo '06 wrapper leaf with a triple cap. The cap, according to Miami Cigar, offers a dark, rich-tasting smoke that provides a unique balance of aroma, flavor and strength."

    According to Nestor Miranda:


    "We wanted to get Pepin out of his comfort zone, which is using Nicaraguan tobacco," said Nestor Miranda. "He accepted the challenge and came out with an amazing blend using 40% Dominican tobacco."

    Instead of using traditional wooden boxes, the Nestor Miranda Art Deco will be sold in metallic art deco-designed tins with 21 cigars each. The sizes are:

    Coffee Break / 4.5 x 50
    Robusto Grande / 5.5 x 54
    Gran Toro / 6 x 60




    Filed under:

    Nestor Miranda to Release New Art Deco Cigar originally appeared on Luxist on Sun, 08 Aug 2010 18:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    The Samoset Resort, in Rockland, Maine, is fairly remote and offers a comfortable retreat from the frenetic pace of city life. Located a tad more than three hours from Boston, it's a great place for people looking to disappear for a few days, either to swing a golf club or simply to hide from the realities of everyday life.

    To truly appreciate what this property has to offer, though, you need to walk through the main building, across the golf course and along the water a bit. Or, you can have someone give you a lift in a golf cart, which might be a bit easier.

    The Flume Cottage sits apart from the rest of the resort, resulting in seclusion within seclusion. This1,500 square foot cottage, refurbished in 2010, sits right on the water, with a back deck that sports drop-dead views of the breakwater, with its lighthouse at the end. And, you can soak in the sights from the Jacuzzi that's out there. Since the only adjacent action on land is golf, you don't need to worry about the slightest noise intruding on your getaway, except, perhaps, a knock at the door when your meals arrive.


    Continue reading Samoset Resort: Quiet Luxury in Maine

    Filed under:

    Samoset Resort: Quiet Luxury in Maine originally appeared on Luxist on Mon, 09 Aug 2010 16:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Obviously, much about North Korea, and especially Kim Jong-il, is left to the realm of speculation. It's hard enough to know what's going on inside the secretive country, especially given the risks of relying too heavily on defector testimony, and the Dear Leader tends to insulate himself from the outside world. There are rumors, of course, that he has a taste for Cuban cigars and upscale spirits, but confirmation is notoriously difficult to attain.

    Nonetheless, it seems the man loves to spend. It's said that 20 percent of North Korea's budget goes to support his lifestyle, including the Omega watches he wears.. In a fit of generosity, he set up top officials with newly imported 160 Mercedes-Benz sedans.

    According to a defector (so take it with a grain of salt):
    The defector says Kim Jong-il was impressed when Chinese diplomats knew to his tastes: "During his visit to China in 2005, Kim Jong-il was delighted to see bottles of Perrier that Chinese officials had prepared for him and asked his aides how the Chinese knew he liked Perrier."

    Questions about Kim Jong-il's health have led to an increased focus on his likely successor, son Kim Jong-un. Not much is known about him ... except the fact that he likes to kick around in Nikes. One can only expect his tastes to mature when his old man dies and the kid ascends to the top spot.



    [photo by yeowatzup via Flickr]

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    North Korean Luxury Tastes Likely to Change under Successor originally appeared on Luxist on Thu, 19 Aug 2010 19:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    With the latest in up-market jeans being readied for release, it's exciting to see what's in the pipeline. In this crowded space, look for the biggest noise to be made not by any fashion company you've pined over. Rather, the hottest denim on the market could be coming from the most unexpected place on earth ... by way of Scandinavia.

    According to Financial Times, "As clean silhouettes and the much-feted new minimalism shape the autumn trends, it looks like denim will take an equally reductive route: out with slashed, stonewash, fussy 1980s styles and in with the basics." And you'll find this manufactured in North Korea.

    FT continues:

    Two years ago, a trio of young, twenty-something Swedes were invited by the government into North Korea to manufacture a national jeans line. Really. "Noko", as it was named, features two jeans styles for men and women: the Kara slim-fit and the Oke loose-fit ($215 plus shipping), both straight-cut and dark-wash, in keeping with the austere nightscapes of the designers' inspiration, Pyongyang.

    The Noko styles are consistent with what is expected for autumn:

    "For autumn, denim is very customer-friendly," says Lesley Torson of Trilogy, a London denim boutique. "It's dark, and washes are quite clean, giving it a more polished look." Meanwhile, the advent of styles such as the utilitarian cargo with convenient side pockets, the forgiving high-rise cut, and the faithful indigo boot-cut flare will offer something the premium jeans world hasn't seen for years: wearability.




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    Upscale Denim: Look to North Korea for Fall Jeans Fashion originally appeared on Luxist on Mon, 23 Aug 2010 22:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Toting shopping bags up and down Manhattan's Madison Avenue can become tiring. After wearing out your elbow signing credit card slips, you'll find yourself with a daunting appetite, and you'll want to take care of it without deviating from your upscale excursion. There aren't many dining options, and most will lead you to a side street where the fare is mundane at best -- it's Midtown, after all. You can keep your luxury momentum going without having to trot far from your fashion binge at Obika, a mozzarella bar on the corner of Madison Ave and E. 56th Street.

    The setting may strike you as strange -- nobody would expect to find a chic establishment in the IBM building's public atrium. Well, you'll have to suspend disbelief for a moment, because the bufala that awaits you is worth it. Popular with the local business crowd because it's easy to get in and out while still indulging, managing partner Anthony tells me that he sees plenty of visitors to New York come through.

    Continue reading Bufala Break: A Bite at Obika on Madison Avenue

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    Bufala Break: A Bite at Obika on Madison Avenue originally appeared on Luxist on Thu, 09 Sep 2010 14:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    I trekked across the river this past weekend to check out the DUMBO Arts Festival in Brooklyn. A neighborhood known for its arts scene could not have been saddled with greater expectations. Let's face it: Manhattan has become consumed by the art market , and DUMBO is perceived as the home of raw art talent. Well, the festival itself wasn't mind-blowing, but the first display I saw caught my attention and made the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge worth it. In fact, I would have walked all the way from the Upper West Side for the first piece I saw.

    As I approached the DUMBO Arts Festival, the first thing I saw was on Adams Street. In fairness, I knew about this piece in advance, but I didn't realize it would be my entry into the festival - and become the benchmark by which I would judge all that followed.

    "Cycles of Violence," by Ahron Weiner, could be missed easily if you weren't looking for it. New Yorkers familiar with posters on scaffolding all over the city could tune it out all too easily. In this case, that would mean missing an impressive exhibition - of the sort that can shape your perspective on public art.

    Continue reading Cycles of Violence: Standout at DUMBO Arts Festival

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    Cycles of Violence: Standout at DUMBO Arts Festival originally appeared on Luxist on Tue, 28 Sep 2010 06:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    If you head out to Jackson Hole, still a playground for the wealthy, despite the lingering effects of the recession, a jaunt through the mountains is probably on your itinerary. The Grand Tetons are simultaneously challenging and inviting, and you need to respond to that call! After having scaled peaks or stumbled along trails, however, your body will need some relief. The Avanyu Spa at the Snake River Lodge & Spa is the perfect fit for rejuvenating your weary muscles.

    I visited this spa on a recent getaway to Jackson Hole and can tell you the staff's talented hands are the perfect antidote to the strain and pain that comes with an active vacation. The Avanyu Spa offers 17,000 square feet of pure relaxation ... with the exception of the gym on the fifth floor. It's a great place to get in shape, but I just can't bring myself to compare exercise to bliss - it's just not my nature.

    The range of treatments is fairly wide, and includes a variety of unique massages (e.g., Komodo Massage, Sleeping Indian Custom Massage and River Stone Massage), as well as desert salt exfoliation, several facials and other skin treatments.

    The spa's layout was certainly interesting. The gym is on its uppermost floor, and the four below included treatment rooms, locker rooms and, on the first floor, an indoor pool and access to one outside. An elevator transports you from one to the next. At first, this seemed cumbersome, but that's probably because I'm constantly in a hurry. Quickly, I came to realize that the forced wait encouraged a bit of patience, moving me into the mindset that a spa visit encourages.

    Continue reading Squeeze out the Stiffness from a Long Day of Teton Hiking

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    Squeeze out the Stiffness from a Long Day of Teton Hiking originally appeared on Luxist on Wed, 29 Sep 2010 11:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Contemporary art values got spanked following the financial crisis, and even though there were signs of hope in October and November 2009, it's been a long road to recovery. Some artists, in particular, were beaten particularly severely by the collapse of the contemporary art market.

    Takashi Murakami, a fervent self-marketer as well as artist, sustained a decline in total auction revenue from $8 million for the July 2008 - June 2009 period to $3.4 million for the 12 months running from July 2009 - June 2010. ArtPrice reports that only 223 of his pieces were brought to auction during the year ending in June 2010, and only nine brought in more than €100,000. None hit the seven-figure mark.

    Though the cash isn't rolling in, ArtPrice notes that Murakami "is back in the limelight thanks to his theatrical exhibition in the Château de Versailles which runs until 12 December 2010."

    [photo by achimh via Flickr]

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    Tough Year for Takashi Murakami as Auction Revenue Plunges originally appeared on Luxist on Wed, 29 Sep 2010 21:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    The Affordable Art Fair starts on September 30, 2010, and it comes with plenty of opportunities to pick up pieces by emerging artists. Featuring works priced from $100 to $10,000, the right choices can turn into astounding art investments down the road. While collectors are drawn to the pieces themselves first, it's hard to overlook the financial appreciation that can occur, especially as the art market claws its way back from financial crisis lows.

    What happens if your artwork is damaged? Collectors don't always spend enough time thinking about the financial side of their holdings, and art insurance can be an afterthought. So, it might not be a bad idea to invest a little in protecting your work.

    "After taking the time to evaluate a work of art, but before making a purchase, it is important that collectors consider how they are going to protect their investment," said Andrew Gristina, Fine Art Specialist, Travelers Inland Marine. "Most people buy art because of the aesthetic beauty, however, it's also a financial investment, which is why insurance coverage and proper handling should be a consideration with each purchase."

    Here are three five steps you can take to protect what you pick up at the Affordable Art Fair (or anywhere else):

    Continue reading Five Ways to Protect Your Purchases at New York's Affordable Art Fair

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    Five Ways to Protect Your Purchases at New York's Affordable Art Fair originally appeared on Luxist on Thu, 30 Sep 2010 08:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    As I walked the aisles of New York's Affordable Art Fair this past weekend, hoping to meet artists who'll someday become the mainstays of the auction scene, a powerful installation stopped me dead in my tracks. Black paint dripped from a white orb, which was suspended above a pile of once-white everyday household items. A milk carton and shoe, among other things, slowly turned black, as did the map of the world upon which they rested. An entanglement of pipes spread out from the dirtying action, and a quiet man sat on the floor beneath one of them, looking content and relaxed.

    So, I had to interrupt his piece.

    This is how I met Kamol Akhunov, the artist responsible for "Earth Leak". Inspired by the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Akhunov's installation drives home the message that a disaster thousands of miles away can affect our daily lives, as suggested by the black paint falling upon the pile of household goods, as well as the map beneath them.


    Continue reading "Earth Leak": Art Brings Disaster to Manhattan

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    When I first started writing about the art market, in the white-hot auction climate of the summer of 2007, I had the chance to interview Prof. Michael Moses of NYU. Co-founder of the Mei-Moses Index used to gauge the direction of art prices, he's pretty much the de facto source for issues at the intersection of art and investing. I'll never forget the advice he offered to my readers: start with prints of your favorite pieces, and as you can afford to, replace them with the real thing.

    This is the exact concept I saw in action when I stopped by the ArtWeLove booth at the Affordable Art Fair to visit company founder Laurence Lafforgue.

    Art We Love focuses on making works by high-caliber artists available to entry-level collectors. The archival pigment prints offered by the company are limited-edition reproductions of museum-caliber pieces from well-known artists who have agreed to work with Lafforgue to make the art luxury attainable to a broader constituency.

    Continue reading ArtWeLove: A Great First Step for Aspiring Art Collectors

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    ArtWeLove: A Great First Step for Aspiring Art Collectors originally appeared on Luxist on Tue, 05 Oct 2010 18:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    The world just got a new cigar! I've been waiting for this launch for months, having first heard about it last winter. And, if ever there was an open secret in the cigar industry, this was it. The La Sirena line of cigars, manufactured at Don Pepin Garcia's My Father Cigars factory and distributed by Miami Cigar & Company, is the latest bold and powerful Nicaraguan stick to take a place on tobacconists' shelves. It is unmistakably a Pepin creation, with rich flavors and the sort of kick that inveterate cigar smokers are bound to appreciate.

    La Sirena was launched at a dinner in its honor held last week at De La Concha in Manhattan. "Full house" was redefined, as customers packed themselves into the Sixth Avenue retail establishment ... while more than a dozen others made it no further than the waiting list. Even with Cigar Aficionado's Big Smoke going on at the same time, the presence of Nestor Miranda, Janny Garcia and Arielle Ditkowich demonstrates the excitement that had built around this product. And, Pete Johnson of Tatuaje Cigars stopped by to offer his regards (and announce with De La Concha General Manager Ron Melendi that the store would begin carrying Johnson's Tatuaje cigars).





    [photos by Steve Zak Photography]

    Continue reading La Sirena Cigar Launch Party in New York City

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    La Sirena Cigar Launch Party in New York City originally appeared on Luxist on Sun, 05 Dec 2010 19:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    I'm sure you'd love to believe that your concerns are being heard. At an airport, restaurant, hotel or any other place where you're parting with your hard-earned cash, you expect a certain level of service. When you don't get it, you expect management to give a damn. Shocking, I know, but sometimes even this second part doesn't happen.

    Gone are the days when even the risk of a customer complaint struck horror in the eyes of a hospitality manager. Close to a decade ago, I emailed a gripe to Kelly's Roast Beef in Massachusetts. Within 24 hours, I had a call from the manager who as horrified, embarrassed and eager to make things right. I didn't care about the free meal offer - in fact, I turned it down twice before giving in - it was the attitude that made the difference. He was genuinely upset that he was losing a single customer, and the prospect of that didn't sit well with him. Now, so many years later, this remains my go-to story about customer service perfection.

    Today, that seems to be gone - or at least scarcer. For some restaurants and other hospitality companies, even in the luxury space, it's the belief that a certain amount customer churn is to be expected. Or that brand is irrelevant. Or that intermediaries (such as online booking sites) have made price the motivator, obviating the need for a commitment to customer service excellence. In a recent case for me, at The Mercer Kitchen, in the Mercer Hotel, it was clear that brand was the problem - namely that a cool, upscale spot didn't need to worry about customer satisfaction.

    Using this experience, let's take a look at five things you should be wary of when expressing your concerns to a hospitality manager; they indicate that your complaint isn't being handled properly:

    Continue reading Five Ways to Protect Yourself From a Poor Luxury Experience

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    Five Ways to Protect Yourself From a Poor Luxury Experience originally appeared on Luxist on Mon, 13 Dec 2010 15:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Cuban cigarsNow even I want to hang out in the TSA smoking area.

    Nearly every cigar smoker who's gotten nailed bringing Cubans back into the country has hatched some sort of conspiracy theory about where the snatched goods go. Invariably, the imagined plot ends with the TSA propping its feet up at the Grand Havana Room - or some other swanky establishment - puffing away on what should have been ill-gotten gains.

    And it looks like their inventory is about to go up, according to the Associated Press.

    After the recent package bomb attempts on flights from Yemen to the United States, it's getting harder for Americans to smuggle contraband cigars into the country. For those accustomed to ordering online from countries such as Switzerland, the results aren't what they used to be. Homeland Security is taking a closer look at packages coming into the United States, and it's coming up with tobacco.

    At O'Hare, which usually nabs around 2,000 Cuban cigars every two weeks, the tally has reached an astounding 100,000 over the last fortnight, and continued largess is expected to be confiscated.

    There's one group that's happy about this though: tobacconists. Every Cuban cigar ignited is an unmade sale for professional tobacconists, so this could offer the domestic business a little bit of a bump.

    [Via Gawker, photo by Steve Zak Photography]

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    Cuban Cigars Confiscated More Than Ever, Retailers Rejoice originally appeared on Luxist on Tue, 14 Dec 2010 20:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    The year is coming to an end, and that means the art gallery at Eden Rock is filling up. As peak season hits down on St. Barths, the gallery becomes home to endless excitement, and it should be higher than in the past few years, as the art market bounces back from its late 2008 and early 2009 depths.

    This year, the Eden Rock Gallery will be home to an exhibition called "Uncovered," running from December 22, 2010 through January 31, 2011. Hosted in partnership with the New York Academy of Art and curated by Eileen Guggenheim, Peter Drake and David Kratz, it will include 24 pieces by artists affiliated with the academy, with work by faculty and members of the Artists' Advisory Board of the Academy on the walls, too. Rosson Crow, Kurt Kauper, Natalie Frank, Alyssa Monks, Robert Feintuch, Julie Heffernan and Margaret Bowland are among the artists being featured.





    Continue reading Eden Rock "Uncovers" Latest Art Exhibition

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    Eden Rock "Uncovers" Latest Art Exhibition originally appeared on Luxist on Tue, 21 Dec 2010 15:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    What will you cut and light when you pop the cork on New Year's Eve? People may agonize over champagne choices, but cigars don't always get commensurate attention. Fortunately, Vin lee, CEO of the Beverly Hills Cigar Club, was on hand to provide his recommendations for the biggest party night of the year. Below are his top five cigar and champagne pairings, designed to make your first sip and puff of 2011 ideal.

    Lee is particularly excited about the new year. "Now is the time for the world to celebrate its recovery and success," he said. "For the New Year, from Dubai to Paris and from New York to Beverly Hills, it is time for the world to rejoice in what we have and who we are. Coming together with a glass of bubbly and a fine cigar, let's welcome 2011."

    Let's take a look on what's on the Beverly Hills Cigar Club's list:

    Continue reading Make the Right Champagne and Cigar Choice for New Year's Eve [EXCLUSIVE]

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    Make the Right Champagne and Cigar Choice for New Year's Eve [EXCLUSIVE] originally appeared on Luxist on Wed, 22 Dec 2010 14:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Valentine's Day cigar gift

    Cigar smokers should be the easiest people in your life for whom to shop, with a clear interest that is easy to address. But, if you want to go the extra mile, finding that perfect present can be daunting. This is especially the case on Valentine's Day, when you really want to send a loving, thoughtful message. Obviously, the smart move is to take the pressure off yourself, tell your loved one that he or she is in fact a loved one and celebrate what you have with each other.

    Of course, we're rarely that easy on ourselves at this time of year!

    If you have a cigar smoker in your life, here are five ideas from Vin Lee, CEO of the Beverly Hills Cigar Club, to make Valentine's Day a bit easier for you ... and a bit enjoyable for him or her:

    1. S.T. Dupont Limited Edition Shaman Series Lighter: got a grand to burn, so to speak? This impressive piece will set you back $1,000, but it's sure to impress. The white pearlized lacquer with mother-of-pearl inlays is stunning, and whipping this lighter out to ignite a cigar is a clear sign of taste.

    2. Bugatti 3 Chrome Satin/Chrome Polished Traditional Flame Lighter: this one won't hurt your wallet as much as the Shaman (at only $150), but it will nonetheless garner plenty of attention. And, it's one of Lee's favorites.

    Continue reading Five Smokin' Valentine's Day Gifts for Cigar Lovers

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    Five Smokin' Valentine's Day Gifts for Cigar Lovers originally appeared on Luxist on Thu, 03 Feb 2011 14:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Obika mozzarella bar

    Nothing beats sitting down with the fresh mozzarella and pasta fare available at Obika, the midtown Manhattan mozzarella bar. Rather than disrupt your perfect city Saturday by scarfing down the heavily tourist fare available within striking distance of the shop's location on E. 56th Street and Madison Avenue, you can amble into the public atrium at the IBM Building and enjoy bufala at its finest.

    The only thing missing has been a great glass of wine to accompany it. Well, the good news is that it won't be a problem anymore.

    Anthony Fauci, managing partner of Obika's New York location, told me over the weekend that the restaurant has just received its liquor license, and that the libations are flowing. The offering is so new that the wine menu hasn't even been published on the Obika website yet, though Fauci tells me to expect options from Campagnia, Veneto,Tuscany and Puglia, not to mention "a few surprises." For now, the only way to find out is to head over and order a glass with your dish. I'm hoping to get there within the next few days.

    Continue reading New York City Mozzarella Bar Introduces Missing Link

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    New York City Mozzarella Bar Introduces Missing Link originally appeared on Luxist on Mon, 21 Feb 2011 20:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Ahron Weiner Brooklyn Verge
    There were breaks in the rain, but the day ended with small rivers flowing through the gutters in Brooklyn's DUMBO neighborhood. It was the last day of Armory week in New York City, an event consisting of art fairs all over the city, ranging from colossal reputations and incredible valuations to emerging artists eager for their first tastes of success and notoriety. I was on my way to the Verge show, itself spread out over several locations.

    If you want to find something unique or unusual, Verge is the place to go. You'll have to sift through a lot of good efforts (as opposed to successful results), but the one piece that blows your mind is worth it. I found it at 20 Jay Street: "The Flood," by Ahron Weiner.

    There is nothing conventional about Weiner's photography, except, perhaps, for the fact that he uses a camera. After that, he's truly exploring new territory. "The Flood" is part of a larger effort that tells the stories of the Old Testament through rehabilitated advertising images.
    Okay, that's a lot to digest. So, let's step through the concept.

    If you ever see a tall (by my standards, at least) man with long blond hair chipping through the advertising posters on Manhattan scaffolds, there's a good chance it's Weiner. These posters are slapped up all over the city, with the new simply covering up the old ... and so on. It's endless. Weiner goes in the opposite direction. He peels away at the layers, looking for a story to emerge. Starting with what strikes him as an interesting advertisement, he pulls to see what lies beneath.




    Continue reading Ahron Weiner on the Verge: Bringing "The Flood" to Brooklyn

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    Ahron Weiner on the Verge: Bringing "The Flood" to Brooklyn originally appeared on Luxist on Wed, 09 Mar 2011 18:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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