Miami Art Week 2022: Artist Phillip K. Smith III Collaborates with American Express and Resy

With "Garden of Reflections," a pop-up gallery by day transforms into a high dining epicenter by night

Phillip K. Smith III has created some of the most visually striking installations across the world—from installations at Coachella to Desert X and even his collaboration with the Faena Hotel. During Miami Art Week this year, thanks to support from American Express and Resy, the illustrious artist was able to bring to life “Garden of Reflections,” the focal point at their week-long culinary pop-up in the Design District (part of Global Dining Access, which is a benefit available to eligible Card Members, including Platinum). A sculptural wonder at the intersection of food, art and culture, Smith’s immersive, evocative pop-up installation hosted a rotating array of dinners from culinary greats (including Massimo Bottura and Missy Robbins) all of whom were brought together to enjoy a week of conversation and dining.

We spoke with Smith about “Garden of Reflections” and what it was like putting together the centerpiece for an ephemeral restaurant.

Courtesy of Lance Gerber

How was the sculpture meant to complement the American Express and Resy experience?

After hearing the vision to integrate art, architecture and dining, I was immediately interested in creating an immersive installation for the Resy and American Express Design District pop-up. I was commissioned to create an installation that would operate as a gallery by day and a restaurant by night, which was a unique challenge. “Garden of Reflections” is a series of reflective columnar sculptures that react to the immediate surroundings: the sun, clouds, treetops and architecture during the day, and the action of the dining experience at night. For the dining experience, I knew that I had a captive audience that would view the artwork from one location: their dining table. That block of time would acclimate their perception and amplify their experience of the movement and light of the space as seen across the artwork’s surface. The connection between the conditions of the site and the experience of the artwork would be established during a meal.

Courtesy of Lance Gerber

A lot of your work is outdoors in public or semi-public spaces. What was it like creating a piece that was going to be inside a pop-up restaurant?

I was very interested in the commission because it was intended from the beginning to be an original site-specific art installation for the Design District pop-up. The third-floor space at Paradise Plaza offered an open, modern framework from which to work. The south-facing wall of glass running the entire length of the space would allow light, the surrounding landscaping and views to Miami to enter into the space.

It was less about creating a “restaurant” and more about a dining experience within the space of an art installation

Creating work in the public realm is all about interaction and this project is no different. American Express and Resy’s intent was that the art installation would establish the visual experience of the dining experience. It was less about creating a “restaurant” and more about a dining experience within the space of an art installation. The dining experience informed the art and the art informed the dining experience.

Courtesy of Lance Gerber

Tell us about your approach and process for this project. 

I wanted to create an installation that was equally powerful and quiet, completely immersive and changing at all times, no matter day or night. I wanted an artwork to be highly present, but composed of the architecture and the surroundings itself—you could say camouflaged and present at the same time.

By using the light, colors and movement of the space, the viewer would be more aware of the overall experience itself. Through the use of reflection, the light, movement and colors of the space, the food, and the people would become artistic material collaged across the mirror polished stainless steel surface of the installation.

Courtesy of Lance Gerber

What did you want guests to take away from the experience?

That the artwork is composed of the light, space, people and food within the space and because of that, all of those elements are constantly in movement and the artwork itself is constantly in a state of change. Viewing the artwork during the day for the Gallery Day was entirely different from viewing it in the evening for the dining experience. And that was precisely the intent. Everyone would have a unique experience with “Garden of Reflections,” depending on where they were seated.

Hero image courtesy of Lance Gerber