In less than two decades, the fair that began simply as a forum for buying and selling blue-chip art has become a catalyst of economic growth and cultural renaissance. Five power players from the worlds of real estate, design and art reflect on Miami 16 years after the debut of Art Basel.
Louis Birdman, Dennis School, Paulo Bacchi, Sue Hostetler, and Jay Parker
“Art Basel generates about half a billion dollars for the South Florida region annually,” says Sue Hostetler, editor of Art Basel magazine. Sit with that for a moment. Five days, $500 million. Hostetler has brought together a group of art and real estate heavyweights to talk about what exactly that vast number means for the city of Miami. On her panel: Dennis Scholl, president and CEO of ArtCenter/South Florida; Louis Birdman, an architect and real estate developer responsible for 70 projects in Miami alone including One Thousand Museum; Jay Parker, the CEO of Douglas Elliman’s Florida Brokerage; and Paulo Bacchi, the CEO of Artefacto. What follows is an edited recap of their conversation.
Dennis Scholl: Miami has been defined in the art world as BAB and AAB—Before Art Basel and After Art Basel. But in fact, the seeds of what has happen here started 10 or five years before that: You had a bunch of collectors come to town and begin to create these individual spaces for their own private collection, and the community began to become culturally sensitized, if you will. So, Art Basel, from my perspective, didn’t create what happened, but it acted as a catalyst by shining a very bright light on the city.
Jay Parker: The focus on uber-luxury vertical living has given developers in our market, and coming to our market from around the world, the opportunity to bring a high level of design which is complemented by everything around us. We have an incredible representation of award-winning architects in this region: Zaha Hadid, may she rest in peace, Renzo Piano, Norman Foster, and the list goes on and on. We have artists of the sky, artists of buildings creating masterpieces that adorn our landscape. I think all developers should pay Art Basel royalties.
Paulo Bacchi: Art Basel brought a multicultural clientele, people who understand design, limited-edition collections and collectible items. This year we will launch our first limited-edition series with award-winning Brazilian designer Sérgio Matos, along with temporary installations by three other Brazilian artists: José Paulo, Mozart Guerra and Rizza.
Louis Birdman: The buyers we are seeing [in One Thousand Museum] are not primary-residence buyers; these are third, fourth, fifth homes. They’re not going to live here more than two or three months a year. The caliber of people that is coming here and the reasons for them coming here has changed over time. Things like Basel, which when it was first brought I don’t think anyone ever understood the impact it was going to have and the fact that it has migrated all over the city. To a large extent, it is what made downtown luxury development possible, what’s made the Design District happen, what’s made Wynwood… those things are essentially all driven by things that sort of spun off of Basel. And these things and neighborhoods will continue to attract people from other places to Miami.
JP: Most people can’t gain perspective from an open space, it doesn’t matter how big or how small. It is very hard for someone who doesn’t live in the real estate world like we do to get perspective. When Artefacto brings these exquisite pieces to a property, they not only bring life to the space but they also create an experience. We had a property in one of our projects, it was a compromised view. You still have a big price because it was big unit. Artefacto came in and in five days the unit sold.
PB: We stage according to the architecture of the building, to the surrounding of the apartment, and most important it has to be neutral so the client can bring the most important thing… personal art.
DS: We have to fight to make sure the cultural assets that we have and are developing work for the artist and the community, too. This can’t be a five-day town; it’s got to be a 365-day town, and the only way to do that is to nurture these cultural assets and for everybody to support them. Get on a museum board, get on a cultural board; don’t just participate from afar. If you were wondering what Miami should look like in 10 years, it ought to look like Los Angeles. Los Angeles right now is magic; to be a young artist in L.A. right now is probably the best thing that you can be.
LB: From our perspective as a developer, it just opens up other opportunities to other markets. I mean we were busy with [One Thousand Museum], and I saw what was going on in Wynwood and I kept saying every day that we should try to find something in Wynwood.
DS: I would say Wynwood is the perfect example of what can happen in a negative way. There were 80 art galleries in Wynwood approximately six years ago, and now there are five. What does that mean to the arts community? It could just mean Wynwood is over it for us. The artists are always the first you’ll see in neighborhoods that become vital, that become vibrant early in their life cycle through the efforts of art and artists… we’ve got to find a way to reward them.
PORTRAIT BY WORLD RED EYE