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At the Aventura Mall in Miami-Dade County, art and commerce live side by side. Turnberry chief executive officer Jackie Soffer has been adding and commissioning pieces for the shopping center for 12 years, bringing renowned contemporary art to the center.

“When you look at art in public places, usually it’s in areas where people congregate,” says Soffer. “In Miami, we’re a bit of a town center. The concept when we started the program was, we can invest in some great art, we can publicly display it, and we can give people an experience that they otherwise wouldn’t have.” With annual visitors to the mall hovering around the 28 million mark, they also have the benefit of visibility.

“We are in the Miami market, and art is something that’s very important in Miami because of Art Basel, and it’s really put Miami on the map,” adds Soffer, whose husband, Craig Robins, owns Design Miami/ and has taken a similar approach with public art in the city’s Design District. “He makes fun of me all the time because he says I copy him, but I actually started the art program before I met him,” she quips. It was through Robbins’ Design Miami/ that she met the Haas brothers, who were recently commissioned to create a fountain for the Aventura, their first public art installation and one of the mall’s newest acquisitions. Another recent addition is a giant experiential slide by Carsten Höller.

In the years since the program started, the mall has amassed a collection to rival that of any museum, including works by Lawrence Weiner, Louise Bourgeois and Mark Handforth. While at first there was stigma around having work shown in a mall, this isn’t your average mall-art collection, and as the collection grew, artists began reaching out about being included. The work shown is noncontroversial and nondivisive, accessible and aims to appeal to art-world insiders and the casual shopper.

“It definitely enhances the visit and it definitely enhances the amount of time people stay at our property,” says Soffer of the company’s art initiative. “It’s adding an element of surprise for our customers. My goal is to make coming to the property an experience where you just have the unexpected and then there’s also obviously the expected. You can go to the movies, you can go to the food court, or Michael Mina‘s opening a restaurant, which is a sit-down formal restaurant, or you can take your kids to the playground, which was deigned by FriendsWithYou,” she continues. “Or you can go to the slide, or you can go to the outside fountain, or you can sit and just people-watch.”

Fountain by the Haas brothers.

Fountain by the Haas brothers.  Leo Diaz

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