On Tuesday afternoon, Ian Schrager looked at ease sitting back with a hot cup of coffee in one of the Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurants at his latest hotel in Miami Beach, the Edition.
After a soft opening last month, the hotelier had chosen tonight, at the start of a high-profile week during Art Basel, for its grand opening — finally, there was nothing (except, perhaps, the rain) to put a damper on plans for the blowout to spill onto the pool deck.
The lobby was busy, and more encouragingly, developers like Aby Rosen, one of the owners of the W South Beach, and competing hoteliers, like Jason Pomeranc of the Thompson Hotel Group — which opened its own new hotel nearby last month — had already come sniffing to see what all the fuss was about.
“I think they wanted to see what was happening,” Schrager said in his gravelly drawl. “I’ll be flattered when the people like it. If the people don’t get it, it doesn’t matter how many Aby Rosens are out there.”
Almost two decades ago, Schrager went through this same exercise when he re-opened the historic Delano in a city that would be unrecognizable today.
“It was raw,” he continued. “Miami was not a 24-hour international gateway city on par with New York, Paris and London. When I did the Delano, this was a refuge from the Cold War.”
A dinner cohosted by W Magazine and the New Museum and attended by the likes of Marina Abramovic, Linda Evangelista, Toni Garrn and Douglas Booth was followed by Basel’s first bottleneck, a chaotic scene at the entrance to the hotel’s basement club that perfectly captured just how atomized Miami has become, especially in the 12 years since the Art Basel fair arrived here. Scores of people jockeyed for a position to go downstairs, where Schrager installed both a skating rink and a bowling alley.
And this was supposed to be the calm before the storm, the day before the official VIP preview at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Things that night begun quietly enough in a place far, far away from the main drag, in a tony enclave on Ocean Drive called Golden Beach. Frank Sinatra was playing, a Christmas tree was lit and a distinguished crowd — Jerry Bruckheimer, Bruce Weber, the billionaire Silas Chou, Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, plus Karolina Kurkova — moved through Tommy and Dee Hilfiger’s collection of modern art.
“We had acquired these pieces a while ago and when we got the house we finally had the wall place to display them,” Dee Hilfiger said, pointing to his-and-hers Jean-Michel Basquiats. Elsewhere was one of the “flesh paintings” by the artist Marc Quinn, with whom Dee was toasting a handbag collaboration under her brand Dee Ocleppo. The house pièce de résistance was a screening room in top-to-bottom hot red: “We wanted to be sort of psychedelic-Mod-groovy,” Tommy Hilfiger said.
The designer himself made a big real estate play in April by plunking down $56.6 million through his holding company to buy the Raleigh Hotel. He thought to transform the landmark Art Deco hotel into a private membership club, which, before a year-long renovation, he would christen Wednesday night with a performance by Miley Cyrus.
“A lot of people we know want exclusivity and privacy and it doesn’t really exist other than just Soho House. We want ours to be very special,” Hilfiger said. “We want to provide entertainment and tomorrow night is a little something of what we feel entertainment is about.”
In midtown Miami, a number of actresses and models — Kate Hudson, Michelle Williams, Miranda Kerr, Bella Hadid — flitted around the historic Bacardi Building shortly after Louis Vuitton unveiled its exhibit dedicated to the furniture designer Pierre Paulin. Williams and Hudson don’t consider themselves collectors, not yet anyway, and had made time for a pit stop in Miami more for the brand than the arts.
“The art world is a complicated world and it’s definitely something where you need to know what you’re doing before you start collecting,” Hudson said. “At least for someone like me.”
But the men of the hour, the two guys who dominated this week’s early headlines, were the ones huddling in a corner, one sporting graying hair in a gray sport jacket and one with no hair at all — Norman Braman and Craig Robins.
Braman, the billionaire car dealership magnate — one of his Braman Motor dealerships was close to the Bacardi Building — became the latest local wealthy benefactor to throw his weight behind a local museum in a city already brimming with private museum-collections. He and his wife Irma agreed to wholly fund the construction of the new Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, or ICA, on land in Miami’s Design District donated by Robins, the real estate impresario who’s been a driving force behind the neighborhood’s explosive development in the last decade.
With the museum, Braman has come full circle. He was one of the more vocal architects to bring Basel here in the first place, and the New Museum was another display of his influence.
“None of this has been done by taxpayers,” he said. “It’s all private and that’s very unique. There’s no city that has anything to match what’s occurred here as a result of what Art Basel has brought.”