Once a year Miami becomes the focus of the international art world, with the renowned event “Miami Arts Week”, but the city’s contemporary art scene remains a vibrant force throughout the year. Miami is bolstered by an impressive group of private collections, here we present Miami’s 10 major private art collections, some of which are included in the top 100 list of world collectors.
TRACEY AND BRUCE R. BERKOWITZ COLLECTION
Equity fund manager Bruce Berkowitz caused a stir when he and his wife Tracey announced in 2014 that they decided to build a private art museum in Miami, Florida. “Proposed museum building splashy even for Miami,” one Miami Herald headline read. On top of housing James Turrell’s Aten Reign and Richard Serra’s Passage of Time, the building’s top floors would also be home to Fairholme Capital Group’s offices and the Fairholme Foundation headquarters. (Bruce is the founder and chief investment officer of the hedge fund.) Briefly stalled by Miami zoning laws in 2015, the project is still in the planning stages. The couple’s foundation also supports the National YoungArts Foundation, which awards grant money to teenage artists.
IRMA AND NORMAN BRAMAN COLLECTION
Norman Braman made his fortune by amassing a formidable chain of car dealerships. It’s been estimated that more than half of their reported $1.6 billion fortune is invested in art, including pieces by Warhol, de Kooning (they loaned major pieces to the Museum of Modern Art’s 2011 retrospective), and Calder, whose work inspired them to begin collecting in 1979. They’re not afraid of placing a high bid at auction. “If you buy the best of an artist it doesn’t matter how much you pay for it,” Norman told Forbes in 2011. “The market will catch up.” The Bramans financed the creation of a 37,500-square-foot home for the new Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami. Norman told the New York Times last year, “Whatever the cost is, we will be building it, period.”
ELLA FONTANALS-CISNEROS COLLECTION
Ella Fontanals-Cisneros was born in Cuba, but fled to Venezuela at the age of 16 with her family during the Cuban Revolution. She currently lives in Miami, where she and her family founded the nonprofit Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO) in 2002. Fontanals-Cisneros began collecting art in 1999 and has since become “one of the heaviest hitters on the Miami scene,” according to a 2007 profile in W magazine. Works in her enormous collection often appear in shows organized by CIFO, and include pieces by Vik Muniz, John Baldessari, Olafur Eliasson, and Ai Weiwei. She also opened Miami Art Central (MAC), whose resources she later donated to Miami Art Museum under the program name MAC@MAM.
ROSA AND CARLOS DE LA CRUZ COLLECTION
Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz first met as teenagers in Havana. Both were from cultured backgrounds; Rosa’s father was an architect and Carlos’s family collected art. Married since 1966, they have assembled one of Miami’s finest collections of contemporary art (including a noteworthy number of postwar German paintings), much of which is housed in the 30,000-square-foot de la Cruz Contemporary Art Space, launched in 2009 and free to the public. Carlos holds degrees from University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, as well as a degree in law from the University of Miami, where he is now a senior trustee. He sits on the Council of Foreign Relations in addition to holding a chairmanship at CC1 Companies, a $1-billion-per-year bottling and distribution empire. Rosa serves as director and treasurer of the same company. The de la Cruz collection includes works by Isa Genzken, Christopher Wool, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Mark Bradford, and Peter Doig.
AARON I. FLEISCHMAN COLLECTION
Since attorney Aaron Fleischman’s firm, Fleischman and Harding, was absorbed into a larger outfit in 2011, he’s been spending more time away from Washington, D.C., where he became known as one of the town’s top telecom lawyers. In 2016 he put on the market his $5.75 million home in the tony Kalorama neighborhood—the Obamas’ new stomping ground!—and started to spend more time at the New York duplex he purchased in 2014 for $14.5 million, in the River House complex on 52nd Street. That’s where the wall space is, and he’ll need it, as his collection is at such a level that he’s constantly lending to the National Gallery of Art.
MARTIN Z. MARGULIES COLLECTION
It’s a reflection of my personality, perhaps.” This is how Martin Z. Margulies described his $800 million collection to an interviewer in 2008. “It’s a collection of my external and internal experiences in my life.” A good deal of Margulies’s personality is on display in Miami’s Wynwood District at the Warehouse, a nonprofit organization that he founded in 1999 to house his collection of American and European contemporary art, and to provide art education to students and visitors. “[Art] is about learning and educating yourself,” Margulies once said, and he applies that belief to himself as a collector. “It never ends. You can always educate yourself…forever.” The Warehouse is an annual stop for the crowds visiting Art Basel Miami Beach in December; there they see new acquisitions as well as mainstays of the collection, including works by Donald Judd and George Segal.
CRAIG ROBINS COLLECTION
Nestled in a corporate office in the Design District, the Craig Robins Collection at Dacra showcases the exuberant spirit of contemporary art and design. Real estate mogul Craig Robins perpetually seeks to integrate art and community by providing public access to his collection of over 200 artists’ works. The pieces revolve several times annually, drawing mainly from German, Mexican, Chinese and American artists. But some creators like Richard Tuttle and John Baldessari reside permanently amidst this disarming and often humorous medley.
THE RODRIGUEZ COLLECTION at K.A.C
Rodríguez’s work as an art collector began in the complex nineties of the last century, still in his own country where he made his debut as an antiques collector. From this stage, little by little, his taste changed towards visual arts, given his interest in “authenticity and aura” which characterizes this production. In light of this, it is interesting to note that when Leonardo emigrated from Cuba, he brought precisely the twelve paintings that would become the genesis of what today is his treasure. The Kendall Art Center was created with the intention of bringing Rodríguez’s collection closer to the community and has become – according to The Miami Herald – one of the best cultural offerings, not only in Kendall, but in the city of Miami as a whole. Its foundation and the constant interaction with artists that have nurtured it, has meant that the Leonardo Rodríguez collection has grown by approximately 40%, refining its artists and moving towards a pluralist profile where, however, the work of the renowned artists on the island in the eighties is especially noteworthy, in terms of its continuity and validity, and no longer as something static or archaeological.
RUBELL FAMILY COLLECTION
The Rubells started collecting in 1964 on a budget of $25 a week, and their limited resources led them to focus on newer artists who were at the time unknown. Visiting the studios of rising artists is a tradition that they continue to this day. The Rubells don’t buy to sell, and, somewhat controversially, they don’t buy to donate to museums either. “In 50 years of collecting, we’ve put together over 5,000 pieces and we’ve sold less than 20,” Don Rubell once told the New York Times. Their massive collection of contemporary art, which includes works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Kara Walker, and Andy Warhol, is housed in a 45,000-square-foot private museum in Miami, where they often unveil new shows during Art Basel Miami Beach every December. “The heart of the matter is that art saved my life,” Mera Rubell said during a panel at the SP-Arte fair in São Paulo in 2015. “The fact of the matter is that it saved our marriage, it brought us together, it saved our family, because it’s constantly teaching us about who we are and somehow giving hope that there’s a future.”
DENNIS AND DEBRA SCHOLL COLLECTION
For 35 years the Scholls have earned recognition for their experimental collection and their generosity. Most recently they donated more than 300 works to the Pérez Art Museum Miami—with an emphasis on sculpture by artists like Olafur Eliasson and photography by Catherine Opie and Anna Gaskell. Each year the couple selects a young guest curator to reinstall work from their 1,000-plus-piece collection during Art Basel, then opens their South Beach apartment to thousands of visitors. “Miami has a very committed group of collectors who are willing to turn their collections outward,” says Dennis, who is now the vice president of arts for the Knight Foundation. Debra, who is the chair of the board of directors for one of the coolest alternative arts spaces in town—Locust Projects—finds Miami singular for its utter lack of pretense. “Miami is a very open city—you don’t have to be fifth generation to get involved on the highest level.”
Featured Image: Angel Acosta Leon, Carretilla, 1964,oil on canvas and board, 18×14″ The Rodríguez Collection