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This week, Whitewall will be doing a series of interviews with women in the arts at the Riviera South Beach, part of our Art Basel Miami Beach week coverage. The first of our interviews – with Whitechapel’s Iwona Blazwick and Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale’s Bonnie Clearwater – will post later today (so check back in!).
The Riviera South Beach is part of the South Beach Group Hotels, which includes the newly opened Lincoln Arms, the Catalina Hotel & Beach Club, among several other hotels and restaurants. The Riviera will be host to several events surrounding Art Basel Miami Beach this week, including an exhibition of Alexandria Hilfiger‘s paintings and a book signing with Robert Zuckerman.
Behind all that is Alan Lieberman, who came to Miami by way of Philadelphia and has been transforming South Beach ever since. We spoke to Lieberman in our winter 2014 Luxury Issue. Here’s our conversation.
Owner of South Beach Group Hotels Inc.
By Katy Donoghue
WHITEWALL: You first fell in love with Miami’s art deco buildings on a spring break trip in college. What about Miami Beach struck you, personally?
ALAN LIEBERMAN: I found the architecture breathtaking during my first visit to Miami Beach and fell in love with the original 1930s and 1940s interior designs of each hotel that made the city world famous with old Hollywood. I loved the electrifying atmosphere and the trends in music, the arts, fashion, style and design that were being forged throughout the eighties. I had a vision for the city becoming one of the world’s leading nightlife, beach and tourist destinations that it has now become, and I wanted to be part of its renaissance. And today, acquiring these art nouveau buildings that are quintessentially Miami Beach are just one of the ways I collect art.
WW: South Beach Group has several hotels, boutique hotels, bars, and restaurants in Miami – each with their own personality and approach. Is there something, though, that you think ties them all together? A common vision?
AL: Affordable, stylish and fun are the characteristics that form a common thread between our properties and bring our hospitality group together. I have a hands-on approach towards the individual style and design of each of our properties and we believe there is something for everyone.
WW: You take a more hands-on approach to the interior design of your properties, especially most recently the Riviera South Beach. Have you always been interested in design?
AL: The original Art Deco period is something I think should always be preserved and its renaissance is now being appreciated by the younger generation, who begin to understand its origination and classic form. I therefore pay great attention to detail when it comes to designing the interiors of our hotels and like to think that guests appreciate our signature Art Deco style as a tribute to this memorable era.
WW: What kind of environment did you want to create for guests at the Riviera?
AL: Riviera South Beach Hotel is our newest brand of luxe accommodations. While most of our other hotel properties are on Collins Avenue, located at the forefront of the buzz of South Beach, Riviera South Beach is still just steps away from the action, but tucked away in a quieter neighborhood, allowing for a little more privacy and seclusion. Some people prefer not to sleep where they party, so we created a brand of boutique hotel that gives people a more tranquil setting for a relaxing stay. Our newest addition to Riviera South Beach is more of a contemporary chic environment, coupled with a sophistication that will appeal to families, couples and even the business traveler
WW: What kind of design do you prefer for your personal space?
AL: Minimalist leaning towards mid-century modern.
WW: We read that the tiles at the Riviera were designed by Banksy, is that true?
AL: No, we were scammed by the tile manufacturer. But we are in the process of acquiring Banksy prints from his authorized dealer.
WW: Are either of you fans of contemporary art? Do you collect?
AL: Yes, we love contemporary art and enjoy collecting. My wife and I own pieces by Patrick Nagel and Helmut Newton. We also own an important piece by Hans Hofmann.
WW: This issue is out for Art Basel Miami Beach. How have you seen the fair affect Miami Beach in the past decade?
AL: Art Basel has had a huge impact on the city. More visitors fly in to South Florida on private jets for Basel than for any other annual event in the country. Art Basel has really put Miami Beach on the map as one of the most cultural cities in the world. The fair has also catapulted the popularity of local galleries and the careers of some homegrown Miami-based artists. Art Basel also promotes creativity. Organizations are always looking to be the most creative and command the most attention.
I like to experience as much as possible during Art Basel. If there’s a new exhibition or show that has arrived with critical acclaim, then that’s always top of my agenda. But it’s not just the galleries or satellite fairs that are the most interesting. I like to enjoy the theatre, orchestral performances and exclusive shows put on by New World Symphony or Adrienne Arsht Center that are also appealing and special during Art Basel. The Collector’s preview, the Vernissage, on the first evening of Art Basel at the Miami Beach Exhibition Center is always something I attend and enjoy very much.
WW: South Beach Group is currently working on the historic Croydon Arms Hotel at 3720 Collins Ave. What interested you in the property initially?
AL: This building has so much history and potential to become a real gem. It will have 100 rooms, a boxing gym, a pool, and a rooftop solarium with a private area for women, with a planned opening by the end of the year. The hotel was originally designed by E. Dean Parmalee in 1937 and apparently was so well received that it was written up in Architectural Record in 1938.
This interview appears in Whitewall’s winter 2014 Luxury Issue, out this week.