Before those massive tent pavilions go up and the coveted invitations to this and that party go out, Miami’s most immersive outdoor art experience is in full bloom—just as its founder, Craig Robins, envisioned it many years ago.
Since 2000, when he began the revitalization (and reinvention) of the Miami Design District, Robins has provided the public with an unparalleled, curated tour of world-class contemporary works, and this month his alfresco art gallery will display paintings by Shun Sudo and Yusuke Ochiai, a giant crushed red SOLO cup from artist Paula Crown and 24-year-old Dozie Kanu’s vibrant holiday installation celebrating childhood and calling for an end to gun violence.
For a peek at an ever-changing cache of Robins’ most cherished treasures, insiders can make an appointment to see the offices housing Dacra, the commercial and residential real estate investment firm he founded in 1987. “We have two floors that are designed equally as an exhibition space and a working environment,” he says. “It’s definitely part of our culture that art, architecture and design should be an integrated part of our community. It’s been what we’ve been doing since I started working, and our office is a microcosm of that point of view.”
Robins started collecting art in the 1980s, beginning with a small sketch by Salvador Dalí, and today his acquisitions include pieces from the likes of Zaha Hadid, Marcel Duchamp, Paul McCarthy, Richard Tuttle, Pawel Althamer and the Campana Brothers, which rotate between the Dacra headquarters and the homes he shares with his wife, Aventura Mall owner Jackie Soffer, and their six kids in Miami and New York. For Dacra’s Art Week 2018 installation, he cherry-picked works by female artists and younger artists, including Tschabalala Self, Urs Fischer, Ella Kruglyanskaya, Christina Quarles and Njideka Akunyili Crosby. “We’re always thinking about the moment and what we want to show and why,” he says. “The way it’s always changing is a source of inspiration.”
While preparations begin for Design Miami/, the fair Robins founded in 2005, the Design District (where said fair began) starts its December transformation. The neighborhood’s luxury retailers tap artists to create murals for their boutiques’ facades and reimagine their dazzling windows. This year, the area’s Moore Building will welcome an exhibition by renowned gallerists Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian, as well as the (RED) Auction, a bidding sale of artworks centered on the theme of light and the color red with proceeds supporting the fight against AIDS. (Artist Theaster Gates and architect David Adjaye curated the event in collaboration with Bono.) All is done in the name of art and all happens because of Robins.
That cultural whirlwind known as Basel will soon be in full swing, and then, in a matter of days, it will be gone. But thanks to Robins, interest in the Design District is a year-round engagement.