The skyline as canvas

For Jorge M. Pérez, co-founder of the Related Group and a major donor to the Pérez Art Museum Miami, art and property development aren’t so very far removed
The skyline as canvas

Photograph Nick Garcia

Most of the time, with more than 50 Related Group properties going on simultaneously, I can’t remember what I did last week, but I still remember the first art I bought, back in college: a Man Ray lithograph. And I’ll never forget my first project, two senior housing places in Little Havana. I still have the Man Ray and those buildings.

The SLS Brickell [in Miami] is obviously more ambitious, a 54-story condominium and hotel designed by Arquitectonica and done with Sam Nazarian of sbe. We just opened another project with Sam in Hollywood, Florida: Hyde Resort & Residences, with an art installation by Rafael Domenech.

Philippe Starck, our designer at the SLS Brickell, considers the residents here—people with international cultural interests­­—as part of his tribe. He’s done such great things with the building and the restaurants, Fi’lia by Michael Schwartz and Bazaar Mar by José Andrés. [See more on Andrés on page 76.—Ed.]

Philippe’s work has so much happiness: At Bazaar Mar, he created a mural of me as Poseidon. He is a genius at getting people to see things differently, and more than most designers, he fights me on the art selections I make with my curators. His own taste is kind of goofy—well, maybe a better word would be whimsical—and it’s a constant give and take.

But in the end, it’s my building. Art and design is in our corporate DNA, and art is the most enjoyable part of my job—artists have never created any problems for me. In front of the building, we have a Fernando Botero sculpture; we also have Botero sculptures at Auberge Beach Residences & Spa Fort Lauderdale and the SLS Lux Brickell. For the exterior façade of SLS Brickell, I wanted an artistic landmark for South Miami Avenue, the real core of downtown Miami. We commissioned the German artist Markus Linnenbrink to create a massive drip painting mural, over 40,000 square feet. All the different colors are painted in one run, from the top to the bottom, and visible on 13th Street and South Miami Avenue.

Monkeys are a design theme of the hotel. Philippe and his team put together an interactive video matrix wall, Monkey See, Monkey You. At first, it’s just monkeys standing like humans in a Victorian living room. But when you pass by the video wall, the monkeys mirror your movements. I shrug my shoulders, and the video monkey does the same thing.

Although I live in a house in Coconut Grove, with a traditional barrel tile roof and all that, I’m essentially an urban guy, and I love the density of urban life. I’d like to live at Park Grove, with that combination of Rem Koolhaas and artwork by people like the Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa.

I’ve loaned one of Plensa’s sculptures to PAMM [the Pérez Art Museum Miami], and eventually it will be going to the Auberge Residences, designed by Piero Lissoni, before being displayed at PAMM permanently. Although it’s not a Related project, I love the Zaha Hadid building in downtown Miami. This city is ideal for great modernist architecture, buildings that reflect the sky and water. And it would be wonderful to live close to PAMM. We’re going to have an important Cuban and Latin American art collection.

Artists are revolutionary by nature, expressing the uncertainties of our time: I’m not creative in the same way. My job is putting together the building as an entire entity, something that looks and works right.

Development and art are both leaps of faith, creating something new from a vacuum. The story just keeps going. When you stop being your toughest critic, you stop growing, and then you die.