Monday, December 03, 2012

New York Times: Aby Rosen on Art Basel

NYT: The Moment
Asked & Answered - Aby Rosen

By Julie Earle-Levine
The German-born real estate mogul and prolific art collector Aby Rosen is Art Basel Miami Beach‘s poster boy for parties, hosting A-list, super private dinners that bring together top art collectors, connoisseurs and the requisite fashion crowd.

Rosen arrived in Manhattan in 1987 with big ambitions. Today, he owns the Gramercy Park Hotel and the Paramount Hotel in New York. In Miami, his chic W South Beach houses pieces from his vast contemporary art collection. “I’ve always loved art,” he says. “I love photography, and I have a huge collection of American art from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.”

T caught up with Rosen in his Red Room, one of two boardrooms at his Lever House offices. (His company owns the building, and the Seagram building, too.) The Red Room has a chic, glossy red Italian 1980s circular table, a couple of Warhols and a Tom Friedman food carton sculpture. There, over peppermint tea, he talked about Art Basel, which takes place from Dec. 6 to Dec. 9.
 
Q.The tenth edition of Art Basel Miami Beach is almost upon us. What are you most excited about this year?
A.Miami Basel has become such a wonderful place to meet and see people from all over the world who share a passion for collecting. The city has gone through an unbelievable transformation in the past three to five years. There is a certain type of visitor that Art Basel wanted to attract, who is coming now because we have the infrastructure to help support the fair. There are great, new hotels — not little beat-up Art Deco hotels, with 30 to 40 rooms. Those are very charming — don’t get me wrong — but they do not attract the people who want a $5,000 a night suite and want to entertain. The quality of food now in Miami is also very good. Joe’s Stone Crab in my opinion is the best restaurant on the beach, but how many times a week can you have stone crab? You have monsters like Mr. Chow, the Dutch at W, Katsuya and Prime 212. You have high rollers attracted by Miami’s charm and size. That is what is exciting. For me at least.
 
Q.What advice would you give people visiting Basel for the first time?
A. Go and see the shows as early as you can. Most of the inventory is up really early. Go back and take a break in between. Something you didn’t see once, you will see differently. Go to the younger, smaller fairs. Explore! Don’t spend all your time in the main hall and really enjoy Miami. It has so much — the Cuban areas, a whole Art Deco district, shopping, there’s so much to do. The beach is actually pretty nice.

Q.You have a stunning contemporary art collection. How many pieces do you own now?
A. Probably 850 pieces, including 85 to 90 Warhols. I don’t stop buying. I constantly add and rotate.

Q.So you are shopping this year?
A. Yes!

Q. Is it true that you try to restrain yourself from ever spending more than a few million per piece?
Not really. I do spend a lot more.

Q.What’s the most expensive piece of art you own?
A. Probably the Francis Bacon. That’s $15 million.

Q. Must a purchase meet some criteria?
A. I have criteria but I blow through it all. And the budget. I blow through that. But I’m a lot better now than I was. Now with all the inventory I have, I have a lot more focus and sometimes I take five, six paintings and consolidate to one painting. My goal is to up my quality.

Q.Tell us about dinners your hosting in Miami this year. Where are they and who’s coming?
A. My wife, Samantha, and I will be hosting at the Dutch again this year. Who’s coming? Basically our friends, those equally excited by art and fashion. Traditionally we have an after-party done by Vito Schnabel, Alex Dellal and Stavros Niarchos. We eat well, then we party really hard. It is really wonderful to see some of the older generation and younger, mix and match.

Q. Who would you most like to invite, dead or alive?
A. Andy Warhol. He would have loved to see all the people there that he influenced and that now produce art. I would like to see some of the actual big buyers, the Middle Eastern buyers. They buy a lot, but they don’t visit the fairs. I’d love them to come. I know the Sheikh Emir of Qatar and the Sheikha are big buyers. I’d love to see them experience the fair and Miami.

Q.Is that an invitation?
A. It’s definitely an invitation.