TEN QUESTIONS FOR CRAIG ROBINS
Art-loving Miami developer Craig Robins made a splash with his Design Miami fair, which was first anchored in his Moore Building in the city’s Design District. Since then, he has broadened his reach further into that blossoming neighborhood, and his Dacra real estate firm now commands more than 700,000 square feet in that area.
During the art typhoon that is Art Basel Miami Beach, Artnet Magazine’s Brook S. Mason caught up with Robins to learn about his plans for further expansion.
Who were your mentors?
A lot of people in my life have influenced who I am. But in terms of mentors, I would really have to point to my father, Jerry Robins.
What was the turning point for the Design District that made it reach new heights?
We've had a vision for the Miami Design District for years and we've been working towards realizing that vision. During the process, there have been many turning points. First, there was the importance of establishing the community as an international center for furniture design. Next there was the desire to bring art and culture in general to Miami. As the neighborhood became more established with its central location and urban layout, we attracted some great restaurants. The incorporation of fashion into a community already grounded with art and culture was a natural next step.
Which luxury brands are confirmed to come to the District next year? And who is next?
Hermès and Louis Vuitton will be joining us, and we couldn’t be more pleased. We have a number of other announcements coming up soon.
How are you broadening the nexus of art, fashion and design?
Integrating art, design and cultural experiences has been a central part of my real estate development strategy in general. Fashion is a big part of that. Sometimes it happens directly, as with the recent collaborations of Dior with German artist Anselm Reyle, and Pringle with Liam Gillick. In other instances, it can be as simple as having the different creative disciplines in the same neighborhood. We focus on cultural programming in many ways, including an exhibitions program and a public art and design program.
With your installation of the Bucky Fuller dome in the Design District, would it be fair to say that you are following in the footsteps of Aby Rosen and Lord Palumbo, in terms of collecting and acquiring architecture?
Architecture has always had immense value to me. When I started acquiring Art Deco buildings on South Beach more than 20 years ago, it was because I saw them as sculptures of a sort, and wanted to ensure their preservation. I’m also keenly aware of the power of architecture to create a spirit of community. To see the excitement around this year’s installation of Buckminster Fuller's Fly’s Eye Dome was really gratifying.
Do you plan to replicate your mixed-use, luxury residential complex AQUA in Dubai?
We don’t currently have any plans to do a project in Dubai, but I would like to do something in the region.
Where else would you consider establishing a “design district”?
Right now I’m very happy focusing on Miami’s Design District, but cities like Abu Dhabi and Seoul, to name a few, would be fertile ground for similar developments, in my opinion.
With the District flourishing, how are you going to avoid the pitfalls of former art neighborhoods like New York's SoHo, which blossomed so fast that galleries eventually decamped to Chelsea?
We've taken our time in the Miami Design District to cultivate a lasting community and neighborhood that has many facets. The District is a place where people live, work and explore culture and the arts. There's a bright future for the neighborhood for sure, but of course that does not preclude art and design from expanding beyond our borders to other parts of the city.
How is your collection growing, and how much are you buying currently?
My collection continues to grow, although I don’t generally comment on acquisitions. It is an intensely personal endeavor for me and I’ve really enjoyed seeing how Rirkrit Tiravanija has curated the presentation of my collection this year. I do continue to focus on artists that I can collect in depth.
Back in the ‘40s, designers often created for luxury brands. Will your allegiance with these luxury brands today mean that we can expect to see recent, contemporary fashion material on the floor of Design Miami?
Luxury and fashion brands are already present on Design Miami's show floor. This year, Fendi presented “Craft Alchemy,” taking discarded materials from their atelier and incorporating them into design pieces of the 18th century. It's a truly magical metamorphosis that affirms Fendi's place at the vanguard of creativity. Swarovski also presented a compelling installation called Crystal Matrix in collaboration with artist Erwin Redl. The project re-imagines crystal in a modern and innovative way by combining it with light and sound technology.
BROOK S. MASON is U.S. correspondent for the Art Newspaper, and also writes for the Financial Times and other publications.