The ‘Artrepreneur’

Craig Robins plays key role in the Design District, Art Week

By Alma Kadragic

The first week of December is when the world comes to Miami to see the latest in contemporary visual arts during three big annual events—Art Basel Miami Beach, Design Miami, Art Miami—and a host of related fairs and other happenings. International and domestic visitors come to experience and sometimes buy art, but even when they don’t buy it, they do spend money in hotels, restaurants and stores and at events. Sometimes, they acquire real estate and other property during or as a result of their visit.

Patrick O’Connell, senior vice president for business development at EWM Realty International, who works with condominium developers, says, “Art Week has become a focal point of their marketing efforts over the course of the year, and a significant portion of their marketing budget is dedicated to print and digital media.”

O’Connell estimates the economic impact of Art Week in Miami exceeds $1 billion annually, “based on the interest it creates in the city, resulting in more overnight visits and property sales,” he says.

That number makes sense, considering Miami-Dade County’s nonprofit arts and culture industries alone generate $1.43 billion in annual economic activity, according to “Arts & Economic Prosperity 5,” a study by Americans for the Arts—although it’s impossible right now to determine the share of visual arts in the total. Also unknown: how much for-profit companies add to the economic impact of the arts in general and visual arts specifically.

Released in mid-October, the study placed Miami among the top four American cities in the arts, along with New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. Unlike those older cities, Miami’s arts scene was built in less than a generation, helping lead the region’s transformation. Art Miami started in 1989. Art Basel arrived in 2002, and Design Miami followed in 2005.

Design Miami was founded by developer Craig Robins, who already had begun creating the Miami Design District. Initially, the district was the home of furniture design, but later it became, Robins says, “a cultural hub and an incubator for design, art and creative expression.” As luxury retailers opened shops with products from Christian Louboutin, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Cartier, among others, it “gave us the resources to invest in a strong cultural foundation, which we’ve continued to do even through to this phase of development.”

The idea behind the district was to create “an open-air neighborhood feel” reminiscent of European shopping plazas and to expand the neighborhood as time and sales allowed. “We are really curating not just a retail center but a full visitor experience unlike any other in Miami. The architecture, art and event programming that has been implemented in the neighborhood are so unique,” Robins says, “and we hope that all this adds to the community feel of the district.”

Miami Art Week visitors will see an expanded Design District with Paradise Plaza, an urban park and retail plaza connected by the new Paseo Ponti to the original Palm Court. Paseo Ponti will feature shade sculptures by brothers Ronan and Erwin Bouroullec, while a sculpture by Urs Fischer will distinguish Paradise Plaza. Also, the district commissioned architecture and design firm Charlap Hyman & Herrero to bring simulated snow to the local palm trees via “White Rain,” their installation of tinsel-like strands among the fronds.

The new Institute of Contemporary Art building is due to open during Art Week on land donated by the district. For the opening, the institute and the district will introduce a public sculpture series. Conceptual artist Sol LeWitt will begin the series with two monumental, block-like ziggurats.

Construction on the seven-story Museum Garage won’t be finished by Art Week, but it is guaranteed to surprise visitors with five startlingly different facades from five architects: Work AC, J. Mayer H., Clavel Arquitectos, Nicolas Buffe and K/R Architects, with a mural by design firm Sagmeister & Walsh. Robins commissioned Terence Riley of K/R to develop the plan for the Museum Garage and to coordinate the architectural firms collaborating on it.

The relationship between the arts and economic development—encouraged by private and public sources—is becoming increasingly interesting for investors in South Florida and beyond. Several conferences around that topic were held in November.

On Dec. 6, the fourth annual edition of the Florida Annual Family Office & Wealth Management Conference takes place, as always on the day before Art Basel opens. More than 150 families, representing $60 billion, are anticipated to attend. Afterward, participants can enjoy a week of art-related events.

Robins can’t wait for the first week of December. “This phase of development for us is incredibly exciting, as this is when guests will finally see the full potential and idea behind the Miami Design District come to life,” Robins says. The result will be good for the visitors but also for the district, he adds.

“Miami may not have typical seasons,” Robins says, “but for the Miami Design District, Art Basel is like Christmas.”

Luxury retailers have flocked to the Design District
Artwork on the district’s museum garage
The Design District’s Palm Court

You May Also Like

Floridians Only Moderately Burned Out, Study Says

Rehab Center compared data in 50 states.

Lipstick Lounge Returns on Thursday

Leave it to breast cancer survivor Tammy Gail to continue putting a fashionable spin on advocacy work meant to ensure that other women diagnosed with the disease “are treated with

Breaking News: Michael Phelps Headlines 2023 International Swimming Hall of Fame Induction Class

Twelve-time Olympic medalist Dara Torres will host the induction ceremony live on ESPN+.

Mayor Suarez’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Why the telegenic mayor of Miami shouldn’t have gotten out of bed. It has to do with Ken Griffin.

Other Posts

SMART Program Highlights Collaboration Between Broward Public School District and Local Businesses

Broward voters approved The funding through a bond referendum in November 2014.

CBRE Analysis Reveals Growth in Life Sciences Research Talent in South Florida

Miami/Fort Lauderdale ranks among the top 25 U.S. life sciences labor markets.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Palm Beach County Hosts Kickoff Party for CEO Build 2023

Participants can learn ways to get involved as a CEO Builder or Corporate Sponsor.

South Florida Manufacturers Association Holds 63rd Annual Meeting and Made in South Florida Showcase

The organization is the region’s leading resource for manufacturing companies.

Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky



Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.