“For people who have seen everything, this is something you haven’t seen yet,” billionaire Len Blavatnik told 150 dinner guests in Miami last week during the largest U.S. art fair.
They came to celebrate the $1 billion Faena Miami Beach, an oceanfront development for the mega-rich whose advance buyers include Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS:US)Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein and Apollo Global Management LLC (APO:US) co-founder Leon Black, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked for anonymity because the information isn’t public.
The project will feature an 18-story tower with 47 residences priced at $3 million to $50 million, two luxury hotels and an arts center designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Rem Koolhaas, said Alicia Goldstein, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Faena Group. The number of condominiums and single-family homes sold for $1 million or more in the Miami area rose 36 percent this year through October from the same period a year earlier, said Ron Shuffield, CEO of EWM Realty International/Christie’s, citing data from the Miami Association of Realtors.
“Miami real estate is on steroids,” said Mera Rubell, a local art collector who attended the Faena dinner. “The fantasy is about the community. But what are the chances all these billionaires will show up at the same time?”
Blavatnik’s Dec. 4 event capped the opening day of Art Basel Miami Beach, a fair with more than $3 billion of available works, for a select group of collectors. Blavatnik, 56, is financing the Faena development.
Held in an open tent underneath rows of swaying, red hand-cut paper by Argentinian artist Manuel Ameztoy, the party featured tango dancers and accordion players and drew Leonardo DiCaprio and Harvey Weinstein. Guests drank Ruinart champagne and feasted on fire-roasted tenderloin. The project developer, Buenos Aires-based Alan Faena, wore white from head to toe.
Art Basel was at the center of a cross-branding bazaar of art and luxury, including 20 satellite fairs and countless poolside parties, exhibit openings and dinners promoting such brands as Louis Vuitton and Ferrari. High-end property developers joined in to highlight new projects.
Faena’s residential tower, designed by Norman Foster’s Foster + Partners, also has attracted New York dealer Larry Gagosian among the buyers, according to the people.
Faena Group spokeswoman Rebecca Taylor, whose firm has U.S. offices in New York and Miami, declined to comment on sales. Charles Zehren, a spokesman at Rubenstein Associates Inc. who represents Black, also declined to comment, as did David Wells, a spokesman for New York-based Goldman Sachs. Gagosian didn’t respond to requests.
“It’s a fraction of the price of art,” said Blavatnik, chairman of Access Industries Holdings Inc., whose net worth of $16.1 billion ranks him 49th on Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
“I remind you, there are very few apartments left,” he told the crowd from a stage. “Hurry.”
The tower is scheduled to be completed in December 2014, according to Faena Group.
Five miles north, another upscale development is going up by the beach.
Anchored by the historic Surf Club, where Winston Churchill came to paint and Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor came to play, it will include a five-star hotel and two 12-story residential buildings designed by another Pritzker winner, Richard Meier. The Surf Club Hotel & Residences will be Meier’s first project in Miami, he said at a Dec. 5 poolside brunch celebrating the development.
The $600 million, 8-acre (3.2 hectare) project includes more than 800 feet (244 meters) of beach, according to developer Nadim Achi. The 150 units will include nine penthouses, each with a private garden and a swimming pool. Three of the penthouses have sold for prices from $20 million to $25 million, he said.
“The mega-wealthy are looking for exclusivity, service and design,” Achi said, drinking bottled water at a cabana overlooking the ocean and a giant construction pit. “A lot of buyers who are deciding to make Miami their second or third residence came through Art Basel.”
Some residences will have 20-foot ceilings to accommodate large artworks, and many buyers requested to install special film in the windows to protect the art from direct sunlight, he said.
Meier said he fell in love with the building’s history. The setting and the weather didn’t hurt either.
“I want to spend as much time here as I can,” Meier said. “It’s warm and sunny. Don’t you want to be down here?”
Christie International Real Estate, a subsidiary of Christie’s auction house specializing in luxury properties, had about 50 brokers from 13 affiliates, including in Spain, Greece and Argentina, networking in Miami during Art Basel, said Bonnie Stone Sellers, chief executive officer. The company is a sponsor of Art Miami, a concurrent fair.
“The synergy between art and real estate is perfect for us,” she said. “Both are assets of passion.”
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