The Art of Hospitality

So they embarked on creating what is certainly the finest hotel in the W portfolio. This was the brand’s 31st property, but the first all-condo hotel. W considers the South Beach hotel its global flagship, and Rosen believes that the property is pushing the W to step up its game. “This is probably the best W that you’ve ever seen. It makes the entire brand work harder now, because everyone looks at them and thinks, ‘Wow, why are the other Ws not like this?’ The quality of materials and types of finishes are far beyond that of other W facilities, but I think they are changing their whole philosophy and bringing it up a notch.”

s has been Rosen’s long-running mantra, the property’s design seeks to blend art and architecture. To accomplish this, they tapped Costas Kondylis to design the building, which is both iconic yet fitting for the Art Deco District, with its glass exterior and white stucco frame. The grounds, which include Grove, a lush outdoor garden, are the brainchild of conceptual garden artist Paula Hayes, while Anna Busta of Studio B Design is responsible for the public spaces and guest rooms. Mr. Chow brought his iconic restaurant to the property, and with it came a number of important works from Eva and Michael Chow’s art collection (which is detailed in “The Art of Being Eva” on page 62 of this edition). The hotel is also home to Soleà restaurant and three destination bars (Wall, WET Bar, and Living Room Bar), which have caught the attention of discerning locals who pack the spaces on a nightly basis with their pretty faces. Throughout the property, owners, guests, and visitors are greeted by artworks that could very well be hanging on the walls of museums.

“We wanted to use the art to demonstrate how great art and architecture work together….I have a lot of classic art that I put up in the W,” Rosen explains. “For some people, it’s very daring. It is a combination of classic art from the 60s, 70s, and 80s—Warhol, Basquiat, Chamberlain, and Damien Hirst, who is a very good friend of mine.” Hirst was originally lined up to design the restaurant, but the artist indicated that he would rather have some of his work hang in the public spaces, and his work now hangs in the Living Room.

“The artwork starts when you check in with Andy Warhol’s camouflage paintings at the welcome desk,” explains Edelstein. The public areas also display Kenny Scharf works, including a 60-foot-long, 10-foot-high dramatic piece, and another that is 40 feet long and seven feet high. In the Living Room hangs a Basquiat  Drumstick, Reagan/Outlays by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. In the dining room, guests find a Richard Serra. “And there is more to come,” states Edelstein. “All of these pieces are from Aby’s personal collection. I have some personal artwork, including Hirsts and Warhols, but none on display at the hotel. Aby is the mastermind and inspiration behind all of the artwork in the lobby and public spaces.”

The representation of fine art is brought into the guest rooms as well. Rather than sticking with the hotel model of boring, mass-produced paintings in the rooms, the W South Beach opted for unique photographs from legendary rock photographer Danny Clinch.

This art-as-a-centerpiece formula has treated Rosen well throughout his career. An unstoppable real estate mogul, he is also a noted contemporary art collector with nearly 500 works in his inventory, including 80 Warhols. His New York office is located in the Lever House, which RFC Holdings purchased in the late 1990s. Visitors find fantastic works of art at every turn. At the time of our cover photo shoot, which took place in the lobby of the building, Barbara Kruger’s Between Being Born and Dying covered the entirety of the glass windows, both inside and out, in addition to the floors. With letters reaching as high as 17 feet, the phrase “Know nothing, forget everything, believe anything,” adorns the exterior, while inside, the walls read, “If it screams, shove it, If it vomits, starve it, If it sees, blind it,” and, “If it laughs, choke it. If it cries, drown it. If it sighs, shame it. If it loves, buy it. If it moves, f*ck it.” And the floor: “You make history when you do business,” and, “A rich man’s jokes are always funny.”