Art in Hotels and Elsewhere

Or is it Art Hotels? During Art Week exhibitions and displays of varied and sundry art always pops-up in normally un/new-art-worthy venues. Almost since the onset of this annual happening, hotels around town have pitched in to serve as temporary art venues. Several take up the call to contribute to our permanent arts landscape, not only during the flurry of Art Week, but year round. Afterall, art is alive and well here outside of the week-long boundaries of Art Week!

The Betsy Hotel became a leading member of this group a number of years ago. The owners of the Betsy have long been stalwart supporters of the arts; their Artist Residency gives writers, performers, visual artists, and more a short stay in their famed Writers Room.* Throughout the year, artist salons with the residents and others (suspended during COVID) are regularly held to which hotel guests and community members are invited.

*Spoiler Alert. In 2017 I was a Betsy Writer in Residence; I used the brief time away from home to work on a translation of a Greek short story about the Jewish community of Ioannina, Greece.

Like all the other 2020 offerings, the Betsy’s this year abbreviated. The original 1942 hotel facing Ocean Drive was shuttered by the pandemic. She looks so lonely. All of the Art Week exhibits and performances are held in the restored Carleton on Collins Ave., now a wing of the original Betsy. They will remain on display past Art Week.

guinea fowl from Zimbabwe and … on the left Twiggy & Andy Warhol

Among the exhibits in different spaces of the Carleton is “London 1986, après BIBA,” photos by Barbara Hulanicki founder of the fab London shop, Biba. During my 1970 month in London, the Kensington store was one of my haunts. I had a pink, floral print crepe dress and a camels hair wool, cowl necked maxi coat from Biba, both of which I loved loved and wore to death.


Her photos capture the people and the feel of that time in many of our pasts. Hulanicki came to Miami Beach in 1989 and contributed her unique design sensibilities to many of the art deco in the early days of restoration.

A collection of the work by well-established, local artist Carlos Betancourt is displayed large in the hotel’s Gallery. “Intimate Spirit: Collages and Other Works” and “Let’s Portray” are two separate groups of his work that explore people and beauty, identity, and communication.

Paul Saltzman serendipitously found himself at an Indian ashram alongside the Beatles in the late 1960s. He befriended them and captured their images on film. This amazing, historic group of photos form “The Beatles in India” exhibit shown in the Carleton Room Gallery. They “have been judged ‘some of the best intimate shots’ ever taken” of the fab four.

Projected live performance
Live performance

The Betsy is also a partner of the city-sponsored “No Vacancy” ( Their part of this outdoor, site-specific effort is “Temporary Occupancy,” a “living installation and digital journey” performed by Die Cast Philadelphia ( in the courtyard between the two historic Betsy buildings and projected live on the exterior wall of a neighboring hotel.

A significant exterior feature of the Betsy Hotel is The Orb, an architectural structure that serves as a walkway/link between the two buildings. It frequently serves as a canvas for art interventions. This year’s contribution, “Empathy Time,” is an installation by local artist Nuria Richards which proposes that time as a common place. It is an eight minute and forty-six second experience in memory of George Floyd.

For many, many years the Sagamore Hotel has hosted a “be there” Saturday brunch during Art Week. Change happens and the Sagamore has changed. Art Week 2020 was launched with a Supper Club spotlighting AFFM (Art, Fashion, Food, Music). Art was exhibits, “Everyone Has a Story to Tell” and “The Gaze.” Fashion was provided by local designer Pangea Kali Virga. Food was provided by chefs Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth. The usual Saturday brunch was held, taking into consideration social distancing and more. Constant Companion and I did not attend either of these offerings as the price tags were a bit “spendy.”

On the other hand, we thoroughly enjoyed a curator-guided tour of the two art exhibits. The lobby, central hallway, space formerly known at “the library” were filled with a wide variety of contemporary art by local artists. “Everyone Has a Story to Tell” features multimedia works exclusively by Miami artist. In conjunction with the exhibitions, seven murals are part of the art at The Sagamore Hotel.

Carol K. Brown, 141 Tondos
Carol K. Brown, detail

Stephanie Eti Hadad, 52 Weeks in Order
Stephanie Eti Hadad , detail
Kristen Thiele, Man with Green Hat

Among the many “elsewheres” where art can be found is a small venue on Lincoln Road, a popular pedestrian mall. Oolite Arts is one of our local arts agencies (Daughter and I still refer to it by their original name, Arts Center South Florida) which was formerly based on Lincoln. One of the many empty retail and restaurant spaces on the Road have been transformed into MATERIALIZE; the curated space, both exhibit and shop, presents work by local artists.

Our area is well known for the number of private collections transformed into vanity museums. Craig Robins, another collector and the driving developer force behind the Design District opens his collection, displayed in his corporate headquarters not a museum, during Art Week. What an amazing place to work! Constant Companion and I finally were able to take advantage of this opportunity to get a look. We were wowed!

site of this year’s Design Miami

Because of restrictions imposed by the COVID situation, we waiting for our timed group to assemble in the large entrance of the office suite overlooking the Design District. I tend to look out of windows. First, I noticed the full view of the Moore Building, where earlier in the week we toured Design Miami.

Next two outdoor artworks were pointed out to Constant Companion and me. “Anonymous” by Raphael Diaz is a selection of eighteen photographs displayed one-by-one on a corner building wall (

British artist Matthew Ritchie’s “After Light” fills the entire rooftop of the Buena Vista Building. This site-specific, wildly meandering painting can only be seen from above (

The tour started in the same entrance area where several oversized paintings and sculptures were on view. A painting depicting the figure of a contorted man by Jana Euler was hung over the reception desk. This work set the scene for much of the artwork we saw – the figure writ large and the body.

Euler explores flexibility especially of one of the most flexible living creatures, slugs, which are found in several locations in the two-story office space (

One of many larger than life Slugs

Another theme running through the selection of pieces from this immense collection is the work of African American artists, including work which references Black artists working in the 70s. Next stop was in front of art created by John Outterbridge, “Déjà vu,” (, David Hammons, “African American Flag,” (, and a narrative painting by Henry Taylor.

Taylor and Hammons

A larger than life sculpture of artist Julian Schnabel overlooked a pair of women sporting varied shades of pink.

Several works by the Nigerian American artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby resembled collages to my untrained eye ( She in fact, uses a transfer method to create background images drawn from many sources.

There were so many more works and artists as if you were walking through a book representing the first two decades of the twenty-first century. These oversized ceramic vessels and their unexpected inhabitants caught my eye.

Our final Art Week 2020 venture was the Art Drive offered by the SLS South Beach.  The hotel’s new progressive art experience takes visitors on a 45 minute tour of local open-air exhibits by a variety of artists and mediums starting with an entrance wrap, “Entrance to Freedom,” created by LA-based artist PunkMeTender at the SLS.

First stop is the neighboring Delano and a mural by Go Suga. The bright colors of this work, according to the artist express joy and happiness.

Mane made of belts
Who wouldn’t love that face!
Her skirt is scissors

An menagerie of sculptures by innovative Colombian artist Federico Uribe in the lobby of the shuttered Shore Club follows a short drive.

Other stops were the permanent “Art Outside” exhibition at the Bass Art Museum, Miami Beach’s newly renovated Convention Center to see Sarah Morris’ “Morris Lapidus,*” made of 7,000 square feet of hand-painted porcelain tiles, and an exposed wall of a new expansion of The Redbury is covered with urban artist Bisco Smith’s mural – a meditation on change and what’s ahead.

The sky merged with the mural

*Morris Lapidus was the legendary designer responsible for Miami Beach’s Fountainbleu Hotel and the follies and other décor found on our pedestrian mall, Lincoln Road.

What a treat to see our neighborhood art in the comfort of our own Lincoln Corsair Town Car.

Ntiamoah Nimako, our guide, and Mel Rupert, both of SLS

Not included on the tour was the amazing mural of the Everglades inside the SLS – a stop on any walking tour – by local artists, Daniel “Krave” Fila and Claudio “CP1” Picasso.

One more artwork – this guerilla art work was installed anonymously on two posts outside of the SLS. Art Week brings art everywhere!

Constant Companion and I briefly broke out of Hotel California. In the next few weeks, we hope to remain at large to see some of the installations that will be in place until the New Year.


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