Using Artists to Sell Condos in Miami and New York

by New York Times

With cities like New York and Miami in the midst of another luxury condominium boom, developers seem to be tripping over one another in the scramble to announce their latest projects, and to stand out from the pack, they are locked in an escalating game of one-upmanship.

In a market where amenities like golf simulators and children’s playrooms barely raise a well-manicured eyebrow, the stakes are high. Add to this the fact that developers are asking buyers to shell out upward of $10 million for apartments that are, in many cases, still just a dirt pile on the ground, and they have no choice but to bring the razzle-dazzle.

Increasingly, the trick they are most often pulling out of their collective hat is art, with a capital A.

In Miami, for example, the developer of a beachfront condominium on Collins Avenue has commissioned a sculptor, whose pieces have sold for more than $500,000, to create original works for every buyer in the building. Another Miami developer has hired the painter and Academy Award-nominated director Julian Schnabel to design a sales center for its condominium, with rose-colored stucco and sawtooth lamps. In Midtown Manhattan, a developer is making a pointed effort to stand out by placing a permanent 40-story LED light installation on the building’s facade, while others have taken to hiring art consultants just as they would architects and construction companies.

The lighting designer Thierry Dreyfus was hired by the developers of a condo conversion at 135 West 52nd Street to create a light installation on the facade of the building .

"There is a very strong art market right now, with a much more diverse and large collector base than at any other time I can remember," said Yvonne Force Villareal, a founder of the nonprofit Art Production Fund. She and a business partner, Doreen Remen, recently started Culture Corps, a for-profit art consulting business that advises real estate developers. The expanded art collector base has resulted in more buyers of high-end condos wanting artwork to be part of the experience of shopping for a new home.

"Those who invest in high-end luxury homes also tend to have a strong knowledge of art," said Helidon Xhixha, an Albanian-born artist who has shown his work at Art Basel Miami Beach, and who recently sold a piece titled "The Wall" to a private art collector for more than $540,000. The developers Property Markets Group and S2 Development hired Mr. Xhixha to create sculptures tailored to each buyer at Muse, a 68-unit condominium in the Sunny Isles neighborhood of Miami.

While some may consider it selling out for artists to create pieces as part of a condominium marketing effort, Mr. Xhixha said, "I do not see this as over-commercializing my art. On the contrary, I see a collaboration between buyer and artist." Mr. Xhixha added that an apartment tower filled with his pieces "will be like having my very own private museum."

For the Chetrit Group and Clipper Equity, the developers converting the former Flatotel at 135 West 52nd Street into 109 condo units, "we wanted to create something that gave the building an identity, that gave us some notoriety," said Raphael De Niro, a broker at Douglas Elliman Development Marketing, who is representing the building. "People like to be able to talk about their building and have others know it, for people to feel they live somewhere unique." The developers hired Thierry Dreyfus, the lighting designer who lit up the Grand Palais in Paris and the Château de Versailles, to create the 423-foot installation that will be placed inside a casing attached to the front of the building.