A Miami Beach Icon Gets a Magical Makeover
When I was asked by the Rubell family to reimagine their iconic art deco Albion Hotel in South Beach, my heart skipped a beat. I had always dreamed of designing the hotel, which is one of the most beautiful buildings in Miami, Florida. Having worked with the Rubell family since 1998, I was very familiar with the Albion. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to create a chic, modern take on a luxury cruise ship, and to connect the new design to the original 1939 architecture. I imagined the soaring, 20-foot-high lobby filled with modernist furniture, chrome and glass tables, rich navy fabrics and draperies, punctuated with pops of orange to echo the terrazzo floor.
The lobby was dominated by a 40-foot-long wall just waiting for attention. I felt that hanging one or more enormous paintings would not create the look of intimacy I wanted. Instead, I started to imagine the wall filled with lots and lots of small pieces. I went shopping in the Rubells’ backyard, talking to Mera and Donald Rubell—and their son, Jason—about possible ideas. Jason came up with the perfect solution—an exclusive array of works by the late Purvis Young, a self-taught African-American outsider artist whose history included spending time in jail and, upon his release, selling his art on the streets, eventually developing a cult following that included wealthy art collectors. In 1999, the Rubells bought the contents of Young’s Miami studio—more than 3,000 pieces of art—a decade before his death, in 2010. My task was to narrow down this treasure trove to 100 works.