The annual Art Basel Miami, the first week of December, is worth a fortune to Miami: the last event attracted 81,000 visitors and a Chagall sold for over US$2 million, with, going over the $1 million sale price, other good sales for works by Georg Baselitz, Helen Frankenthaler, Alex Katz, Agnes Martin, Briget Riley and Alma Thomas.
But the city’s 140-key The Betsy, South Beach, is art extravaganza year-round. There are permanent galleries, and temporary shows lasting for, say, six months or a year. Add to this daily poetry readings and talks, and live jazz, and you understand why the hotel was honoured in 2017 by Americans for the Arts.
The original hotel, on Ocean Drive, was designed in the 1940s by the area’s signature architect L. Murray Dixon. It was named The Betsy Ross, after the Philadelphia seamstress asked by George Washington to stitch what is now the American flag. In 2009 it was re-opened by its present owners, Jonathan Plutzik, and his family. The fact that Plutzik’s father was Pulitzer-nominated poet Hyam Plutzik, and that his wife is a Bulawayo-born arts fanatic plus philanthropist, Lesley Goldwasser, makes it natural that The Betsy lives and breathes the arts.
The hotel’s permanent collection includes the unique early photos of the Beatles that line upper corridor walls. A year-long exhibition Facing Ourselves, Past and Present includes mid-century Andy Sweet colour photos of Miami Beach life, ‘The Last Resort’.. There are Michael Halsband’s black and white photos of artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol clowning around: sequences of other photos, hung on the walls of the hotel’s Laurent Tourondel restaurant, LT Steak & Seafood, show Muhammad Ali ‘A rare glimpse into the life of a champ’– one shows the 22-year old Cassius Clay’s extraordinary victory, 25 February 1964, in Miami, over heavyweight champion Sonny Liston. Some of all the temporary exhibits are destined for top museums in the USA and others are for sale.
The Betsy’s culture DNA is channelled through PACE, philanthropy, arts, culture + education, and although the entire family is involved, it is headed by Jonathan Plutzik’s sister Deborah Plutzik-Briggs. Every year there are over 200 PACE events, many held in the hotel’s Writer’s Room, www.betsywritersroom.com. Yesterday, Amelia Kein & Mary Block read poems: next week, The Betsy joins the Miami Jewish Film Festival. On the musical side, tonight Greg Diamond Duo perform vocals and piano in the hotel lobby from 7pm to 11pm. All events are clearly listed in the hotel’s monthly newspaper, The Betsy Bulletin.
The Betsy is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH). GM is Zac Plutzik, and favourite rooms, which look across Ocean Drive to the boardwalk and the Atlantic, are four 65 sq m Royal Ocean View suites. www.thebetsyhotel.com