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Billionaire Jorge Pérez Opens ‘El Espacio 23’ Art Museum in Allapattah During Miami Art Week

Billionaire Jorge M. Pérez, known as Miami’s Condo King, is opening a new art museum called “El Espacio 23” in Allapattah this week. The 28,000-square-foot art space is named for its location on Northwest 23rd Street and features thousands of pieces that Pérez had kept away in storage for years, including photographs, paintings, sculptures and videos from around the globe.

The opening exhibition, “Time for Change: Art and Social Unrest in the Jorge M. Pérez Collection” displays 80 artworks arranged by Colombian curator Jose Roca along with a 600-page collection of essays by academics and experts on the topics explored in the show. Pérez hopes the space will include Allapattah’s community in advancing South Florida’s arts ecosystem. He talked with Luis Hernandez on Sundial about the art space, the adjoining housing project and how Allapattah could be the next Wynwood. 


This excerpt has been edited lightly for clarity.

WLRN: Some will say [Allapattah] could be the next Wynwood. But you think about the future and if that’s the case, how do you protect the community?

PÉREZ: Allapattah has always been a community which was half industrial or warehousing. Biggest produce market, wholesale export of fruits, vegetables and so forth. Big wholesale of clothing along 20th Street, and a lot of industries. The other half, which is to the north of twenty third street, is working class residential. 


Credit WLRN/Luis Hernandez
The art space will feature thousands of pieces that Perez had kept away in storage for years. 

Will there be some gentrification as a result of not just this space and other people announcing new housing developments? The answer is yes. It not only happens here, but it happens everywhere else. If you look at the Meatpacking district or Soho in New York, you will see that they were very rundown neighborhoods until somebody decided that they were good investments and the neighborhoods changed. I think that there will be change in Allapattah. 

Since we bought this warehouse [the location of the art space], prices have more than doubled because we're looking for other space to store the art now that this has become an exhibition space. So those are the dangers of living in a free society.

What are the things that can be done? The city, for example, has 18 acres that they're going to put out for bid near the hospital. We can we can start looking with the public sector: what are the ways that we can build more affordable housing in neighborhoods so there's the least amount of displacement as possible? But, in any type of neighborhood change, such as the one that I think will happen in Allapattah, there will be winners and losers. So the people that own their house, even though they're modest around here, all of those will win, in the sense that, the prices of their homes will go up. The ones that will lose are the ones that are renting and probably their rents will also go up. 


Credit WLRN/Luis Hernandez
“El Espacio 23” is named for its location on Northwest 23rd Street in industrial Allapattah. 

We talk about affordable housing and you’ve got a plan for “El Espacio 23”, which is to provide units to artists. And we’re actually inside of one right now. Tell me a little bit about that idea and how do you envision this working?

The individual artist is very important to us and young artists. And particularly like young actors or young ones, anybody in the artistic world, are not economically doing very well. 

So we wanted to promote artists from Miami and from around the world by creating these three spaces here in which contemporary artists can come and work and live. So here you're in the apartment and they're going to have a beautiful apartment with a kitchen and all that stuff. And outside they have studio space. So not only are they going to be able to live here, but work here. And that's very, very important to us. And we're going to do it for both artists and for curators because I think to raise the curation of art is very, very important, and we need to develop that. Not only are we having these three spaces, but we're working with residency programs in Colombia, in Cuba, here in Miami. Residencies and the promotion of artists, young arts, in the promotion of artists is what we want to do from Miami. 

If You Go:

“El Espacio 23” opens Dec.2, at 2270 Northwest 23rd St. in Allapattah. The opening exhibition will end Sunday, Dec.8. The art space will be open throughout the upcoming year.