Argentine hotelier Alan Faena — a “Jay Gatsby but with the fashion sense of Tony Montana” — is building a $1 billion Miami Beach arts district. Its crown jewel, Faena Hotel, financed by Len Blavatnik and designed with an assist from Oscar-nominated Luhrmann and his wife, opens just in time for Art Basel.
Alan Faena in the Luhrmann- and Martin-designed living room of a model room in the hotel. Alan Faena in the Luhrmann- and Martin-designed living room of a model room in the hotel. NIKOLAS KOENIG
This story first appeared in the Nov. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
In 2013, Faena Hotel Miami Beach was behind schedule and needed direction. Alan Faena, the 51-year-old white-clad Argentine hotelier and real estate developer, his wife, Ximena Caminos, and his business partner, Ukrainian-born financier Len Blavatnik, were in France for the Cannes Film Festival. The Great Gatsby had just screened, and Blavatnik invited Baz Luhrmann and his set designer/costumer wife Catherine Martin aboard his superyacht to pose a question to the Hollywood couple: Would they be creative consultants for the hotel? Would they design the interiors and staff uniforms and “translate the essence of the Faena vision from Buenos Aires [where the flagship is] to Miami,” recalled Luhrmann and Martin in a joint email to THR. (The couple had lived in Miami during the 1990s when they were working on Romeo + Juliet.) Faena confesses that he had been warned about working with entertainment folk: “It was considered crazy to work with people from Hollywood.” But Caminos and the developer — who is finishing the $550 million redo of the hotel that will be only one part of a new $1 billion six-block arts district on Collins Avenue with its own flag, coat of arms and film festival (“It will be like a country,” he says) — soon became convinced they made the right choice. “Baz edited the architecture, like film,” says Caminos of the director, who sussed out the hotel that soft-opens Nov. 16 as if it were a big-budget set, using his hands to frame points of view. “We altered the architecture based on his ‘camera.’ He’d say: ‘This wall doesn’t belong. I need to see the ocean.’ So the wall came down.”