Martin Taplin, Pioneer of Art Hotels and Key Promoter of Art Basel in Miami, Dies at 77

He was a local legend.

Image: Courtesy of

Image: Courtesy of

Prominent Miami hotel owner and collector, Martin Taplin passed away on Tuesday at the age of 77. Taplin, who owned the Sagamore Hotel, is widely credited with the concept of placing art in hotels—starting with he and his wife Cricket’s own 600 piece collection—that sparked a global trend.

Martin Taplin.

Martin Taplin.
Image: Courtesy of the Taplin Family.

According to his obituary in the Miami Herald, the couple “saw a blank canvas” when they bought the hotel.

“We put in our artwork. It was an accident,” Taplin told Miami Herald magazine, Indulge, in January 2015. According to a lengthy interview on Larry’s List, the couple own work, some of it commissioned, by artists such as Jose Bedia, Carlos Betancourt, Roxy Paine, Will Ryman, Jen Stark, Leslie Thornton, Spencer Tunick, and Garry Winogrand.

Taplin is regarded as a key figure in the growth of the annual art fair Art Basel in Miami Beach, particularly through his hosting of a lavish, invitation-only, art-themed brunch each year. Taplin was a member of the boards of the Bass Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), and other local cultural institutions.

The art video lounge bar at the Sagamore Hotel, Miami. Image: Courtesy of

The art video lounge bar at the Sagamore Hotel, Miami.
Image: Courtesy of

Noting that the Sagamore eventually grew into a hot spot during Art Basel in Miami Beach, drawing notable artists, museum, and gallery representative, the Herald cites Stefanie Block Reed, a spokeswoman for the fair, who says the Taplins were supporters since its inception in 2002: “They have been instrumental in supporting the arts and culture in the community.”

Cricket told the Huffington Post, “Our Saturday brunch has become a tradition at this point, offering a time to wind down and relax after an exciting week.”

During the global recession in 2009, Taplin reportedly had to fight off foreclosure of the property. He floated the idea of bringing a Playboy Club to shore up profits. “Playboy and its Bunnies didn’t come,” according to the report, but Taplin prevailed anyway.

Taplin’s daughter Jennifer Sazant told the Herald: “He was a maverick and thought outside the box.”

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