If you're going to promote your hotel using the name of the world's most famous street artist, you'd better be sure you've got your facts straight. That's the lesson the South Beach Group learned last month when it claimed that it had commissioned British graffiti artist Banksy to design tiles in public spaces of its new hotel, the Riviera South Beach. New Times exposed the tiles as fakes, sold by a Spanish tile company under the name "Bansky."
But the hotel is seemingly determined to hold onto that buzzworthy Banksy selling point. South Beach Group announced yesterday that, in an attempt to make amends for the fake Banksy incident, the Riviera South Beach has purchased a collection of "authentic" Banksy prints, now on display at the hotel.
"When we purchased the tiles two years ago, they were totally misrepresented to us as genuine Banksy designs," hotelier Alan Lieberman said in a statement. "We had no idea we had been cheated until a savvy Miami New Times reader brought it to our attention."
That's a rather simplified version of the events; New Times reporters spent several days in back-and-forth phone calls and emails with hotel representatives and with Lieberman himself, attempting to verify their claims. The hotel's original press release announcing the Banksy tiles claimed that the Riviera had commissioned the artist to create the tiles; a hotel representative claimed that Lieberman had a connection to the artist himself. Gradually, Lieberman and others at the hotel backed away from that claim, arguing instead that the tiles were still Banksy designs, commissioned for Spanish tile company Peronda. But Peronda denied any connection to Banksy at all.
Now, Lieberman claims he was duped.
"Of course we were embarrassed and humbled by the revelation," his statement continues. "Our new authentic Banksy collection at the Riviera is our token way of both apologizing if we appeared to misrepresent our brand, and creating a genuine Banksy experience for our guests on site at our first luxury property."
So how does the hotel know its new prints are authentic? Neither Lieberman nor the hotel's director of marketing and communications Hannah Litman responded to our requests for more information about the prints. We'll update this post with more details as they become available.
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For now, though, it looks like you'll just have to take their word for it.
Follow Ciara LaVelle on Twitter @ciaralavelle.
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