Art Basel's Biggest Buy: Jorge Perez Gets MAM Name For $35 Million, Over Objections

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While Basel collectors plunk down millions on Miami Beach, this week's biggest art buy went down last night on the other side of Biscayne Bay. Developer Jorge Perez's $35 million bid to put his name atop the Miami Art Museum's new bay front home was finalized by trustees.

The gift seems like great news for Miami's fledgling arts haven -- or is it? "These payments do not come close to the value of the money and land that the city and county have already committed to MAM," former president Mary Frank objects.

Perez's gift officially adds up to $20 million in cash for the museum, plus another $15 million of his own Latin American art collection to join the MAM's permanent collection.

Museum director Thom Collins tells The Miami Herald this morning that the gift left him "stunned" with its generosity. "This campaign was kicked off in a very, very rosy economy ... This is not a very rosy economy," he says.

In a newspaper ad taken out earlier this week, though, Frank argues that Perez's gift isn't quite as rosy as it looks. He'd already pledged $5 million five years earlier and $10 million of the pledge isn't due until 2022, so really Perez got to slap his name on the museum for $5 million today plus a promise to let curators raid his collection.

"The name of this museum belongs to the people of Miami," Frank argues in her ad, pointing out that taxpayer's $100 million investment dwarfs Perez's individual donation. "The citizens of Miami-Dade paid for this museum, and it should bear the name of this community."

What's more, as Eye on Miami writes this week, Perez's recent real estate transactions leave transparency wanting.

Just before Genting swooped into town with plans of a giant casino on the Bayfront, Perez snatched up the Omni plot of land for $100 million; six months later, he flipped it to the Malaysians for a cool $61 million profit.

Did Perez have inside info that the casino deal was en route? Who knows, but as the Gimleteye of Eye on Miami notes: "Genting's name ought to be right beside Perez's on the new Miami Art Museum."

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