Norman Braman to Step Down as Art Basel Miami Beach Chair

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Norman Braman to Step Down as Art Basel Miami Beach Chair:

Art collector and community leader instrumental in bringing the annual fair to Miami Beach

Art Basel Miami Beach Chair Norman Braman surprised everyone except his wife this week when he announced he was stepping down as Chair of the annual fair which he brought to Miami Beach nearly two decades ago. (Photo: Braman, above center)
Recalling “the courageous decision” made by ABMB’s parent company, MCH Group, to come here, Braman said, “I remember those early years and the difficult decisions that were made at that time but this fair has truly transformed our community as anything possibly could transform a city... Since Art Basel came to Miami Beach, we have four new museums that we didn’t have before. In the year 2001 there were only 10 art galleries in our community. Today, there are over 100.”
Braman, an avid art collector and community leader, also helped former Mayor Phillip Levine convince voters to support the almost complete $620 million renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center. At the opening press conference for this year’s fair, Braman said Art Basel Miami Beach “has turned out to be the most successful art fair in the United States… and now the City of Miami Beach has shown us what this fair means to this community by bringing this marvelous new facility to us. What you’re going to see here is a project that cost over $620 million, an investment by the taxpayers and the citizens of Miami Beach as a result of the success of this fair and what this fair has meant to this community.”
Braman proudly regaled the audience with some of the statistics. “The building’s size, for example, has been increased by 260,000 sq ft over what it was before which brings us to a total of almost 1.5m sq ft. of space,” he said. “This building has 84 meeting rooms that it didn’t have before, totaling a little less than 200,000 sq ft. The building has a total of five ballrooms, two on the ground floor, two on the second level and a rooftop ballroom to be completed early next year."
In addition to the new Convention Center, Braman also noted the future 800-room Convention Center hotel approved by voters last month. “Truly an amazing contribution by the City of Miami Beach for which we’re all grateful,” he said. 
As he concluded, he said very simply, this would be his “last year in this capacity, Art Basel. It’s time for me to move on. We have a new facility. Everything is new and it’s time for a new chair.”
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber followed with an impromptu tribute to Braman and his wife, Irma. “Norman and Irma Braman have had an impact on our community that is impossible to calculate,” he said. “I don’t think that it’s government that elevates communities… It is citizen leaders who decide they’re going to take responsibility for their community.” 
Gelber told the audience he’s known Braman since he was a teenager, buying his first car from Braman in 1978. 
“I have been in public service for a long time,” he said. “I spent a decade in the legislature. The thing that I always find so remarkable about the Bramans is that I would get calls from him over the course of my life – many calls – and they were never for him, for his family or for his business. They were always for something else. For some principle, for some idea, for culture, for art, for some cause he was championing. And I can tell you that that’s an amazing thing and our community is so fortunate.”
“If you look around here, whether it’s the Holocaust Memorial or this building [the Convention Center], whatever you look at, his imprint, Irma’s input is here, and I just want to say to you, from all of us, thank you for everything you’ve done. It’s really remarkable and all of us, our families, our futures, are better because of you. We are very, very grateful.”
Art Basel Global Director, Marc Spiegler, said of the surprise announcement, “I know why he did it. He didn’t want this press conference to be about himself.”
Spiegler who joined the Art Basel team in 2007, said “Even though the fair was mature” when he arrived, he could count on Braman’s counsel. “He always took the time and he always gave good advice.”
Spiegler also noted the example Braman set. “Norman’s way in which he moves through the world has been a good example for us at Art Basel because as we became more powerful, we had to be more careful how we used the power and what we used the power for and I always thought about Norman and how he never uses the power for himself, for his own good. He uses it for his community, for the cultural world, for those who can’t do things for themselves.”
Turning to Braman, he said, “Norman, the way in which you handle yourself, the way in which you handle things in this community, the way in which you’ve worked with us, has really become impermeated in our spirits. We carry that with us as we move through the world and across the world as Art Basel.”
 Photo courtesy Miami Beach Convention Center

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