The independent PooL Art Fair ended right as the opening party began when the owner of its South Beach property was arrested for running an illegal hotel Friday, forcing artists to evacuate.
PooL, which exclusively presents artists without gallery representation, was slated to run for three days during Art Basel Miami Beach weekend in rooms at the Sadigo Court Hotel and Suites on 20th Street. Instead, artists had to pack up their work Friday afternoon just as the show opened when code enforcement officials arrived and arrested owner Rod Eisenberg.
“The show that was being held there did not have a special events permit,” Miami Beach police spokesman Nannette Rodriguez told the Miami Herald. “On top of that, he is running an illegal hotel. We learned that the artists were guests of this building.”
Eisenberg has long been embroiled in a dispute with the City of Miami Beach over the use of his property, which is zoned for long-term apartments but used in the manner of a hotel, with short term rentals. Over the summer, the Sadigo Court was ordered vacant.
"They interrupted my good relationships I had with Art Basel," Eisenberg said of the city in August. "[Attendees] used to stay with us and that’s been cancelled."
But police say Eisenberg did have artists staying with him, and he is now charged with violating a cease-and-desist order. For those artists and the fair's organizers, the shutdown was a devastating blow.
“Some of these guys had 10 foot paintings. It was heartbreaking,” Miami artist Sheila Elias told the Miami Herald. “We were supposed to start Friday and end Sunday. They shut us down just minutes before our fair. Some of our artists drove from New York, while others flew from Paris, Portugal, Korea and even China. We’ve been doing this for seven years.”
"I don't understand. Why can't we just sleep there?" asked Thierry Alet, PooL's organizer. "It was the first time we had the event there. The fair has been going on for seven years and we never needed a permit at other hotels. It's not like we are trying to cheat the law or anything."