You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in Miami with a résumé quite like Dennis Scholl’s: accountant, attorney, art collector, venture capitalist, documentary filmmaker, nonprofit arts executive. And, oh yeah, don’t forget winemaker and mezcal entrepreneur.
Scholl has led an illustrious, if nonlinear, path over his lifetime. Many in Miami know him as the former Vice President for Arts at the Knight Foundation, where he helped to expand Knight’s national arts philanthropy, overseeing nearly $200 million in grants between 2009 and 2015.
On ceding control for the sake of art
Many more know him and his wife, Debra, as art collectors with a curatorial passion. Or rather, the flexibility to open their doors each year and have a different expert reconfigure and rehang the art in their Miami Beach abode.
“It’s the thing we’re known for in the art world,” Dennis Scholl said, “this willingness to be involved in a curatorial project and give up complete control.”
‘We’ve bought a piece of art every seven days [for almost 40 years].’
For Scholl, getting together over dinner with friends from around the world is the thing he looks forward to most when Art Basel rolls around. That, and the art. As collectors, the Scholls have purchased approximately 2,000 pieces over the past four decades.
“If you do the math, we’ve bought a piece of art every seven days,” Scholl said.
ArtCenter/South Florida is on an ambitious mission
Today, Scholl is a few months into his latest venture as President and CEO of ArtCenter/South Florida. With an $88 million endowment thanks to the 2014 sale of one of its Lincoln Road buildings, ArtCenter is poised to expand its mission as a premier arts patron.
“We’re going to make sure artists get the opportunity to interact with the rest of the art world by bringing significant artists here, not just during Art Basel,” Scholl said.
In addition, he said Art Center intends to fund artists’ travel and assist with residencies, as well as making direct grants to artists. The organization also will continue to provide artists with safe, productive studio spaces, something it’s been doing since the 1980s.
“We have the capital now to do it all,” Scholl said. “We’re going to take that capital and put it to work for this community.”
Meet Dennis Scholl
SCHOOLED Graduate of Miami Norland, FIU and UM Law.
MET WIFE DEBRA Sitting next to each other in a first-year law class.
BEFORE ART Collected stamps and coins.
FIRST TWO PURCHASES Robert Motherwell brushstroke painting and Roy Lichtenstein turkey shopping bag.
BUYING ADVICE If a work of art costs more than your sofa, consider it an investment. “A sofa is the perfect reference point, because a sofa is not a throwaway decision.”
LIQUID ART Co-founded Betts & Scholl, the boutique winemaker and producer of Sombra mezcal, now owned by Castle Brands.