When Martin “Marty” Taplin and his wife Christine “Cricket” Taplin bought Miami Beach’s Sagamore Hotel in the late 1990s, they saw a blank canvas.
“We put in our artwork,” Marty Taplin recalled in the Miami Herald magazine, Indulge, in January 2015. “It was an accident.”
The Taplins’ “accident,” utilizing much of their personal 600-piece collection, started a global trend. Other hotels soon followed, including the Gallery Hotel Art in Florence, Italy, the Windsor Hotel in Nice, France, and The Savoy in London.
Marty Taplin, a real estate developer, attorney, art collector and philanthropist, died Tuesday at 77 in Surfside. His taste and partnership with his wife left a mark.
The Sagamore became a hot spot during Art Basel. The Taplins’ invitation-only Saturday morning Basel brunches gathered top artists, museum and gallery representatives.
“From my perspective, he was partially responsible for some of the success of Art Basel,” said Sam Hollander, president of Concept One International, a firm that takes products to market.
“A lot of exhibitors and key people from around the world showed up. And he always had something interesting going on, whether it was doing art on the beach or art with sand castles. In a sense, he put his money where his mouth was. It was not inexpensive to run those parties,” Hollander said.
Basel, in turn, recognized the Taplins’ contribution. “Cricket and Marty Taplin have been supporters of Art Basel since its inception. They have been instrumental in supporting the arts and culture in the community,” said Stefanie Block Reed, spokeswoman for Art Basel Miami Beach.
“It's truly remarkable how they and their art collection transformed the Sagamore in the early days of Art Basel Miami Beach. Together they've been amazing supporters of the Miami art scene,” said art critic Elisa Turner, a teacher at Miami Dade College and a former art critic for the Miami Herald.
The Chicago-born Taplin, who was a principal in Harbour Realty Advisors and board member of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, merged his artistic and business sense.
“When Mrs. Schwartz is paying $400 to $500 a night, Mrs. Schwartz wants a big closet to hang her clothes in and a big countertop to put her makeup,” he said in a 2002 Miami Herald story on the evolution of boutique hotels.
He was a maverick and thought outside the box.
Jennifer Sazant on her father, Marty Taplin.
“He was a maverick and thought outside the box,” said Taplin’s daughter, Jennifer Sazant.
The Sagamore wasn’t immune to the recession, however. For years, starting in 2009, Taplin fought off foreclosure of the property. One idea Taplin floated in 2009, bringing a Playboy Club onto the property to boost its finances. Playboy, and its Bunnies, didn’t come. Taplin, a Miami Beach Senior High graduate who earned his law degree at Stetson University College of Law, prevailed.
In April 2015, Taplin, orchestrated a complimentary brunch and Easter egg hunt at the Sagamore for all Miami-Dade and Miami Beach first responders and their families after reading about Rafael Garcia, a Miami-Dade firefighter who died of a brain tumor. “There they are mourning the death of their brethren. I want to honor them,” Taplin told the Herald.
“In business, he was tough,” Hollander said. “But on a personal basis, he was an awfully nice guy.”
Taplin is survived by his wife Christine; daughter, Jennifer Sazant; sons Kristopher and Andrew Taplin and Joshua Fuller; five grandchildren and brother Jack Taplin.
Services will be at noon Friday at Blasberg-Rubin-Zilbert Memorial Chapel, 720-71st St., Miami Beach. Donations in Taplin’s name can be made to the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine.