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It started as a cocktail party to kick off Art Basel more than 20 years ago. Now it is an annual event where Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz open up the doors of their Key Biscayne waterfront house so the public can gander at his extensive and impressive collection within.

The scene inside de la Cruz’s home Tuesday was exquisite – a piece of the art world right here on the island with a curated collection of modern quality art of different styles, mediums and presentations. 

The multi-media “assume vivid astro focus installation X1” took up the whole second floor. The project was site-specific and installed in 2004, according to the brochure. 

The de la Cruz family has a gallery in the Miami Design District and some of the pieces on display – such as with Rob Pruitt’s pastel faces – had spent time there. One art critic for ArtNews.com described the faces as conveying a panoply of emotions from sorry to lovelorn to envy.

Melissa Wallen, director of the de la Cruz collection; Alberto Ibargüen, president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Carlos de la Cruz, art collector and philanthropist. De la Cruz opens up his home at the start of Miami Art Week for the public to see his art collection. (KBI Photo: John Pacenti)

And the art on Tuesday wasn’t just on the walls – it was quite a fashion treat as many visitors certainly put thought into what to wear for the visit. 

Among those in attendance on Tuesday was Tatyana Chiocchetti, the executive director of the Key Biscayne Chamber of Commerce; Melissa White, the executive director of the Key Biscayne Community Foundation and Alberto Ibargüen, CEO and president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation – among many others.

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So how is it to live in a home full of such beautiful and intriguing art, Carlos de la Cruz was asked. Does he pick just one work to meditate on each day? No, he enjoys his collection in an intuitive way.

“When you are used to living with it – in it, so to speak, it’s nice because each piece reminds you of something else,” de la Cruz said.

He said the event at his home is a way to show the Greater Miami community as having a critical mass of art so that art buyers will be attracted to come here. De la Cruz noted there is no gallery on Key Biscayne.

His home became a canvas of sorts back in the heyday of Art Basel – the longtime progenitor of Miami Art Week – when people started asking for tours. It morphed into a cocktail party that would kickoff the event. 

The New York Times wrote about the party and the third year, de la Cruz, said there were some 2,300 people attending, he said. It spoke about how the Cuban-born Rosa de la Cruz spearheaded the family into the world of art collecting.

Now the event is in the daytime and attracts about 900, her husband said. Carlos Coto, a Key Biscayne resident, was one such visitor.

Artist Elizabeth M. Webb.

“Such a wonderful home, a private home and they open it up to people just because of their love of art so these people can get acquainted with all these kinds of artists where otherwise they would not,” Coto said.

There were even actual artists on site. Elizabeth M. Webb’s work is currently displayed at de la Cruz’s gallery and was at home.

She was  eager to explain the art and the artist to visitors. A translucent and radiant piece by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone she explained was on canvas – though you would swear at first look it was made of glass or some type of fiberglass.

“This (event) really explains a lot about the generosity of the de la Cruz family,” she said.

Artists: Ugo Rondinone (1), Rob Pruitt (2), assume vivid astro focus (3-5).

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JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.