Miami, Florida is a city of beauty, vision, and extreme wealth, and its newest addition combining all three is the Dezer Collection Museum and Pavilion. In one space –225,000 square feet on two acres – is the Dezer Car Collection and the Dezer Schauhalle, the largest and arguably most significant car collection in the United States, and a contemporary art museum, also of great interest. The Car Collection component opened this month, and the Schauhalle will open in February.
Michael Dezer, the man behind the museum, has a collector’s passion for art, as well as for classic, antique, and one of a kind vehicles. He owns more than 1000 cars – and his collection is still growing. In June of 2011, he added 100 vehicles to his collection after acquiring The Cars of the Stars Museum from Keswick, England. The collection includes five Aston Martins and other vehicles from the James Bond film series, one of the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs, a DeLorean DMC-12 promotional replica from the Back to the Future films, a Ford Anglia 105E used in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets film and five Batmobiles. In addition to movie vehicles, the collection includes vehicles from the popular television shows such as The Munsters’ Munster Koach, KITT from Knight Rider and Magnum PI’s Ferrari 308GTS. These will be added to his Duesenbergs, Rolls Royces, vintage amphibious cars, military vehicles, and many other Hollywood movie cars. Much of the collection focuses on his favourite era, the 1950’s.
Dezer emigrated to the US from Israel in 1962, and soon became known for redeveloping Manhattan’s Chelsea district in the 1970’s. “I began to collect real estate,” he said, recently, “but my passion and hope was to collect cars. It was a passion that I seem always to have had, even back in Tel Aviv. And because of my success in real estate, I could start doing what I loved. But even back then, I had to put them in a warehouse because I did not have a place to display and share them. BUT, it was a start!”
Dezer’s son, Gil, also a car enthusiast, worked with his father as both partnered with Donald Trump, where all three helped transform the small town of Sunny Isles, Florida into a major location for condo-hotel developments. It was in Sunny Isles that the Dezer auto collection, then having grown to over 600 vehicles, was housed until last year.
Outgrowing its 18,000-square-foot space there, the collection needed a new home. An offer to buy a 1950s-era warehouse property in North Miami’s industrial district was accepted and the 600 automobiles and other memorabilia were soon moved. Location-wise, it is an edgy, visionary area, close to Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art, which is a good thing, as the other component of the Dezer Collection Museum is the Dezer Schauhalle. Home to Dezer’s art collection, it is now one of the largest private collections anywhere. The Schauhalle covers about 35,000 square feet out of the total 250,000 square feet of exhibition space in the complex.
The unofficial preview of the Schauhalle was timed last month to coincide with Art Basel Miami Beach, where an ensemble of classic cars and “star” cars – including two Batmobiles and the “General Lee” customized Dodge from The Dukes of Hazzard – greeted the guests in the parking lot .
The final phase of the gallery’s opening is in February, when the James Bond collection will be revealed.
When fully operational, the Dezer Collection Museum And Pavilion will also house an event centre capable of accommodating 1500 guests. Besides the auto collection and art gallery, there is an indoor drive-in movie theatre, a mini bowling alley, a retro diner.
Some of the artwork and cars are for sale, so bring your AMEX card.