Power Player

By staff November 1, 2008

London-based sports and entertainment mogul Richard Dorfman lives life in the fast lane—racing across the globe as general manager, broadcasting and media, of A1 Grand Prix World Cup of Motorsport, which, just four years after being founded by Sheik Maktoum Hasher Al Maktoum, a member of Dubai’s ruling family, has spread to 22 competing countries.

To decompress, Dorfman jets in to Sarasota and to his Alinari condominium, a home with stunning bayfront views and vivid orange walls packed with art as charismatic as the man who collects it. 

Dorfman says he tasked his designer, John Hargreaves, with “decorating around works by Warhol, Lichtenstein—masters of the pop art movement; a lot of graffiti art [his latest passion]; and some of my favorite photography.”

“The next thing Richard said was, ‘I’m leaving for

London tomorrow, and probably won’t be back until you’ve finished the condo,’” says Hargreaves. The designer worked from photographs of his client’s art collection, and mailed catalogues and tear sheets of interior furnishings for approval across the pond. And yes, his client was at first taken aback by the bold orange paint swatches.

“I wanted something soothing,” Dorfman recalls. “But John told me to think of it as Old Florida; the color of beach sunsets and vintage homes. I couldn’t see or understand it, but I had faith in him and I couldn’t be happier with the results.”

Besides his work with the A1 Grand Prix World Cup of Motorsport, Dorfman has managed international TV rights for the last two soccer World Cups, and at various times in his career has represented worldwide TV distribution for the NFL, Indy 500, the PGA tour and Wimbledon. So how does such a sports jock become a serious art collector?

“My family had a lot of art in our home in Upper Saddle River, N.J., and I always enjoyed it,” says Dorfman. His first acquisition, a painting by Gwen Gugell, graces the master bath of his Alinari condo.  “I bought it at Krasner Gallery in Manhattan while I was still in school, and by the time I got out of college, Oscar Krasner had taken me under his wing,” says Dorfman.  From Krasner’s renowned gallery, Dorfman also bought his first Picasso etching.

“I paid $350 for it, and it’s worth about $7,000 today,” Dorfman says. “I couldn’t buy it outright, so Oscar let me pay it off at about $50 a week. When I first started to collect, I focused on Picasso. He was my favorite artist; I bought his sculptures, ceramics and etchings.

“What kills me is the stuff I turned down,” Dorfman continues. “In the late 1970s I could have had any Francis Bacon, Picasso or Durfee I wanted for $300. With Oscar, everything was $300, except for a whole suite of Andy Warhol soup cans he offered me at $200 each.  I just couldn’t afford them at the time; they’re each worth about $25,000 today.”

Dorfman’s collection has grown to more than 150 significant pieces. He shipped 50 to Sarasota.  “I change the walls in London every six months, but for Sarasota John and I chose pieces that would complement the urban beach theme,” he says.

The idea of incorporating 50 works by established and rising stars of the contemporary art scene might seem overwhelming for a 1,830-square-foot condo and the designer charged with furnishing it. But Hargreaves’ fine arts education serves him well in the tricky business of creating homes for art collections.

“No one piece dominates the space; the art controls the space as a unit,” the designer says. First up are works from Warhol’s Sitting Queens series: a portrait of Ingrid Bergman and the Queen of Swaziland. There are also an American flag by Peter Max, a Prince Charles portrait by Faille, and She-Hulk as interpreted by the confrontational Australian, Ben Frost.

Hargreaves repurposed the foyer by sheathing its plaster columns in the same granite that came with the condo’s kitchen countertops. “I put mirrors on either side of the granite, which doubled the foyer in size and reflects the Warhols and artwork that would not have been visible from the entry hall,” he says.

Furniture is minimal. “We needed furniture and lamps to support the art and not compete with it,” Hargreaves says. In the living room, the shapes of the furniture pieces, including a Herman Miller Eames chair, club chairs from Home Resource, lamps from Light Up Your Life and a coffee table from Casa Italia, are sculptural and airy. Anchoring the room is a Ralph Lauren sea grass rug customized with bands of white and brown leather accented by a strip of pale blue broadloom carpet.

Everything fades in comparison to the art adorning the living room walls: a pop art beach scene and Chanel-Marilyn Monroe, both by Steve Kaufman, former assistant to Andy Warhol. Just as striking is a piece of 3D art by Brian Miller hanging above the living room’s giant TV. “I saw it at Hodgell Gallery in Sarasota and loved the color and the movement,” Dorfman says. Hargreaves adds, “It has its own strength and looks like stained glass tiles, but is actually paint on plywood. The waves and wonderful colors are strong enough to stand up to the TV, even when it is on.”

Hargreaves also gave center stage to the art in the master bedroom. Paul Mellia did the stylized Elizabeth Taylor portrait that crowns a bed from Home Resource. “Paul is UK-based and a good friend of mine. He has painted Mariah Carey and Princess Di, and he did the Bat Woman hanging in the hall,” Dorfman explains. Above the bedroom dresser are three photographic portraits by Jock Sturges. The most aggressive piece is from the Crowns, Halos and Heroes series by American graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The hallway is lined with master photographs of women on one wall, buildings on the other. Dorfman points to New York City skyline shots by Todd Webb, a portrait of Veronica Lake by George Hurrell (“I love that piece,” he says), and two Bert Stern photos from his last sitting with Marilyn Monroe. “I have quite a few from the last sitting in London; I love Marilyn Monroe,” he declares.

The world traveler also loves his home away from home in Sarasota. “I’m just in heaven when I’m here,” he concludes. “I look at the water every day and the sunset every night, and say, ‘You’ve finally arrived.’”

Making Room for Art

Advice from designer John Hargreaves: 

- Avoid exposing paintings to direct sunlight.

- Choose shapes and materials that complement the art rather than upstaging it; arrange furniture for easy conversation. 

- Choose one color that is prevalent in most of the artwork as a wall color; for low ceilings go one or two shades lighter. - Protect your art investment from mold and heat by keeping the AC on and maintaining a constant humidity of about 30 percent 

- Highlight your paintings with halogen light and bathe your room in incandescent lighting. - Consider proportion and scale. There are no rules: Some paintings work in groups, others must stand alone.

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