Wall St. Journal: A Colorful Florida Tale

Posted by Schwartz Media Strategies, a Miami, Fla. public relations (PR) and marketing firm.
Wall St. Journal reporter Nancy Keates gives readers a sneak-peek at the museum home of Kluger Kaplan attorney Alan Kluger and his wife, former judge Amy Dean. The condo is a treasure trove of Latin American art and fascinating stories that go along with each piece.

A slideshow of highlights from their collection can be viewed here. You’re welcome to look, but be forewarned that touching the art may result in a slap on the wrist by Judge Dean.

Aventura, Fla.Alan Kluger, a high-profile attorney known for handling celebrity divorces, and Amy Dean, a former judge who presided over murder cases in Miami, have a trove of colorful stories.

Kluger-Dean2An especially good one: the story behind the 2005 purchase of their 5,000-square-foot condo on Williams Island from musicians Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. Sitting at his kitchen table, Mr. Kluger said the condo offered a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercoastal Waterway for a good price (it was $1.3 million). But he said it was also a mess, with missing plumbing fixtures, gaps in the molding, stains on the granite and a generally wet, musty smell. The condition was so bad, Mr. Kluger said he threatened to sell the condo’s broken front door on eBay, pitching it as having been split open by Mr. Brown, unless the couple agreed to a $35,000 credit. Mr. Kluger says the sellers gave them the credit.

“It was a dump. You would have never thought this belonged to any celebrity,” says Jennifer Peters, the Fort Lauderdale interior designer who worked on its renovation and recalls the backed-up toilets and holes in walls. “But it is so big that when people go inside they don’t know how to get out.”

Kristen Foster, spokesperson for Ms. Houston, calls any report that Mr. Brown broke the front door a “total lie” and says that the couple never lived in the apartment. “It was a construction site when they purchased the home and they never completed it or had any work done to it,” she says. A spokesman for Mr. Brown had no comment.

It took Mr. Kluger and Ms. Dean four months to renovate the apartment and more than a decade to turn it into a repository for an extensive private collection of post-1946 Latin American art. “I loved the vibrancy and the political messages,” said Mr. Kluger.


The color starts the minute the elevator opens into their private hallway, where hanging opposite is a pair of bright orange mahogany doors by Los Angeles sculptor Jorge Pardo. The entry hall also has a sculpture by Cuban artist Esterio Segura of a human-sized figure of a man with no arms made from metal that looks like a cage, holding the megaphones Fidel Castro used when he went through the streets; and a 1950 painting of a woman and a bird by Wilfredo Lam.

“It is a significant collection, particularly because they have a lot of new artists,” says Bonnie Clearwater, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami.

In the next room stands a large unicorn made of mannequin legs, wearing a fur coat with a bull horn sticking out its head by Guerra de la Paz. There’s a concrete block held up by tubular light bulbs (Alejandro Pereda) that are so evenly spaced they can hold an object that would otherwise crush them, an illustration of how society functions much better if people work together. A giant basketball with miniature orange resin chairs stuck on it (Alex Arreachea) is a statement on surveillance: viewers at a game are viewed by others.

The views of the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean are blocked all day by shades kept drawn to protect the art, which covers all the walls in every room, from the sun. “I’m fanatical about it,” said Ms. Dean. She winced when Mr. Kluger touched a sculpture. “It’s fragile,” she reminded him.

Mr. Kluger and Ms. Dean moved to the complex in part for the security. A gatehouse guard demands identification from visitors. In the lobby of the building, another guard calls the owner again and preprograms the floor for the elevator from his desk. There are no similarly sized apartments in their building for sale, but a three-bedroom condo half the size is on the market for $995,000.

Kluger-Dean3-300x202Mr. Kluger, who handled the divorce of Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez and also represented Karen Kozlowski in her divorce from former Tyco chief executive officer Dennis Kozlowski, shares other tales. One client bought matching fur bathrobes for himself and his girlfriend and sent them by mistake to his wife—she chopped up the robes and the unsigned settlement papers, put all the pieces in a box with a ribbon and returned it to his office. In another case the wife refused to sign the settlement papers until her husband bought her a new Toyota—even though she was getting $47 million.

Married 35 years and never divorced, Mr. Kluger says the secret to marriage is luck. “You have to be really lucky and marry your best friend.” He says his wife tells people “I have multiple personalities so every six years he gets a new wife—and he doesn’t have to pay alimony.”