ONE OF THE WEALTHIEST DRUG DEALER’S SANCTUARIES OFFERS VISITORS A SPACE WHERE THEY CAN PAY TO CHECK IN AND SLEEP WITH A FAMOUS ART COLLECTION
Many of us have heard and been familiar with the name Pablo Escobar since we were kids, but like the majority of people, we may have never really been aware of the extent of the level of notoriety this legendary Colombian drug lord has held until the two seasons of Netflix’s original series Narcos were released. The series’ storyline revolves around the life of the world’s number one drug kingpin who dominated 80 percent of the market share of the cocaine supply worldwide. He built up the image of a philanthropist by giving away money to the poor and turning them into his supporters, which won him a seat as an official representative of the Colombian government. The insane level of the volume of his wealth is unfathomable.
The story goes that he spent an estimated $3,000 every month on rubber bands used to hold stacks of bills together. It is also speculated that the value of his assets run as high as $30 billion as he was ranked the world’s 7th richest man by Forbes magazine back in 1989. Before his death that occurred during a shootout, Escobar was forced to constantly be on the move as he escaped the government’s restless manhunts. It has been said that he owned over 800 residences both inside and outside of Colombia, and what’s interesting is that one of them has been turned into a five star hotel that has opened its doors to visitors from around the world.
We are talking about Casa Malca, the boutique resort located in a vacation town called Tulum in Mexico. The property was once known as Tulum Mansion, another residence owned by Pablo Escobar. The hotel’s relaxing and cozy vibe is derived from a combination of white walls and the polished concrete surface of the floor as well as the space being decorated with the distinctive presence of the world’s renowned contemporary art pieces. The man behind the transformation of the 9-bedroom mansion into a 42-room hotel is Lio Malca, a reputable New York collector. “I like to live my life surrounded by art,” Malca explains of the hotel decorations with works of art from his private collection being a highlight and one of the most distinctive characteristics of the establishment. Here, guests get to enjoy close and private encounters with the works of artists and designers such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Marco Brambilla, George Condo, Keith Haring and KAWS. Every work is kept under careful humidity control with the circulation being constantly curated to ensure fresh and exciting spatial and art viewing experiences, especially for the hotel’s regular guests. Imagine how happy you would be if you were an art buff lying in bed with a real Jean-Michel Basquiat painting right in front of you! On top of that, while anybody can take a selfie with a work of art in museums all over the world, being photographed with a bunch of authentic art pieces paired with a cool location check-in that reads something like ‘Pablo Escobar’s private mansion’ is every millennial’s ideal social media moment. $490 per night is the price one has to pay to buy the amazing experience of a memorable sleepover with some of the world’s most famous art pieces.
It’s apparent that there is nothing time can do to the value of works of art but increase them (if they’re, of course, the right works), and like many of the nouveau rich who squander their money toward the purchase of art as a form of investment, Pablo Escobar bought a great number of works during the heyday of his narcotic empire, and it is most likely that he did so because he didn’t know on what or where else to spend his money. The relationship between drug dealers and art dealers is just as interesting as the world of modern business where creative practitioners serve as architects who facilitate experiences, creating selling points by bringing together something new and original. What can be observed is how Casa Malca has both narcotics and art as significant elements of the beginning of its history. The two things are connected and intertwined in the sense that they are both consumed for their ability to fulfill emotional satisfaction, and also the fact that they are both highly profitable products. It’s uncertain how many times Escobar stopped by this mansion when he was alive considering the hundreds of homes he owned, but all we know is that the myths and tales behind the birth and life of Casa Malca are intriguing, incredibly incendiary and undeniably artistic.
TEXT: PITI AMRARANGA