November/December 2018

A Badass Finds Her Bliss

by Linda Marx Photographed by Jeffrey Salter
Thursday, November 1, 2018
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Fresh off a plane from New York, Andi Potamkin Blackmore, looking chic in a floral Gucci pantsuit, strides into the bar of Le Sirenuse at the Four Seasons Hotel’s Surf Club near Miami Beach, where her father, Alan Potamkin, is building a penthouse apartment.


Curious, fun and brimming with emotional intelligence, Blackmore, 29, who was born in Miami and raised in a stunning art-filled Coral Gables mansion, is fascinated by the impeccable 2017 restoration of the Mediterranean Revival–style Surf Club, which was built at the end of the Roaring ’20s. It fits right in with her passions for design, development, history, art, infrastructure, color and creating sustainable projects.


After a decade of art curating and acting in New York City that helped set the stage for her new career as director of business development for her family’s Potamkin Companies, Blackmore has found her bliss.


“I was feeling like I was standing on ceremony,” says Blackmore of her years working in the art world, as she sips a pretty pink tequila drink. “I knew I needed a challenge and was inspired by my father, who is a powerhouse. I have people skills and like to be in a room where decisions are made. I wanted power so I could use it to do good and build things that are decent and respectful and to make a difference in the world.”


In 2015, after curating dozens of art shows in New York and around the world, Blackmore asked her dad if she could join the family business with hopes to eventually become the “patriarch” herself. Though she loved her creative career, she grew weary of the pomp and circumstance of meetings where everyone agreed with each other.


As a hands-on father who placed his only daughter (she has two younger brothers) in debate classes and taught her the importance of being a good citizen and a strong woman, Alan gave Blackmore three months to learn everything as an apprentice in the Potamkin Companies. She quickly put her New York social and networking skills to work, visiting all the automobile dealerships, attending legal and financial meetings, asking questions, taking notes and talking to city officials about zoning and tax law for company projects.


She got the job.


“Learning the business was a seamless transition from the art world, and I loved it,” says Blackmore of her apprenticeship. As an art curator, she often did shows that focused on color themes. Now, she uses her eye for design to create and improve buildings. “I want to create a symphony of new and existing developments, and my previous work has been a great help,” she says. For example, currently in development is a building skin that filters out four cars’ worth of pollution for every 10 square feet.


“I told her she had to familiarize herself with everything, including the operational part of the company,” says Alan. “She is curious, with a wonderful thought process and work ethic. I am proud of the works she has done.”


The family business was founded in 1954 by Andi’s grandfather Victor Potamkin, who turned a failing Manhattan Cadillac agency into a $1 billion empire by a savvy use of discounting and heavy advertising. At the time of his 1995 death at age 83, Victor and his two sons, Alan and Robert, controlled more than 50 franchises at 20 locations from New York to Florida. Today, the Potamkin Companies is based in Miami, and the automotive group is one of the largest new and certified preowned auto groups in the United States, with 16 brands, 1,500 team members and 34 locations in five states.


Blackmore, the first woman since the company’s founding to work on an operational level, is now a seven-day-a-week workhorse for Potamkin’s real estate division, which owns land and builds buildings for the company and for others. She divides her time between New York and Miami, where the company recently opened a state-of-the-art wine storage facility in South Beach. Blackmore is currently overseeing the design and development of fleet maintenance facilities in Harlem for the New York Sanitation Department. She also handles Access-A-Ride, which provides public transportation for New Yorkers with disabilities.


“I am passionate about infrastructure,” she says. “I am interested in the design of a city and how services affect the mentality of the citizens. My grandfather made the blueprint, my dad and uncle built the ship, and I need to steer it and say where we go.”


Among her recent work is a partnership with her cousin Marc Ganzi on the wireless communication facilities for New York’s Museum of Arts and Design, where she is a trustee on the board, and also for the family car dealership properties. These were complex transactions where telecom meets core real estate. “Andi grasped all of the

challenging terms with speed and acumen,” admires Ganzi, CEO of Digital Bridge Holdings in Florida. “She has an amazing capacity to adapt and learn quickly.”


Blackmore’s art world friends are equally impressed at how she took to business with insight, enthusiasm and tireless dedication. “Andi loves a challenge,” says Marlies Verhoeven, CEO and cofounder of the Cultivist, the global arts club offering privileged access to the art world. “She is a rare kindhearted yet power-forward woman who is unapologetic about her wish to be a badass in business. She works to make sure she takes over the family business in the responsible way—with experience and purpose—rather than as a chance inheritance. She is always informed about what interests her, whether it be health tips, environmental building practices, new fashion designers, or just trivia like how many sanitation trucks there are in New York. She is a true Renaissance woman.”


Indeed, one of the best aspects of her new trajectory is the opportunity to utilize everything she learned leading up to it.


As a young girl, Blackmore was fascinated with creating things, graduating from playing with clay to captaining her high school engineering team, which won a national championship. “Raised in a house with African masks, heads, rings, talismans and Egyptian hieroglyphs that my father collected, I treasured art, furniture and lighting, and I liked building stories that went with them,” she says.


After high school, Blackmore enrolled in New York University to study theater, acting and set design. The latter taught her how to make powerful presentations and to learn how people interact with their surroundings. In 2007, she began dating Jordan Blackmore, a tattooed former high school wrestler from Union, Kentucky, who was working for celebrity hair stylist Oribe in Miami Beach at the time. Two years later, while she was still a student, the couple opened Three Squares Studio, a combined hair salon and art gallery on the border of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District.


While Jordan was building his own celebrity clientele (Marc Jacobs, André Balazs, Brian Atwood, Macklemore, etc.), Blackmore created revolving art installations with colors and textures that

illustrated the seasons. She changed the color of the walls and the fabric of capes and robes as well as installing works from artists she researched, like Scott Campbell and photographer Phyllis Galembo. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I always bought the first piece before a show, and we gave artists a 70/30 cut,” she says. “We made our overhead from the salon.”


In 2011, after graduating college with a BFA and minor in philosophy and mythology, Blackmore did a short stint as an actress at the Roundabout Theatre Company while she was curating the salon. But she disliked the lifestyle and left the profession to start a contemporary art program for a Chelsea gallery, which offered her new emotional and intellectual stimulation.


A few years later, the spirited maverick opened her own gallery, hosting thematic group shows combining art sales with set design, natural allies for today’s art world. Each show had painting, sculpture, furniture, lighting, ceramics and glass, all emulating the color and energy inside the space. Her successful curating, style and social schmoozing led to international commissions in London, Antwerp and Amsterdam.


“Andi is one of the most creative women I know, with an incredible eye for art as both an advisor and a curator,” say Stacey Bendet Eisner, designer for Alice + Olivia. “I always learn from her, and I admire her taste, judgment and style. She is a muse to many.”


When Blackmore left for the family business she thought that since “everyone in New York works so fucking hard” nobody in the art world “would suffer” without her. As a business executive, she could take the decision-making power and her stable future to the bank while working on important developments that would utilize her skills as a communicator and curator. “I think [about having] a dialogue with the existing development so what we create out of it works well together,” she says.


For example, she and Jordan, whom she calls a “handsome, humble, funny, curious and brave old-school country gentleman,” are building an eco-estate in Gardiner, New York, near New Paltz. The couple married three years ago in the Utah desert and have apartments in Brooklyn and Miami, but they bought 88 acres of overgrown forest and farmland with views of the river and hacked through the brush with machetes, studying the land and cutting little paths throughout. They consulted a compass and watched the sun rise and set. Eventually, they created a garden to grow their own vegetables, installed a driveway and added infrastructure.


They have also built a sustainable house out of insulated concrete with solar panels, and a big art barn with a wood shop for Jordan, a kiln and wheel for her clay projects and a painting area and library for their 8,000 books. “I loved learning about building something from nothing,” she says. “I think it helped a lot with my Potamkin job.”


The duo plans to create an outdoor theater with a platform for dancers, play readings and other artistic endeavors. “We named the estate Gutai, which means ‘concreteness,’ ” she says of the Japanese movement representing a radical and energetic approach to making art, which includes performance, paintings installation and theatrical events. The group was formed the year her grandfather founded Potamkin Automotive. The artists associated with Gutai embraced humble materials and believed that the relationship between artist and material was creative. “They experimented freely with new techniques and made outdoor art that responded to the environment,” she says.


When the couple sneak away to Gutai they like to be outside, rollerblading and riding bikes. They’re not afraid of getting their hands dirty, cutting trees, carrying dirt and moving rocks. Back in New York City, Blackmore works until 8 or 9 p.m. each night and occasionally socializes via fashion shows and museum events (she is also a trustee of the UrbanGlass foundation), while Jordan is busy with work dinners and going to the gym.


“Jordan doesn’t like small talk or the social burdens of philanthropy and thought my previous life of going out just to be seen was taxing,” says Blackmore, who now counterbalances social obligations with yoga and by doing 100 squats a day. But she clarifies: “My business life [at Potamkin Companies] would not have worked had I started after college.”


Blackmore divides her days among work responsibilities, activism and the arts, always including time with her family. She relishes her good fortune and continues to support issues like diversity, inclusion, the environment and women’s rights.


“Andi has eyes that twinkle with mischief and compassion simultaneously,” says her artist/activist friend Zoë Buckman. “Her voice cracks like a woman who has lived and has a warm soul. Her style is impeccable, and she celebrates what it is to be a woman.”


 


styled by Arel Ramos

makeup by Melissa Conner

hair by Jordan Blackmore for S.Oil Hair soilhair.com

shot on location at Four Seasons Hotel and Residences at The Surf Club, Surfside, Florida

and its Marybelle Penthouse


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