One of the indicators that mark the decisive passage of a young city into a great metropolis is its ability to providea social dialogue with high culture. In recent years, Miami’s rapid urban development and the different demographics of its visitors have changed the cultural profile of a city that—for decades—lacked the kind of world-class institutions that turn a beautiful resort town into a world capital of culture.
Alongside the fast vertical growth of the city—which includes contributions by some of the world’s most recognized architectural superstars—emerges an impressive network of significant venues, such as the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, the splendidly designed Pérez Art Museum Miami; the South Beach New World Center designed by Frank Gehry; the Spanish Cultural Center in its new headquarters, and the brand new South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center. All of these centers for the arts have changed the cultural face of the city both for its architectural designs and the social scope of their functions.
The most recent project to elucidate this growing scenario is the renovation of the Bass Museum of Art. At a cost of $12 million, the investment will double the exhibition space of the museum headquarters located at 2121 Park Avenue in Miami Beach. One of Miami’s premier museums, it was founded in 1963 to house and display the legacy of John and Johanna Bass. This iconic art deco building was originally a public library and was used as one of the pioneering spaces for art exhibitions in Miami.
For decades, the Bass was one of the city’s great attractions, with a historic collection of over 3,000 works, including pieces by artists as renowned as Sandro Botticelli, Jacob Jordaens, Rubens, Gerard Seghers, Ferdinand Bol, Giovanni Barbagelata, Ghirlandaio, Benjamin West, Armand Guillaumin, Hans Markat and Sir Thomas Lawrence. Besides paintings, the collection boasts sculptures, works on paper, decorative objects and a selection of handmade textiles that includes a selection of 16th-century Flemish tapestries and others by the French designer Louis-Marie Baader, dating from the 19th century.
In recent years, the Bass has focused its scope on international contemporary art exhibitions, showcasing both established artists and young promising talents. With this reorientation, the Museum has taken a broader interpretation of aesthetic expression, incorporating contemporary artistic disciplines such as design, fashion and architecture.
The museum’s renovation began in 2013 under the direction of the architects Arata Isozaki and David Gauld; and is expected to be completed by mid 2017. Four new galleries will be added to the building: a reception area, a shop, a cafeteria, an outdoor patio for special events and a Creativity Center for educational purposes.
The renewed headquarters plan to open its doors with three solo exhibitions: Ugo Rondinone, a Swiss artist based in New York; Mika Rottenberg from Argentina, and the exhibit by Cameroonian artist Pascale Marthine-Thayou. The first on this list will occupy the second floor with three separate displays, generating a sense of circularity and imaginative recreation.
At the largest gallery, Rottenberg will present works that have not been seen before in the United States, including NoNoseKnows, awarded at the last Venice Biennale. ■