By Sandra Schulman
If you were feeling some fair-tigue earlier this month during Miami Art Week, the shows at the city’s museums give breathing room and stellar installations to their artists. Miami saw three new museums open in December, and new exhibits at longtime spaces dug deep.
The Rubell family, Mera, Don, and son Jason, have been at the forefront of art collecting and exhibiting since the 1980s.They were early in the settlement of Wynwood by taking over a DEA warehouse to show their fantastic, edgy collection.
After 26 years, they have taken a big chance to pioneer another gritty area, Allapattah, a Seminole word for alligator. West of Interstate 95 and bordering railroad tracks, the new home for their 7,200-work collection was carved out of some warehouses by the Selldorf Architects and is a vast 100,000 square feet. The sleek new space was buzzing when I visited earlier this month after it had hosted a celebrity-filled Dior show the day before.
The Rubells have also changed the name from the Rubell Collection to the Rubell Museum to key in the public that this is a public space. The opening show is a knockout, as they highlight the key artists, moments, and movements in the vital global arts centers they have collected from over the past 50 years in 40 separate gallery rooms.
They got in early in NYC’s East Village, scooping up pioneering works from Keith Haring, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, and Jeff Koons. They devote several full rooms to these artists’ works, which manage to look fresh and relevant decades later. Walls of Haring’s drawings, a fish tank full of floating basketballs from Koons, an iconic black-and-white film still from Sherman and Prince’s appropriated Marlboro Cowboys feel like seeing old friends.
The Rubells were spot on with supporting these artists early, and they all had new work over at the main Art Basel Fair with several zeros added to the price tags. Cady Noland’s This Piece Has No Title Yet (1989) is a perennial favorite – a whole room lined with beer cans and chain link fences.
Newer works from the giant Kehinde Wiley portraits and Yayoi Kusama had people lining up to see and take photos of them, particularly Kusama’s two infinity rooms on display here — Where the Lights in My Heart Go (2016), and Infinity Mirrored Room: Let’s Survive Forever (2017).
Viewers had to stand in a timed line, slip covers over their shoes and only enter a few at a time to the contained, mirrored, free standing cubes. The infinity room craze has really exploded worldwide, and is something Kusama did first.
In addition to the rooms here, there is one in the Design District filled with her reflecting dotty pumpkins, and there is a whole building filled with Infinity Rooms at Artechouse in South Beach by Refik Anadol, who has taken it into the cyber realm with fast moving art films that zoom you through space on all four sides. It’s all very retro and futuristic at the same time, catering to the experiential art jones.
The layout of the Rubell Museum is sleek, clean and has plenty of natural light thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the tracks. A large library has 40,000 of their collected art books, a gift shop hawks shirts, jewelry and scarves, a sweet plant-filled courtyard has a coffee and pastry shop.
Meanwhile, their former space has been rechristened Wynwood Arts 29 and has art for kids and a section from Mitte Projects – called Play Me, a multidisciplinary exhibition based on the relationship between music and art. I particularly liked the room by Miami’s Ernesto Kunde, who uses a painted wall mural, paintings and a mangrove tree installation to pull viewers into a leafy, shimmering vibe. Other abstract works from Patricia Schnall Gutierrez pulsate with color and emotion.
A new Museum of Graffiti has opened in Wynwood dedicated to the history of graffiti art. Co-founders Alan Ket and Allison Freidin, a Miami-based lawyer who had repped street artists, hope it will be a place for people to come and learn about this art form that jumped the tracks from subway trains to gallery and museum walls.
They commissioned 11 murals for the front of the building from artists Slick, Shoe, Abstrk, and Entes – one name only, please, in this world. A permanent exhibition charts the movement’s 60-year history, with photos of long-gone murals and “vintage” spray cans.
The third museum, El Espacio 23, is a showcase for and is bankrolled by developer collector Jorge Peréz, whose name adorns the Peréz Art Museum Miami. In a “modest” 28,000-square-foot warehouse on Northwest 23rd Street, the museum has Peréz’s massive private art collection, and three apartments designed for artist and curator residencies he will fund.
They also promise “activations” by artists in Allapattah “with the intention of establishing long-term relationships with its neighbors.” The first group is Alberto Baraya, Susana Pilar Delahante, Raimond Chaves, and Gilda Mantilla.
The debut exhibition is Time for Change: Art and Social Unrest in the Jorge M. Peréz Collection. Headed by Colombian curator Jose Roca, the show, organized into six “nuclei” with names such as “Extraction and Flows” and “State Terror,” will present large-scale, complex works. Local artists like Edouard Duval-Carrié will be exhibited alongside international stars William Kentridge, Alfredo Jaar, and Ai Weiwei. Peréz owns the real estate development firm Related Group; his latest project in Miami is Wynwood 25, the massive, black cube of a luxury apartment building on Northwest 25th Street that boasts the largest murals in the area by El Mac.
Over at his other museum, PAMM, the engaging, vivid work of Miami native Teresita Fernandez in Elemental, tackles environmental catastrophe and political instability with giant glazed ceramic mosaics and round rooms made of silk dyed to resemble fire. Tumbling volcanoes of charcoal explode from the walls onto the floor that also hold personal significance. Born in Miami to exiled Cuban parents, she still embraces the city’s vibrant colors and rich textures in her art.
The show spans from the mid ’90s to the present day. Two current works, Fire (America) 5 (2017), made in glazed ceramic, and Fire (United States of the Americas) 3 (2017-19), painted in charcoal, feel timely, with their renditions of America as a hopeful but haunting, climate wracked panorama.
And that’s a wrap on Miami Art Week 2019. While the fairs themselves may have reaching a tipping point, the fallout is the elevation of the Miami art scene year round, so get out and see for yourself how art is infusing virtually every neighborhood from beachfront to bayfront and beyond.