Miami’s Bass Museum of Art
by Bobbie Leigh
Miami remains an active art hub, even after Art Basel departs. One pacesetter in the Miami art scene is the Bass Museum of Art, a non-profit municipal museum with refreshingly eclectic, contemporary exhibitions. When it was founded 51 years ago, the Bass was a small, regional institution with a limited capacity which grew more ambitious and expansive year by year. Now, with new municipal funding and private support, it has an ambitious plan for vastly renovated exhibition galleries. But keep in mind that the Bass is expanding not just its physical space but also its vision of the role it can play in contemporary art. As in recent stunning video installations, the Bass champions establishment as well as all that is new and challenging.
Originally, the museum consisted of mostly Baroque and Renaissance works donated to the city by John and Johanna Bass. Their art donations were housed in a former library on Collins Avenue. When John Bass ran the museum in its early stages, it was considered a regional space with more conventional than cutting edge exhibitions. Since that time, the city of Miami Beach renovated the adjacent Collins Park. Its outdoor sculpture exhibition series was founded in 2012 in partnership with the city.
The architect Arata Isozaki, among whose many prize-winning buildings is the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, redesigned the Bass building to house many new and important acquisitions. The museum’s growth has been remarkable. In 1964 the collection featured about 500 pieces. Today, it numbers some 3,000 works of art. Five years ago the museum created its Art History Lab which contains highlights from the museum’s permanent collection including some Egyptian antiquities
Once again, the Bass is poised for a facelift and major renovation with Isozaki at the helm. The construction work is scheduled to begin this spring when the museum will probably end up closing some of the galleries.
Until then, you still can see “One Way: Peter Marino,” an exhibition depicting the “totality” of the super-star New York architect’s artistic expression. For the most part, he is best known as the designer of luxury boutiques around the world, ranging from Armani and Bulgari to Fendi and Louis Vuitton, all of which are fully documented in this show. The exhibition is fascinating but it also has a self-congratulatory aspect as in every corner is an image, sculpture, or photo of the designer.
Most interesting is Marino’s art collection of more than 140 contemporary works – George Baselitz, Richard Serra, and Andy Warhol among others. Some of the most exciting are by Damien Hirst and Ansel Kiefer. The Thomas Struth and more than 40 Robert Mapplethorpe photographs are terrific. Other highlights are entire wall of works by Vic Muniz.
Depictions of Marino abound ranging from photographs in his iconic-black leather as well as a wax sculpture, also in his signature head-to-toe black. According to the catalog, this exhibition “unfolds as a series of ‘chapters’ relating to the cultural and artistic influences that have shaped Marino’s approach.” The Marino show is on view through May 3, 2015.
Bass Museum of Art, 2100 Collins Avenue; bassmuseum.org.