2015 in Miami Culture: From Ultra to ICA

Magnus Sodamin
Magnus Sodamin
Photography by Steven Borja / Courtesy of the artist and and Primary Projects

This year saw mass upheavals in Miami's cultural landscape: Most of the established museums named new directors, an historic center closed its doors, a new institution broke ground on sprawling digs, and galleries flocked from Wynwood in search of cheaper rent. The death of the cofounder of the city's biggest music festival began the year — just a couple months before the fest dominated downtown.

Yet the city continues to establish itself as a world center for art and culture. With a strong Art Basel season, an influx of high-end brands to the Design District, and promising local artists making their mark, the Magic City's cultural scene is building a foundation that will soon enable Miami to rank with San Francisco and New York.

The biggest stories of the year broke almost as soon as the Big Orange peaked.

Gallery Diet's new Little River home.EXPAND
Gallery Diet's new Little River home.
Photo by Monica McGivern

1. Galleries flock out of Wynwood. The artists and galleries that pioneered Wynwood as an art mecca are being replaced by boutiques and juice bars. Seeking cheaper rent, Guccivuitton, Mindy Solomon, Emerson Dorsch, and, most recently, Diet Gallery have all moved to Little Haiti, Little River, or Allapattah. The shift came with some significant pushback from those areas' residents, fearful of being displaced by interlopers with no real connection to the neighborhoods.

"In the midst of this beautiful international art bonanza, in Little Haiti a different story has emerged," says Marleine Bastien, executive director of Fanm Ayisyen nan Miyami, which organized a demonstration in protest of the recent openings. "This is the story of businesses and homeowners being pressured and threatened one minute, sweet-talked to sell their homes the next. They're being offered two, three times the property [value] of their homes to get out. Gentrification is here, baby."

Franklin Sirmans. PAMM's new man.EXPAND
Franklin Sirmans. PAMM's new man.
Courtesy of Pérez Art Museum Miami

2. PAMM, ICA, and the Wolfsonian name new directors. After spending just five years at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, art-world rock star Franklin Sirmans was named Thom Collins' successor at Pérez Art Museum Miami. Sirmans took over curatorial duties in mid-October with plans to bring the institution into closer contact with its environment by highlighting Latin American and Caribbean artists.

Miami's newest museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), brought in Ellen Salpeter, formerly of the Jewish Museum in New York, to helm the nascent institution. Following in ICA's footsteps, the Wolfsonian-FIU imported the former director of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Timothy Rodgers, as new director.

3. Ultra cofounder Alex Omes dies as the music fest continues to grow. Just as 2015 began, Ultra cofounder Alex Omes was preparing to go to court to claim some profits from the megasuccessful yearly music festival. Then he turned up dead, with a baggie of cocaine by his bedside. A couple of months later, the annual downtown musical extravaganza returned as an 18-and-older event, drawing thousands of attendees and earning millions of dollars with some astounding acts. Though a Scottish visitor died after allegedly attending the event, no one is calling for its cancellation, as Miami Mayor Manny Diaz did just a few years ago. Ultra has become part of our cultural landscape.

4. The Design District comes to life. Slowly but surely, the fledgling Design District has come to life. Hermès, Loewe, and Cartier set up shop just blocks from one another. The multistory Hermès store opened with a rumored million-dollar bash in Wynwood and an elaborate parade on its main thoroughfare. Though the high price points at most of these stores are out of many locals' reach, the Design District has worked with artists and collaborators outside the world of designer goods to make the nascent neighborhood not only glitzy but also accessible.

 

A rendering of the new ICA by Aranguren & Gallegos.
A rendering of the new ICA by Aranguren & Gallegos.
Courtesy of Aranguren & Gallegos

5. The ICA breaks ground on a new space. In mid-November, the ICA broke ground on NE 41st Street on a patch of land donated by Miami Design District Associates. The museum was born in 2014 after a contentious splintering from the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (MOCA). Funded by Irma and Norman Braman, the 37,000-square-foot, three-story building boasts a 15,000-square-foot sculpture garden. Since the board members left MOCA, they've been operating the newly designated ICA out of the Moore Building and plan to move into their new location before Art Basel 2016.

6. Kim Gordon serenades fans. To cap off a Miami Art Week block party, the ICA commissioned punk-rock maven Kim Gordon to serenade an art-world crowd with a set of tunes from her latest project, Body/Head. For decades, Gordon was a driving force on the indie music scene as one of the members of Sonic Youth. Despite her musical credentials, she's a figure in the art world not only as an aficionado and collector but also as a conceptual artist in her own right.

Infinity Split by Magnus Sodamin, on display at Primary Projects.
Infinity Split by Magnus Sodamin, on display at Primary Projects.
Photo by Zachary Balber / Courtesy of the artist and and Primary Projects

7. Magnus Sodamin becomes one of Miami's most promising painters. With two huge shows opening at Primary Projects and Wynwood Walls this year, Magnus Sodamin has quickly become one of the most promising local painters. For his installation Infinity Split, the artist covered Primary Projects in his colorful, neon-drip paintings, enveloping viewers with his trademark hues. Sodamin is obsessed with size, preferring large murals and wall space to traditional canvases. "I like getting lost in them. When I take a brush to a small piece, it just doesn't feel right," he explained in an interview with New Times in March. In just a short time, Sodamin has created work that has a clear, identifiable aesthetic. And that is no easy feat.

8. ArtCenter closes its Lincoln Road space. ArtCenter/South Florida took a bow with the final show at its landmark Lincoln Road location. The institution housed more than 40 artists' studios, galleries, and workspaces for emerging local talent. The closing came after announcements late last year that the building had been sold for a whopping $88 million to South Beach TriStar 800, according to the Miami Herald.

Back when Miami Beach was in dire straights, ArtCenter took over the old Burdine's building as part of the city's plan to partner with artists to reinvigorate the area. As shops, tourist traps, and eateries swell along Lincoln's increasingly crowded sidewalks, it seems ArtCenter met its original goal and then some.

The Future Was Written, Daniel Arsham
The Future Was Written, Daniel Arsham
Courtesy of the artist

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9. Daniel Arsham has a triumphant homecoming at YoungArts. One of South Florida's most successful homegrown talents, Daniel Arsham, returned with the interactive installation The Future Was Written at the YoungArts campus in midtown. "I think that Miami is an amazing place for pursuing an early career as an artist," Arsham told New Times. The piece came with a curated exhibition of selected works from Arsham's career. As an artist, he's interested in the notion of construction — related to the past, present, or future. His sculptures are concrete casts of salient modern artifacts — basketballs, electric guitars, pay phones, etc. They are projections of what archaeological specimens will look like at some point in time.

10. Opa-locka reinvigorates the community with public artworks. The city of Opa-locka is rarely considered part of Miami-Dade's burgeoning art scene. The Opa-locka Community Development Corporation (OLCDC) is looking to change that fact. The nonprofit is partnering with local artists and community planners to revitalize the city's worn landscape. "The community has been seeing improvements over the past couple of years," OLCDC founder and president Willie Logan tells New Times, "but this large-scale transformation helps turn hope into belief." Though traditionally vibrant neighborhoods receive most of the attention, it's important to look at communities written off by the art establishment.


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