After a year of construction delays, the Bass is set to reopen October 8 with a major retrospective of artist Ugo Rondinone. Miami Beach’s only major art institution temporarily shuttered in 2016 for a major renovation that would almost double its programmable space without altering the historic building’s footprint. Originally set to open last December for Art Basel 2016, the project was plagued by construction delays. The Bass first announced its opening would be postponed until spring 2017 and then pushed it back again to its current fall debut.
“The museum’s walls hold a historic legacy as the first public exhibition space in South Florida,” Bass President George Lindemann says. “The transformation brings the physical museum to the level of its curatorial ambition.”
The Bass is housed in the former Miami Beach Public Library and Art Center, built in 1930 by Russell Pancoast in a grand art deco style. Pancoast was also the grandson of Miami Beach pioneer John Collins, the name behind the city's iconic thoroughfare. The building was converted into a major art museum in 1963 with a massive donation of works by local connoisseur John Bass. In 1978, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as an exemplar of art deco style.
“The Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board is tremendously pleased with the meticulous and thoughtful redesign of the Bass,” Debbie Tackett, preservation and design manager for the Miami Beach Planning Department, said in September 2016.
Ugo Rondinone's Vocabulary of Solitude (2014)
Courtesy of the Bass
The reopening is set to present the first U.S. solo museum exhibition of works by Swiss-born, New York-based Ugo Rondinone, whose practice spans three decades. Titled "Good Evening Beautiful Blue," the retrospective centers on the installation Vocabulary of Solitude (2014), for which the artist created 45 life-size clowns that represent one man's daily routine.
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Along with displaying the Rondinone exhibit, the Bass will reopen with a show by Pascale Marthine Bayou. A self-titled solo show by Mika Rottenberg will follow in December.
“The three exhibitions we chose to inaugurate the new space this fall reflect the Bass’ commitment to presenting international contemporary art by established and midcareer artists,” said Silvia Karman Cubiñá, executive director and chief curator at the Bass.”
After a dizzying array of setbacks and postponements, the reentry of Miami Beach’s major art institution couldn’t be more welcome. Yet with the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) set to open later this year in the Design District and the recent announcement of the Rubell Family Collection's plans to move to a larger space, Miami’s institutional landscape is growing increasingly crowded. It's sink or swim for the Bass as it vies for local and international attention.