The ICA's New Building Will Make You Do a Double-Take

Tomm El-Saieh's works on display in ICA Miami's new space.
Tomm El-Saieh's works on display in ICA Miami's new space. Fredrik Nilsen Studio
On the third floor of the Institute of Contemporary Art’s new building in the Design District, chief curator Alex Gartenfeld gestured toward an early work by Christo, who famously installed bright-pink fabric around several islands in Biscayne Bay in 1983. The piece, which looks like a large, poorly fastened crate about to burst, could pass for one of the unpacked boxes in the room.

Other works in the room, just one part of the opening exhibition “The Everywhere Studio,” give the area a spartan feel, as if it were an artist’s studio. A piece by Edward and Nancy Kienholz, a wood structure with a hand dryer attached, stands against a wall opposite the Christo. In between is a piece that looks like a worktable. Again, it was difficult to tell whether it was part of the exhibition or a worker’s bench.

When the museum, whose admission is free to all visitors, opens December 1, there will be no question as to what is and isn’t art. When New Times visited the space earlier this month, however, preparations were still underway. A pyramid-shaped sculpture by Abigail Deville was being installed in the half-empty courtyard garden. Large metal storage containers holding artworks stood throughout the building’s three floors. Staffers near the entrance were erecting folding chairs and tables.

“The front desk is being delivered next week,” Gartenfeld said.
click to enlarge Works by Senga Nengudi hang in the ICA's new building. - FREDRIK NILSEN STUDIO
Works by Senga Nengudi hang in the ICA's new building.
Fredrik Nilsen Studio
Even in its unfinished state, the ICA building is a welcoming place. With more than 20,000 square feet of gallery space and the 15,000-square-foot sculpture garden outside, the new digs will enable the museum to exhibit a variety of works from established and up-and-coming artists. In particular, the first floor has a highly contemporary focus. The first room off the lobby will be a project space for emerging artists; it’s currently occupied by a quartet of paintings by Miami’s Tomm El-Saieh.

Another work on the first floor is an installation by Senga Nengudi, who works with plastic. Sheets of bubble wrap veil a pair of paintings on the wall, obscuring them from view like transparent curtains. A large carpet of the same material lies in the center, and, yes, museum guests are allowed to touch it.

“Although,” Gartenfeld said, “I’d rather if they didn’t know that.”

Institute of Contemporary Art Grand Opening. Noon Friday, December 1, at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, 61 NE 41st St., Miami; 305-901-5272; Admission is free.
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Douglas Markowitz is a former music and arts editorial intern for Miami New Times. Born and raised in South Florida, he studied at Sophia University in Tokyo before earning a bachelor's in communications from University of North Florida. He writes freelance about music, art, film, and other subjects.