Gary Nader's Plans to Build a Latin American Art Museum Stunted by Miami Dade CollegeEXPAND
By Alexandra Martinez

Gary Nader's Plans to Build a Latin American Art Museum Stunted by Miami Dade College

Gary Nader's Latin American Art Centre is among the world’s largest galleries at 55,000 square feet of exhibition space. It rivals Los Angeles' premier Museum of Latin American Art, which hosts a similarly sized collection. But Nader, the Lebanese-born, Dominican-raised art collector, won’t stop there.

He hopes to relocate the burgeoning 1,500-piece Wynwood-based collection to a proposed space at 520 Biscayne Blvd. Back in 2014, Nader revealed plans to build the Latin American Art Museum (LAAM) and gave audiences an expected opening date of early 2016. It would be the largest and boldest Latin American art museum in the world, he said. 

But this year has gotten off to a rocky start for the art collector.

His ideal space is nestled in the highly sought-after Miami Dade College parking lot next to the Freedom Tower on Biscayne Blvd. Nader's museum would feature a multilevel exhibition space including an outdoor sculpture garden, a convention center, theater, and two adjacent condominium towers that would help fund the lofty project. 

"We’re trying to create a cultural corridor," says Nader. "All major cities are visited because of the cultural exposure they give to the tourists — those are the tourists we need here. We don’t need tourists in shorts going to the beach, we need cultural tourists. Those are the ones that really spend the money."

Gary Nader.EXPAND
Gary Nader.
Courtesy of Gary Nader

Nader initially placed an unsolicited bid on the space to Miami Dade College about a year ago, but a new state law sparked a competition for a public-private partnership with the college. His team, Nader + Museum LLP, lobbied for the college to give other groups just three weeks to come up with proposals. The college, which wants to build a 100,000-square-foot museum, complete with a conference center and 1,600-seat theater, settled on 90 days. MDC would use the space to house large-scale events like the Miami Book Fair and the Miami International Film Festival.

The 90 days are up and Miami Dade College's selection committee convened on February 1 and will meet again on the 8th and 17th.

"Nobody saw it before; now everybody wants it. But who will put a collection there? I'm the only one donating a collection with 1,500 pieces. It is a museum that will be built around an existing major collection. When you have an empty museum, no one wants to make the first step. But when people see the Botero, the major Cuban artists that I'm donating, it will motivate people to keep donating," says Nader.

The museum would include the 188 pieces by the Latin artists part of the "Masters" exhibition currently in Nader's gallery. Nader plans to collect an additional 73 contemporary artists that would be included in the LAAM donation.

Gary Nader's Plans to Build a Latin American Art Museum Stunted by Miami Dade College (8)EXPAND
Courtesy of Gary Nader

The current masters include Fernando Botero, Frida Kahlo, and Picasso and Caribbean contemporaries including Manuel Mendive and Soraya Abu Naba'a. Considering Miami's history as a sanctuary city and resting ground for many Latin diasporas, it is only fitting that an art museum dedicated to showcasing Latin work exists here.

"We have to tell the story of Latin-American masters. It's part of our culture," says Nader. "We will have a large platform to give opportunities to artists living in the Latin America diaspora to show their work in a major institution in a major city. That’s important. I didn’t just choose the land because it's one of the most prominent pieces of land, I chose this land because it’s related to the college. And it’s the largest school with Latin Americans. That’s why I chose it."

Nader, whose family is originally from Beino, Lebanon, began collecting art at the age of 13. His first piece was a painting by Dominican artist Plutarco Andújar. But this comes as no surprise since he was raised among artists and art critics in Santo Domingo. When he moved to Miami in 1985 seeking medical attention for his eldest child, Nader was determined to open a gallery as well.

"I moved in November and in February I had already opened a gallery," says Nader. "If you really get involved in the art world, you become a better person and citizen."

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