When the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) opens its new permanent location in the Design District, you might be struck by the beautiful, geometric south façade or the sculpture garden out back. But the biggest surprise comes at the museum door: Admission is free.
“We’ve made a commitment and a decision to maintain a no-admissions policy,” museum director Ellen Salpeter says. “We believe everyone should have access to the arts, and all of our public programs are free as well.”
That’s something of a revolutionary attitude in Miami. This is a city that hosts an annual extravaganza for the ultrarich, Art Basel, and thanks to exorbitant ticket prices and limited mobility, both physical and economic, it often seems like a playground for the elite. But the people behind ICA seem keen on making sure the community has access to the arts. That could come in the form of ambitious, challenging exhibitions and educational programs for all ages. Or it could simply mean a peaceful place to spend the day in a rather chaotic metropolis.
The new building, located at 61 NE 41st St., more than doubles the exhibition space from the museum’s former, temporary residence at the Moore Building, and the organizers plan to put all of that room to good use. While the second and third floors will be used for larger shows, the ground floor will present what Salpeter calls “essay exhibitions,” displaying a certain installation as a centerpiece and contextualizing it with other works from the museum's collection. These smaller exhibitions will rotate; the first will revolve around a work by assemblage sculptors Edward and Nancy Kienholz. On the same floor, a project space will be dedicated to up-and-coming artists; it will open with a series of paintings by Haitian-American abstract painter Tomm El-Saieh.
“ICA Miami prides itself on being a museum where first museum exposure can take place for many artists,” Salpeter says, "and so we will have Tomm El-Saieh. This will be his first museum exposure, and much in the same way, the architecture, by Aranguren + Gallegos out of Spain, is their first U.S. project.”
Of course, the ICA won’t simply stick to newer names. The museum's inaugural exhibition in the new building, "The Everywhere Studio," will present works from modern masters such as Pablo Picasso, Yves Klein, and Roy Lichtenstein, alongside contemporary artists working in multiple mediums. Altogether, it’s a broad look at more than 50 artists and their working methods, analyzing how painters, sculptors, videographers, and creators working in all mediums have responded to and predicted societal changes, all viewed through the lens of studio practice.
“It was designed to put the focus on artists and their cultural production and practice and their sites of production,” Salpeter says. “It creates a lot of intergenerational dialogues, which we’re excited about."
ICA will open to the public December 5 following a series of previews for donors, VIPs, artists, and neighbors.
Here’s a bit of what’s going on elsewhere in Miami during the upcoming art season:
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Pérez Art Museum Miami will present a major retrospective of the Miami-based video artist Dara Friedman in “Dara Friedman: Perfect Stranger,” beginning November 3. Projected onto walls and shown on TV screens, the 17 works display the artist’s experiments with movement, public performance, and social interaction. Several works capture indelible Miami moments, including Government Cut Freestyle (1998), which portrays a group of youths jumping into the bay from the pier in South Pointe Park, and Dancer (2011), in which Miamians from all walks of life use the city’s parks, sidewalks, and roofs as dance floors.
The Wolfsonian-FIU will follow its Dutch design exhibition from last year with two shows specializing in another part of Europe. Austrian designers will display works in the Miami Beach museum’s two exhibitions, one about the prominent prewar graphic artist Julius Klinger entitled “Posters for a Modern Age” and a complementary exhibit by the design studio Seite Zwei called "Double Vision" that will adorn the Wolfsonian’s lobby and exterior. Influenced by American attitudes toward business and media, Klinger created simple, striking designs for major firms in Berlin and Vienna until the outbreak of World War II, when he was sent to a Nazi concentration camp in Minsk. Both exhibits opened October 6.
The Bass will finally make its grand return to the Miami art scene Sunday, October 29, after years of renovations and a reopening delayed by Hurricane Irma. The opening show, taking over the entire second floor, is a retrospective of Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, whose neon-colored sculpture Miami Mountain already sits outside the museum. Inside, visitors will find similarly flashy works of an even wilder disposition, such as “Vocabulary of Solitude,” a display of 45 clowns in various emotional states. The Bass will have free admission on its opening day, but members can skip the crowds and see the new exhibits a day early.
Speaking of storms, Art Basel ruffled more than a few feathers by announcing its exhibitor list while much of Miami was in the midst of evacuating ahead of Irma’s landfall. It might have been a classless move from a purportedly classy organization, but let’s be real: It’s not boycott-worthy. You’ll still want to indulge in everything the fair and its satellite events have to offer, including 268 galleries from 32 countries at the Miami Beach Convention Center and enough parties to ensure you won’t see your front door until it’s all over.