The last 12 months marked an unforgettable arts season. In 2010, Miami's gallery and museum circuit offered a dishwasher full of dildos, a mummy found festering in a Wynwood warehouse, a show celebrating Miami's criminal soul, and torture implements designed to mutilate cherished genitals.
And the unimaginable has happened. In an area once known for drawing revelers with free booze, places like Caffeina now have openings where they charge $12 for cocktails during in-house art shows next to dozens of galleries nearby that give hooch away. The Miami art scene has morphed into a never fading party anchored by enough offerings to tickle or pickle any art connoisseur's curiosity. Here are some of the most memorable shows of 2010.
The year began with a stunning survey of Chilean Master Roberto Matta at
Gary Nader's capacious Wynwood joint. It featured more than 50 of the
modernist's canvases, including examples of his breakthrough historic
paintings such as Psychological Morphology series. It seamlessly
represented every decade of Matta's production through the 1990s
allowing visitors to experience the artist's evolution on the world
stage. The works were culled from private collections across the
hemisphere and complemented by Nader's own holdings, priced in the
half-million to $2 million range.
This hardboiled parade of evidence chronicled a multitude of the Magic
City's most notorious miscreants. The museum cast a dragnet wide and far
to illustrate the century-long battle over the city's soul between
lawmen and the felons they hunt. Photographs, artifacts, and documents
from the institution's archives along with materials from the Miami-Dade
Police Department, the County Clerk of Courts, and the Florida
Department of Corrections complimented the display.
Everything from Prohibition-era rumrunners to victims of the bloody drug
wars of the 1980s where showcased. From political assassins such as
Giuseppe Zangara, to serial killers such as Ted Bundy, infamous
gangsters such as Al Capone, high-profile child kidnappers, violent
exile groups such as Alpha 66 and Omega 7 reflected the annals of local
crime and misdeeds that have permanently marked South Florida.
This harrowing exhibit at the landmark historical building reflected
humanity's darkest nature. Culled from private collections, most of the
nearly 100 instruments of torture on display were originals dating from
the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries and once employed by the powerful to
brutally control the masses.
Inside the tower's chambers, many of the dreadful apparatuses
illustrated the type of capital punishment widely practiced throughout
Europe including crucifixion, hanging, disembowelment, impalement,
burning at the stake, dismemberment, drawing and quartering, flaying, or
boiling in oil. The exhibit -- coproduced by the Toscana Museum, in
collaboration with Amnesty International, Centro Cultural Español, and
the Dante Alighieri Society in Miami -- brought these methods of torture
and execution disturbingly alive.
In May the Bass Museum revealed a recently discovered treasure from its
holdings that had been moldering in a musty Wynwood warehouse for
decades. The mummified Egyptian craftsman dating back to the 25th or
26th Dynasty (808-518 B.C.) was found inside a polychrome wood inner
sarcophagus. After a good feather dusting, the spiffed up mummy went on
view as part of a newly inaugurated Egyptian Gallery at the Bass, which
also features a modest collection of rare artifacts in the permanent
display that marks the only space of its kind in Florida.
This summer, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, familiar,
everyday objects were recast in a darkly humorous way to remind us to
put our assumptions as art viewers through the rinse cycle and
reconsider common place objects easily taken for granted. "Claire
Fontaine: Economies" featured sculpture, painting, neon, video, and text
created from 2006 to the present and included several new pieces
executed specifically for the show, some of which were inspired by
The challenging exhibit marked the first comprehensive U.S. museum
appearance for Paris-based collective artist Claire Fontaine, which
channeled the spirit of Marcel Duchamp inside MoCA's halls. Fontaine's
scene stealer for the occasion was Dildo Washer, a commonplace white
kitchen appliance filled with jet-black plastic penises.
Octogenarian painter Arnold Mesches closed out the year with "Selections
From Anomie 1492-2006" featuring 15 large-format canvases, ripping the
scabs off ancient and recent dreams of empire, world wars, political
skullduggery, and contemporary society in the grips of moral decay. He
referenced everything from the discovery of America, the Cold War, and
the first Gulf War to witchcraft in the White House.
Mesches combined surreal juxtapositions of disparate symbols,
characters, and political and historical figures in dark, brooding
landscapes that were often operatic and Grand Guignol. Anomie 1980:
Nancy Reagan's Dream, a painting roughly the size of a garage door, read
like a downward-spiraling autopsy of the former first lady's
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aspirations to govern the nation by supernatural force and a
skull-cracker of the first order.