Miami's Most Memorable Gallery and Museum Exhibits From 2010

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.

1. "Roberto Matta: A Retrospective" at Gary Nader

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.

2. "Crime Miami" at HistoryMiami

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.

3. "Instruments of Torture Through the Ages" at the Freedom Tower

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.

4. Egyptian Gallery at the Bass Museum

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.

5. "Claire Fontaine: Economies at MOCA

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.

6. "Selections From Anomie 1492-2006" at the Frost Museum

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

aspirations to govern the nation by supernatural force and a

skull-cracker of the first order.

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