The last months of the year are always busy for Miami's art museums, showcasing an eclectic rotation of exhibitions and programs that intensifies in the runup to Art Basel in December. This year, the outlook toward Basel and beyond is even more complicated for curators at the city's major institutions, thanks to a mix of construction, acquisitions, and marquee shows. But complicated isn't necessarily bad, especially if you're a fan of contemporary art. All the action this year will provide lots of must-attend openings — of both exhibitions and venues — into 2017.
With an ambitious exhibition devoted to a living legend and a substantial new collection to highlight, Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) has plenty on its plate. Director Franklin Sirmans relishes the opportunities — particularly when it comes to the upcoming exhibit "Form Into Action." Opening November 18 ahead of Art Basel, it's North America's first museum show entirely dedicated to Argentine contemporary artist Julio Le Parc.
The exhibition "is going to be a pretty big statement presentation," Sirmans says, calling Le Parc "a very, very important artist who has not been given... his due, at least in our country, and [PAMM is] the perfect place to present that work."
Le Parc, born in Mendoza, Argentina, in 1928, helped shape the development of optical and kinetic art. PAMM will explore his career via a display of more than 100 works, including everything from archival materials to mind-bending designs to dazzling hanging installations. To hear Sirmans describe it, the exhibition is a fitting tribute to an elder statesman of contemporary art.
"Because we are in Miami, we should reflect, I think, a pretty strong position vis-a-vis Latin American art and Caribbean art — the work of artists in our region," the director says. "But Le Parc is a giant... The added bonus [is] that we have a special way of looking at him in Miami and his relationship to other artists [in the region]."
Though the Le Parc exhibit will be the big draw this winter, the current selections from the museum's permanent collection are also well worth a visit. "Routes of Influence" looks at how ideas, objects, and stories traverse regions and boundaries.
"We always tackle our permanent collection in a... thematic way," Sirmans says. "I think it is a wonderful... journey through abstraction and through ideas that relate to the whole of contemporary art."
Behind those active scenes, PAMM is also processing a large, new addition: more than 400 works from Miami's Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, which the museum acquired in early September and could place on display as early as next year. Many of the works appeared at PAMM in the 2013 exhibit "A Human Document," which touted "a broad array of historic and contemporary works that synthesize word and image."
The acquisition represents a "huge archive of work that relates to visual poetry, relates to text," Sirmans says. "It's incredibly in-depth."
Meanwhile, the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (MOCA) is readying for "Syzygy," opening October 6. The name comes from astronomy, referring to the alignment of celestial bodies, and the art comes from ten local Hispanic women artists united by "themes of identity, sexuality, power, and spirituality."
Public programs manager Tiffany Madera says in a statement that the group show is an exploration of "the feminine psyche" and the challenges confronting it.
"In curating this show, I was compelled by each artist's depth and commitment to the female voice in the face of duality, oppression, rupture, and disembodiment," she says. "These works form acts of resistance with a varied expression of what it means to be female and [L]atina and its many manifestations across multiple diasporas."
MOCA's Art Basel opening is "The Other Dimension," with new sculptures by Antuan Rodriguez. Born in Cuba, Rodriguez is concerned with "the human concern for universal communication through forms, symbols, and codes," according to MOCA. He's also been recognized for political works, such as an installation of world-leader-themed punching bags.
At the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA), the big name for Basel is Thomas Bayrle, a German whose art ranges from pop to optical and conceptual.
Like PAMM's Le Parc exhibition, ICA's show claims the distinction of being first in the nation to showcase this well-known foreign artist. Bayrle is famous for "his prescient depictions of megacities and bodies consumed by machines," per ICA's description. He has created intricate grids and webs of roads as well as "superforms" — grids of simple designs slightly warped to create the impression of a 3D face.
The display of 75 items dating to the '60s — which opens November 29 and runs through March 26, 2017 — is ICA's finale at its current space. The museum's development since it split from MOCA in 2014 is the big story line behind the exhibits, and next year, ICA will take its next step when it leaves the Moore Building on NE Second Avenue for a massive new home on NE 41st Street.
Miami Design District Associates set up ICA with space for a 37,500-square-foot venue, which will include a sizable public sculpture garden. The opening isn't scheduled until late 2017, but still worth looking forward to.
In Miami Beach, the Bass is also getting an update. The museum shuttered for renovations in May 2015 and then announced this past September that renovation work will stretch into next spring, foiling a planned December 1 opening. Exhibitions by Ugo Rondinone, Mika Rottenberg, and Pascale Marthine Tayou have been pushed back accordingly. But there's still art coming to the South Beach venue: The Bass will present works in Collins Park during Art Basel Public, says marketing manager Julia Rudo. The museum also has some temporary space to work with in the neighboring Miami Beach Regional Library; Rudo says the museum "will be re-engaging" there through the Bass Projects, the program formerly known as bassX.