Mighty Museums

There's no question that the construction of a major museum is a big deal. Often it involves acclaimed architects from all over the world competing for the right to design it; millions of public and/or private funds (or billions in the case of California's J. Paul Getty Museum); and time, patience, and more time. All the effort pays off in the end when the resulting structure dazzles the eye as it displays and protects art, inhabits its landscape with ease, and lures the curious and even the indifferent to explore its environs. Successes include Richard Meier's aforementioned Getty, a gleaming, alluring city on a hill, although it took fourteen years to complete and swallowed up a billion dollars; Frank O. Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, a stunning, otherworldly titanium-clad blob; and Norman Foster's spare, ethereal Carré d'Art in Nimes, France.

A plethora of drawings, photographs, and original models for those projects and 22 more museums in cities like San Francisco, Cincinnati, Stockholm, Milwaukee, and London can be viewed at the Miami Art Museum's latest show, "Museums for a New Millennium: Concepts, Projects, Buildings." An undertaking of Switzerland's Art Center Basel, the exhibition had its Miami installation designed by local architect Rene Gonzalez. Think of it as a primer on the modern art and science of making modern art museums.

Over the next few months, programs accompanying the display will include kiddie events and two lecture series that will feature local design luminaries and nationally noted names like Terence Riley, curator of architecture and design at New York City's Museum of Modern Art (currently undergoing a long-planned revamping); Daniel Libeskind, creator of Berlin's Jewish Museum and the anointed architect for the new World Trade Center; and Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, who will be the first to offer his views when he talks about his current projects, such as the Tampa Museum of Art, following a lunch this Wednesday, October 8.

Viñoly is said to be a proponent of architecture "elevating the public realm." Surely it's no secret that the folks at MAM feel the same way, cleverly scheduling this exhibition during the key moment when they have been advancing their agenda to build a brand-new museum in downtown's Bicentennial Park, which they describe in their press materials as "an abandoned 29-acre, city-owned property." Apparently, according to MAM, the public is clamoring for the project dubbed Museum Park Miami. They say it will become a "gathering place" for the learned, make the city seem much cooler, and provide the community with an "educational resource," plus it will be, in their words, "a linchpin in the transformation of Downtown Miami." Wait, we thought condominium developments occupied that role. And wait again, isn't the Wolfsonian-FIU the local museum specializing in the art of propaganda?

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Nina Korman
Contact: Nina Korman