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The Wolfsonian's namesake, Micky Wolfson.
The Wolfsonian's namesake, Micky Wolfson.
Photo by David Almeida

For Founder Micky Wolfson's Birthday, the Wolfsonian-FIU Moves Forward by Looking Back

Micky Wolfson has made a name out of his name. The Wolfson moniker adorns cultural and educational institutions around Miami and the globe: In addition to Miami Dade College’s downtown campus and Florida International University’s Wolfsonian museum and research center in Miami Beach, the Wolfsoniana museum in Genoa also stands as a testament to his worldwide impact.

Now Wolfson is preparing to commemorate something else: his 80th birthday, the celebrations for which are planned to run all month at the Wolfsonian-FIU.

Thursday, November 14, the Wolfsonian-FIU will celebrate its octogenarian founder with A Universe of Micky, a multipurpose street event cohosted by the City of Miami Beach that will offer food trucks, bars, lighting displays, and the to-be-expected birthday sweets. Nu Deco Ensemble and the FIU Marching Band are in charge of bringing the party outside and getting the crowds on Tenth Street jumping. Inside the museum, guests can experience the extent of Wolfson’s collections and their impact on the cultural landscape of South Florida and beyond.

The block party is the museum’s celebratory opening salvo for its new yearlong retrospective, "A Universe of Things: Micky Wolfson Collects," which surveys the icon’s curatorial history and the influence of his work. Because of Wolfson, objects such as stained-glass windows, vases, prints, posters, books, historical documents, and other artifacts have been brought to Miami Beach in an effort to connect dots between cultures and time periods around the world. "A Universe of Things" will display some of the most eye-catching and historically significant objects Wolfson has come across in his work and speak to the dedication and legacy the museum’s founder has inspired.

Hotel Keys (1951-86), from the Mitchell Wolfson Jr. private collection.
Hotel Keys (1951-86), from the Mitchell Wolfson Jr. private collection.
Photo courtesy of the Wolfsonian-FIU

To get an idea of the breadth of Wolfson’s undertakings, look no further than the work on display at the museum: two exhibits displaying Cuban caricature from midcentury Cuban artist Conrado Walter Massaguer, a riveting look at the spread and commodification of art deco, and the permanent exhibit, "Art and Design in the Modern Age," which continually cycles out artifacts from Europe and North America from the Industrial Revolution to the end of World War II.

Prior to the public event, the Wolfsonian-FIU will also hold a members-only gathering with their pioneering founder Tuesday, November 12. Wolfson will sit down with curators Shoshana Resnikoff and Lea Nickless to discuss his new book, Founder’s Choice, and the illustrious lifetime of discoveries he’s come across and shared with the world. The book examines 37 key objects from the museum’s collection and their significance in Wolfson’s work, as well as their place and function in the Wolfsonian’s greater mission of educating the masses about Western civilization's transition to modernity in the past century and a half. A reception and book signing will follow the discussion.

Cover of the comic book The Adventures of Fuller Brush Man: "Dizzy Desires" 6 (c. 1935)
Cover of the comic book The Adventures of Fuller Brush Man: "Dizzy Desires" 6 (c. 1935)
Photo courtesy of the Wolfsonian-FIU

Besides presenting these founder-centric events, the Wolfsonian-FIU will also host its usual swath of monthly programming designed to give visitors a bit of everything. This Friday, November 8, the museum’s happy hour, Second Shift — a staple of every second Friday of the month — will offer guests a guided tour of the galleries before opening the museum store for half-priced drinks. The Miami Beach Culture Crawl on November 21 will be a special treat because the exhibit "A Universe of Things" will be open to the public, and curators Resnikoff and Nickless will be in attendance to help illuminate museum guests.

As part of its ongoing birthday celebration for its founder, the Wolfsonian-FIU will host a deep dive into the year of Wolfson’s birth — 1939 — and its significance as a historical tipping point for the world. The event Into the Stacks: 1939 — presented by Nickless and Bookleggers Library director Nathaniel Sandler — will examine the objects in the museum’s collection from the seminal year and their place in the development of modern Western societies.

It should come as little surprise that the Wolfsonian-FIU’s planned commemorations for Wolfson are designed to be educational first and fun second. Though his November 14 birthday blowout will be a proper party honoring his life, the book event and the museum’s time travel to 1939 will be the foundational instructive components that Wolfson has always prioritized in his work.

A Universe of Micky. 7 p.m. Thursday, November 14, at the Wolfsonian-FIU, 1001 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; wolfsonian.org. Admission is free with RSVP via wolfsonian.org.

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