BEST MUSEUM 2002 | Bass Museum of Art | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Photo by Zachary Balber
We waited and waited (and waited) for the old Bass Museum to reopen after an extensive, eight-million-dollar renovation and expansion. It turned out to be worth the wait. For more than three years the City of Miami Beach, which owns the museum, suffered through interminable, costly construction problems. First the roof fell in. Then a new concrete floor came crashing down from its broken support beams. Then the new climate-control system had to be completely retooled. Then a water valve burst and soaked the hardwood floors. Then the new roof began to leak. It was as if Job were building the museum. But now that it's open (we hope for good), the Bass is a beautiful structure to behold, thanks to the design of Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. Added to the old Bass's 11,000 square feet is a skylight-connected new wing with twice the room and a spectacular 22-foot ceiling in the second-floor gallery. The lighting is better too. The addition of a café, outside terrace, and typically overpriced gift shop complete the Bass's transformation into a truly modern exhibition space.
McGrath, a Miami Beach resident and professor at Florida International University, moved here a few years ago and then set for himself a Whitmanesque challenge: Write a defining poem about his adopted home state. And then he had the temerity to call it "The Florida Poem." This piece, a highlight of the book, is long, sardonic, and conversational, and as the poem threads its way through the conquistadors and swamp-draining history it is often sad. But McGrath is a romantic optimist, and so he offers hope: "And yet, all it takes/is a day at the beach/to see the slate scrubbed clean/and scribbled anew/by the beautiful coquinas, to witness/the laws of hydraulics rendered moot by the munificent/tranquility of their variegated colonies/thriving amid the chaos of wave-break and overwash."
Old guy with a skeptical look and big horn-rims sitting in the last booth on the right at Enriqueta's on NE Second Avenue, rattling his newspaper, masticating his eggs, a magnet for fight and art fans throughout Miami, the Fight Doctor, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco. Remember him? For many years he worked Muhammad Ali's corner, through all the boxing classics -- the Thrilla in Manila, the Rumble in the Jungle, the Brawl for It All -- an era when sports-as-show-biz took off behind Ali and Don King's logorrhea, with the Fight Doctor bringing up the rear. To hear him today, after fifteen years on NBC, negotiating a seamless two-hour narrative with hardly a break for breath -- "Sherman's march to the sea, a jerk in Coconut Grove giving a historical-society reading, he doesn't want to admit what a racist bastard General Sherman was! How his 'total war' program in Georgia anticipated the Nazis, how America's policies have frequently been casuistic..." and demonstrating how "hustlers" such as Ali, King, and himself were using the culture's own hot-air tendencies as guerrilla tactics against the general bullshit -- is true instant replay. What's remarkable is that Pacheco had a stroke last year yet hasn't lost a mile off his fast ball. He's still grinding out books and paintings for mainstream and Little Havana consumption; still accepting speaking engagements; and would still beat the pants off HBO's boxing analyst Larry Merchant if Sumner Redstone at Viacom had enough sense to let him anchor the rival Showtime fight shows.

Behold the big yellow school buses unleashed on a racetrack designed for stock cars, running figure eights, nearly crashing into each other, dumping fluids and parts where they shouldn't. Fun for the whole family! It's an exhibition, not a competition, held every other month at one of Florida's oldest speedways. And for a mere fifteen bucks the energized crowd of thousands, most of whom were once carted off to school by those hulking monsters, can't get enough. Call for dates and times.
There can't really be a more authentic South Beach tale than the rise of Chris Paciello, the New York small-time mobster who headed to Florida and glamorously reinvented himself as the crown prince of clubland. Splashed across the gossip pages, there he was canoodling with supermodels, dancing with Madonna, downing shots alongside Dennis Rodman inside his nightclubs Liquid and Bar Room, and at his restaurant Joia. It was quite a life -- that is until his goomba past in Staten Island caught up with him in the form of a murder indictment. Michele McPhee chronicles it all in a hard-boiled noir style whose dime-store prose is often as overheated as the lurid tales themselves. Given the literary attention span of most of South Beach's habitues, what could be more appropriate?

This Peruvian native likes intimacy. He uses words (English and Spanish), everyday items, penciled sketches, postcard-size spaces, kinetic video, even entire houses to bring us into the world of the private life. Cordova has described his art as a diary, but his personal life reflects our own colorful, diverse, alienated Miami life, which is one reason his works are so memorable. He's only in his early thirties but already he has left his mark all over our city. His miniature paintings are his trademark so far, but you've encountered Cordova in many other forms. He was part of Miami Art Museum's December video installation (along with an earlier MoCA video show), and his arrangements incorporating stereo bits and car tires were an ingredient in the Kevin Bruk Gallery's "Summer Tossed Salad" exhibit. Cordova has also joined the growing ranks of artists-as-curators. He organized the creatively titled and executed "You were always on my mind" at Ambrosino Gallery, and together with artist Eugenia Vargas took over her home in North Miami and filled it with the intimate and quirky works of seventeen local artists for "Homewreckers: It's Over," one of Miami's first "home shows." For being both at the forefront of creating art and standing behind interesting local artists, Cordova gets our nod this year.
This superbly crafted sidearm is light enough for women and seniors, and it doesn't have the tremendous recoil of the old Colt blue-steel Army and Navy .45 models of yesteryear. Inspired by the great popularity of the Austrian Glock, it's a top seller in South Florida gunshops like Eagle Arms (14123 South Dixie Highway; 305-234-8446). At $763, without a box of ammo, it's not exactly cheap, but according to George Soler at Eagle Arms, the Mark 23 is safe to handle and a joy to use on the target range: "It's now the weapon of choice for the Special Forces and is seeing a lot of service in Afghanistan."

Our weather is no secret -- sun, sun, sun -- and our kids are used to it. Which is why they have a wardrobe consisting of shorts and cotton T-shirts rather than corduroy pants and wool sweaters. But Magic City munchkins can still get a cold-weather chill if they head up to North Miami and the only regulation-size ice-skating rink in town. Chances are it'll be a new experience for them, but with role models like Miami Olympian Jennifer Rodriguez, who made the switch from Rollerblades to ice skates, they may already be gung-ho. The arena staff offers lessons (group and individual) for all levels, from beginners to budding figure-skating stars. Hockey lessons too. And hockey leagues. And rental skates. And infrequent but regular free skating. And some of the coldest air conditioning in the subtropics on a hot and muggy summer afternoon. Call for rates and hours of operation.
At the risk of starting a family feud, we'll venture to say that it isn't the accomplished Robert Thiele who's the true shining art star in town. It's Robert's own daughter Kristen, who's returned home from a spell in Chicago to take a studio at Lincoln Road's ArtCenter South Florida. And the Windy City's loss is definitely our gain. Kristen's whimsical use of anthropomorphic cats and dogs may be initially, intentionally goofy and cartoonish, but it's also moving. Like vintage Fifties Peanuts strips, her work disarms with its misleading simplicity and then turns downright sublime. Her latest series, "The Masters," transposes these furry critters into a slew of hallowed works. You'll never look at Mona Lisa the same way again.

You know his work. Or maybe you don't know that you know. Rodriguez is rather hard to keep an eye on sometimes. Like his piece for what turned out to be the Art-Basel-replacement-event of the year at the Bass Museum, "globe>miami>island." His was the music you heard in the freight elevator, on the outside door of which were written the words "The End," those chords from the ending of movies, from The Godfather, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the like. Elevator music indeed. You may know that you know Norberto (Bert) Rodriguez, the recent New World School of the Arts grad who also helps take care of the Rubell collection. Easier to see but maybe not so easy to grasp was his first solo show in 2000, "Bert Rodriguez: A Pre-Career Retrospective" -- wrap your brain around that witty title from a 25-year-old -- a Duchampian exhibit with child's drawings, ready-made objects (not a urinal but a signed toilet-cleaner brush), and clever captions. That was Bert you saw at the "Skins" exhibit at the Dorsch Gallery when you gazed at all those prints of a topless LaToya Jackson on the bathroom walls. Bert too at MoCA's "Making Art in Miami: Travels in Hyperreality," one of the inaugural museum shows to showcase young Miami talent. But maybe you still don't know him. That's okay. His "pre-career" just ended. Now you have time to watch him emerge.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®