Miami's Art Museums Grapple With a Dynamic City in Flux

Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul
Teresita Fernández's Fire (2005).
Rising seas, gentrification, increasingly frequent storms, and a steady stream of immigrants from around the world make South Florida a hotbed of constant change. So it’s no wonder the 2019-20 season sees our art institutions trying to calibrate and orient our relationships to place in a city as in flux as Miami.

Those themes run through Teresita Fernández’s midcareer survey, on view at Pérez Art Museum Miami October 17 through February 9. "Teresita Fernández: Elemental" cuts a swath from the artist’s career, with a focus on studying and creating landscapes. Using both installation and two-dimensional sculpture, Fernández explores not only the construction of space but also how that space informs and influences the social and political subjects within them. The Miami-born artist's retrospective examines the nation's ideological and physical divisions in the context of the spaces and visions we share of it.

One week later, the University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum will open an exhibition of Cuban-American artist Carlos Estévez’s project “Cities of the Mind.” Inspired by city plans, the paintings explore influences of Havana, Medieval Europe, and the origins of the known universe through maps of the human mind. Also, October 24, the Lowe will help to further the blueprint of an emerging local institution, the Miami Museum of Contemporary Art of the African Diaspora, with a look at Juan Roberto Diago’s “The Pasts of This Afro-Cuban Present.”

November 2, the Bass will present a decade of Haegue Yang’s work in the show “In the Cone of Uncertainty.” Aside from evoking hurricane anxiety, the artist's work takes a range of spatial approaches, from multisensory installations to light sculptures. Pulling from narratives of history and identity, Yang’s pieces aim to bring forth ignored or unknown connections between figures and cultures that are significant in a city as diverse as Miami. Aside from discussing the thematic intersections of place, Yang will cover the Bass’ staircase wall with a commissioned piece exploring Miami Beach’s relationship to the climate crisis and the relations that arise from it.

Another facet of Miami Beach’s cultural context is the subject of the Wolfsonian-FIU’s exhibition “A Universe of Things: Micky Wolfson Collects,” opening November 15. It’s through the life and archives of the museum’s namesake that this exhibition forges connections between Wolfson’s hometown and generations of design and decorative and propaganda art from all over the world.

And just in time for Miami Beach’s largest extravaganza — Art Basel — the Institute of Contemporary Art will approach its own place with a duo of site-specific pieces from Odili Donald Odita and Carlos Sandoval de León. Odita’s three-floor commission, set to be revealed December 1, will run along the museum’s staircase and call attention to the tensions between cultural lineages such as machismo and current struggles for respect and recognition for women and LGBTQ+ communities. Sandoval de León, who grew up in Miami, will use several of his existing works in combination with a large-scale wooden structure. One of those works, I 95, traces the artist's journey along the interstate highway from its southernmost point in downtown Miami to his current home base in New York City. His installation is set to open December 3.

Regardless of how you see Miami right now, its arts institutions this season will have you pondering a city we might not recognize in ten years.