Bass Museum Postpones Its Reopening Until Spring 2017

The Bass Museum, Miami Beach's only major art museum, has been under renovation for more than a year in a remodel that will drastically expand the building's programmable space without altering its footprint. Recently, the museum announced a massive reopening for Art Basel 2016 featuring three new shows by contemporary artists of international acclaim. But in an unexpected twist, the museum yesterday announced that its debut — along with the openings of Ugo Rondinone, Mika Rottenberg, and Pascale Marthine Tayou — has been postponed until next spring. 

Citing construction delays and complications with the building's historical details, the museum's leadership decided to move its December 1 grand reopening to accommodate the city's officious preservation laws. "Our primary concern is ensuring that we preserve this iconic piece of Miami Beach history," the museum's executive director and chief curator, Silvia Karman Cubiñá, explains. 

The Bass is housed in the former Miami Beach Public Library and Art Center, originally built in 1930 by Russell Pancoast in a grand art deco style. Pancoast was also the grandson of Miami Beach pioneer John Collins, the name behind the city's eponymous thoroughfare. The building was converted into a major art museum in 1963 with a massive donation of works by local connoisseur John Bass. In 1978, the building was placed on the National Register as an exemplar of art deco style. 

“The Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board is tremendously pleased with the meticulous and thoughtful redesign of the Bass,” says Debbie Tackett, preservation and design manager for the Miami Beach Planning Department.

Though the delays will leave the Beach without a major museum open for Basel, it does free up room for local competitors to carve out more of the spotlight. Pérez Art Museum Miami and the Institute of Contemporary Art are vying for greater relevance in a city with an increasingly crowded art scene. The latter is planning an opening in its new home, located around the corner from the Moore Building, in the heart of the Design District.