By this time next year, if all goes according to a very immodest plan, the modern-art museum that bears Miamis name will metamorphose into something almost entirely new.
The institution soon to be formerly known as the Miami Art Museum will have a conspicuous new location, at the downtown edge of Biscayne Bay; a striking new building designed by the Swiss starchitecture firm of Herzog & de Meuron; and a new, if not uncontroversial, name and less-than-sonorous acronym.
When it opens in time for Art Basel/Miami Beach in 2013, it will be as the Perez Art Museum Miami, or PAMM, after the Related Groups Jorge Perez, a prominent Miami developer who made a contribution of cash and art valued at $35 million.
The fresh start, museum backers and administrators say, will propel PAMM toward the status that has long eluded the institution, launched in 1984 as a public exhibition hall with no collection: Art-world player. Agent of transformation.
We have huge ambition for this institution, said MAM director Thom Collins. We have outsized ambition. In terms of scope and exhibitions and new commissions, its like going zero to 100, not zero to 60.
The new building, the product of an infusion of $100 million in public money and a private obligation to raise $120 million more in contributions, is rising at the foot of the MacArthur Causeway. The site occupies several acres of 29-acre Bicentennial Park, a desolate space thats also slated for an eventual makeover as Museum Park.
Next to PAMMs home, and about a year behind it in construction, will be a new cutting-edge science museum. The two buildings will flank a lushly planted new public plaza designed by James Corner Field Operations, landscape architects for New Yorks High Line, the elevated rail running along the west side of Manhattan that was famously converted into a park.
For an art museum, Herzog & de Meurons building has an unusual configuration, designed to provide considerable exhibition flexibility and take maximum advantage of the waterfront location. Its an arrangement of stacked, interconnected concrete boxes containing dramatically expansive exhibition and performance spaces that were made possible by a structural system that all but dispenses with interior columns.
It really gives us much more space and makes it possible for us to create unusual juxtapositions, Collins said. We can do one gigantic thing or we can do multiple things of different character.
Large, hurricane-resistant windows will afford views of bay and skyline, and a grand staircase will lead down to a new baywalk. An open terrace wraps around the building and will be shaded by a massive, overhanging lattice-like canopy just now being installed. The landscape plan looks like a surreal dream out of a J.G. Ballard novel: Vines will hang from the canopy and trees will grow through the terrace, as if a subtropical jungle were about to engulf the building.
Like so many recent museum commissions, the building was conceived in part as a revitalization scheme. Forming a cultural nexus with the nearby Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, the museum should bring new life to the once-forlorn north end of downtown Miami, civic and government leaders say.
But museum backers hopes extend well beyond that. They say they want PAMM to function as cultural rocket fuel for the city and its maturing arts community, providing greater local visibility for contemporary art and helping boost Miami artists to the world stage. They plan to do so by bringing the best of the art world to show at PAMM, but also to work here and mix it up with the locals.