New Work Miami 2013 has two welcome doses of straight-up social criticism, front-loaded with irony. Just off Flagler Street, close to the ramp that leads up to the entrance of MAM, is CenTrust (2012), done by homeboy artist George Sanchez-Calderon. In a Wynwood warehouse, Sanchez-Calderon discovered the 15,000-pound slab of granite that once marked the front entrance of the I.M. Pei-designed CenTrust Tower, completed in 1987. The Pei building, lit up at night and still the definitive structure in downtown Miami, neatly symbolizes the go-go Miami 1980s. CenTrust founder David Paul used his savings and loan to live large (he bought a lot of art, for a start) before going down in flames and costing taxpayers a chunk of money, though it was all chump change compared to the 2008 global meltdown. To see the CenTrust marker now, with that capital “T” capped in flames (talk about cheap irony) brings the past flooding back. It would be perfect inside any museum as a sobering commentary on the art world’s greed.
Another smart piece of found sculpture is Tom Scicluna’s Public Sculpture (2012). Scicluna, a London-born artist, simply took two bike racks — normally situated in front of the library on the Cultural Plaza — and moved them inside the lobby of MAM. Bike riders, accidental participants in a very site-specific museum installation, are permitted to see the show at MAM for free, but most simply lock up their bikes and head to the library, having no interest in MAM’s art hijinks.
Public Sculpture (2012) is also a kind of confrontation: Putting the racks inside MAM challenges and confuses bikers who are used to outdoor racks. As a social dialogue, the installation comments on the sad history of the Cultural Center Plaza. In the 1980s, the plaza was ballyhooed as the transformative public space in Miami. Now, with the plaza plagued by drug use and a homeless population, public access has been steadily reduced.