10 features you won’t want to miss at the new Pérez Art Museum Miami

You know you want to see the building itself, that Stiltsville-inspired structure with dangling gardens and expansive bay views.

But then what? We explored the Pérez Art Museum Miami as workers added finishing touches and came up with a list of must-see (or in some cases, must-sit) recommendations:

1. Before even heading inside, take in the museum’s backyard: Biscayne Bay, as close as you’ll ever see it. The wide deck is dotted with rustic Adirondack chairs; if those seats are full, plop down on the grand staircase that leads to the bay walk.

2. Next to the main entrance, a work commissioned by the museum will turn heads toward the ceiling. For Those in Peril on the Sea (2011), an installation by Hew Locke, includes an armada of about 60 replicas of various ships hanging from the ceiling. “It seemed like a natural for Miami, where so many people have this experience of making their way here on this kind of journey,” said museum director Thom Collins.

3. Verde, a 104-seat restaurant and bar from Philadelphia-based restaurateur Stephen Starr, will offer seafood, flatbreads, sandwiches and other bites with a Miami twist. Seating is available inside and out.

4. It’s a staircase! And a movie theater! And a lecture hall? The broad set of stairs leading from the first to second floor was built to serve many roles. A curtain surrounding the staircase doubles as a moveable acoustic wall.

5. The stairs lead to the museum’s most high-profile exhibition, Ai Weiwei: According to What? Stacks upon stacks of Chinese bicycles fill one space. In another, a landscape of 38 tons of rebar from the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, twisted in the disaster and straightened by the dissident artist’s workers, sits in front of a wall that bears the names of the dead.

6. Art will take center stage in the three second-floor “focus” galleries, devoted to a single theme, but the view will provide some competition. Each of those galleries boasts large windows with small seats built into the frame; some have jaw-dropping views of the bay and port, while others overlook downtown.

7. While the three-story building doesn’t lack for high ceilings, one specially built room soars. The 24-foot ceiling shows off a nearly 20-foot, 1,100-pound hanging steel sculpture from Monika Sosnowska, who created the piece as a commission for PAMM.

8. Dozens of photographs from the museum’s permanent collection are grouped thematically in Image Search: Photography from the Collection, but information about each won’t sit on the walls. Instead, PAMM is putting labels and texts on iPads, which visitors will be able to use as they explore the photos.

9. The gallery window seats might cause lines to form, but weary wanderers have another respite: Cozy reading nooks with couches. They overlook the neighboring Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, which is still under construction, and the plaza that connects the two institutions.

10. On the ground level, the Knight Plaza offers outdoor seating on benches that double as planters (and resemble hot tubs or UFOs).

Bonus: Free public Wi-Fi. Because there will be a lot to post on Instagram.

Read more Visual Arts stories from the Miami Herald

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