When Thom Collins came to South Florida in 2010 to lead the new Pérez Art Museum Miami, he knew it might be awhile before private donations poured in.
“That was six or seven months before we broke ground, and I was reassured that, in this city, donors needed to see things happening before they got wholeheartedly behind a project,” said Collins, the museum’s director. “I’m happy to say that has absolutely come true in this case. As the building has risen from the ground, giving has increased radically.”
Collins this week announced a bevy of new gifts of cash and art for the museum, which is set to open on Dec. 4.
A number of private donors have given recent contributions totaling about $8 million, Collins said. In addition, museum trustee and Miami developer Craig Robins has pledged 102 paintings, photographs, sculptures and other works from his personal collection.
Also this week, Pérez Art Museum and its under-construction neighbor, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, named a connector between the two museums Knight Plaza, in honor of the Knight Foundation. The Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has given $20 million to the museums.
“Naming the plaza after the Knight Foundation was one of the easiest decisions in the history of donor recognition,” Collins said.
Added Knight Foundation president Alberto Ibargüen: “Our mission is to support informed and engaged communities, and having this community gathering space, this meeting space, designated in the foundation’s name is really very special to us.”
Robins said the art he donated is meant to honor museum board chairman Aaron Podhurst and his wife Dorothy, “for their time, leadership and resources.”
The pieces all have some sort of Miami connection, including works from local artists who create in spaces that Robins has given to them, or from international artists who have shown their work at Art Basel Miami. His donation includes pieces from Konstantin Grcic, Roberto Juarez, Clay Ketter, Byron Kim, and Glexis Novoa.
“Since 1986, I’ve given studios to artists, which has led to a number of friendships and relationships,” he said. “Jackie (Soffer) and I very much wanted their work and others with meaningful connections to Miami to be a part of the museum.”
Collins said he’ll integrate individual pieces of Robins’ collection into the museum’s galleries, as is the plan for other art donations, like from developer Jorge Pérez, whose $40 million gift of cash and art earned him naming rights to the new museum.
“Showcasing works of art from local donors, created by artists who grew up here or lived here or worked out of spaces that Craig owns – these are important stories that we are excited to tell,” Collins said.
The cash gifts announced this week include $1 million from Ana Cristina and Edgardo Defortuna, $1 million from Eva and Matthew Gorson, and about $6 million from unnamed donors.
They boost the museum’s $220 million capital campaign to 90 percent of its goal. An anonymous donor contributed $15 million in cash and art in May, and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross pitched in $1 million.
The 200,000-square-foot, Herzog & de Meuron-designed space received $100 million in public money, which Miami-Dade voters approved with a 2004 general obligation bond. Verde, a restaurant from Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr, will operate during museum hours and will be open to the public.
Knight Plaza is already accessible and will remain so while construction continues on the Frost Museum of Science. That $275 million project is scheduled to be complete in 2015.