New Institute of Contemporary Art museum to be built in Miami Design District

NIGHT BRIGHT: Preliminary artistic rendering of the south facade of the proposed Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA) on Northeast 41st Street in Miami’s Design District features lighted panels that will change colors.
NIGHT BRIGHT: Preliminary artistic rendering of the south facade of the proposed Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA) on Northeast 41st Street in Miami’s Design District features lighted panels that will change colors. Courtesy Aranguren & Gallegos

A late May lunch between pals promises to change the South Florida visual arts scene.

If all goes to plan, a 37,500-square-foot, three-story contemporary art museum with a 15,000-square-foot sculpture garden will open in time for Art Basel 2016 on Northeast 41st Street in Miami’s Design District. The institution will be located 50 feet east of the existing de la Cruz Collection.

The new permanent home for the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA Miami) — the first U.S. project designed by Madrid architects Aranguren & Gallegos Arquitectos — will be built on land donated by Miami Design District Associates, a partnership between Dacra Development’s Craig Robins and L Real Estate. The design and construction will be funded by philanthropists Norman and Irma Braman.

“The name will be ICA Miami,” Norman Braman said last week, as he tapped his finger atop preliminary artistic renderings of its anodized metal signage from inside his Biscayne Boulevard office. “There will be no naming in terms of the museum. ... It will not be built with any public funds, it will be all privately funded.”

The cost of the project hasn’t been determined. “We don’t honestly know yet,” said Braman, who expects to have estimates in about eight weeks.

The ICA’s operating budget for its first 10 years will be in place by the time of its opening, through private gifts and grants, Irma Braman said. The board has begun a fund-raising campaign. “Our board has been wonderful doing their part,” she said.

ICA Miami interim director Suzanne Weaver estimates an annual operating budget of $4 million, which would encompass a staff of about 28, educational and outreach programs, plus music and dance performances, lectures and films related to art. “A robust exhibition program” hasn’t yet been finalized. “We just launched our upcoming program at the temporary exhibition space,” Weaver said, referring to interim space Robins donated in the Moore Building at 4040 NE Second Ave. “We will need to be working on that right away.”

The new institution was created after the former board of the Museum of Contemporary Art, co-chaired by Irma Braman, split earlier this year from the city of North Miami, where MOCA is located. In a settlement finalized in late November, North Miami retains 70 percent of the former museum’s art holdings, the MOCA name and $1 million in grant funds. That museum is now run by city-appointed director Babacar M’Bow.

The remaining artworks are held by ICA, created by MOCA’s previous 21-member board. These include works by John Baldessari, Ana Mendieta and Tracey Emin. Irma Braman said the former board remains intact and, along with some new members — “We don’t like to stay static” — will govern the new institution.

Some of the works for the new institution will come from the Braman’s highly regarded personal collection. “We have always donated art and we expect to continue,” said Irma Braman. But ICA Miami will collect from other sources as well.

“We are building an acquisitions committee and a strategic plan for our collection,” said Alex Gartenfeld, ICA’s deputy director and chief curator. “We’ve had tremendous feedback from leading collectors in Miami, and will be excited to announce those gifts shortly.”

The permanent building and site were inspired by Robins’ offer of temporary space after the MOCA/board split.

Said Irma Braman, “I didn’t know where we were going. It isn’t as though we were looking at property and said, ‘Oh, we’ll get this’ or ‘Oh, we’ll never get this.’ But then there it was. We weren’t looking for property, we weren’t up to that yet.”

Then her husband and Robins met for one of their occasional lunches.

“I said, ‘Craig, if you could give ICA the land, Irma and I will build a museum.’ And Craig responded positively,” Norman Braman said. “He called back three days later and said, ‘You have a deal.’”

The new museum fits snugly with Robins’ vision.

“Our strategy for the Design District is that we want it to be equally a place for culture as for commerce. By collaborating with the Bramans and the incredible board behind ICA, that gave us the perfect opportunity,” Robins said. “My partners and I have embarked on a very aggressive campaign to install public art and graphic design implementations throughout the neighborhood. The ICA will be the crowning jewel.”

ICA Miami will feature about 20,000 square feet of exhibition galleries along with its sculpture garden on its rear grounds. Preliminary interior plans provided by Aranguren & Gallegos, which will work in conjunction with Miami firm Wolfberg Alvarez & Partners and its senior vice president, Marcel Morlote, show 6,500 square feet on the first floor, 5,960 on the second and 8,000 on the third.

Final designs are due in early 2015, with groundbreaking expected in December 2015. The time calls for opening in time for the December 2016 Art Basel Miami Beach fair, the Bramans said.

ICA, according to Irma Braman, will differ from MOCA and other local institutions by concentrating on cutting-edge contemporary art and its history, and promoting experimentation.

Said Gartenfeld, ICA’s “emphasis on scholarship and experimentation through publishing and art symposiums and public programs will provide a unique service in the community.” The institution will call on “under-recognized artists who are dealing with the important issues of our time — that will set this institution apart.”

The new museum will sit on the same side of the street as the existing 30,000-square-foot, three-story, privately owned de la Cruz Collection of Contemporary Art, created and run by collectors Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz to exhibit works from their permanent holdings of works by established artists and to facilitate art education.

“The ICA is a fantastic idea,” said Rosa de la Cruz, who with her husband donated more than 40 works to the original MOCA. “Up to now, [the museums] have been spread all over the place. This will be great in creating an art ambiance,” that, in turn, will encourage more commercial art galleries, she predicted.

“In one day, people can come to our museum and ICA,” plus see other nearby collections, she said.

Those include Craig Robins’ own collection, in the DACRA offices at 3841 NE Second Ave.; the Locust Projects exhibition space at 3852 N. Miami Ave.; the 45,000-square-foot private Rubell Family Collection on Northwest 29th Street and the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse on Northwest 27th Street. All are about three miles from downtown Miami’s Museum Park, home of the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM).

Local arts leaders applaud the new endeavor, which must go before the Miami City Commission in January for approval and zoning.

“I think it’s such a great addition to the community,” said Dennis Scholl, vice president/arts of the Knight Foundation. “You’ve got a real concentrated set of visual art opportunities that are going to draw people in a three-block radius. Basically, that says a lot about the District more than anything else.

“It’s important for arts organizations, when possible, to be around each other. You have a lot of synergies from having a private collection and alternative space and a brand new art museum. Only in Miami could that happen. The commitment by the Bramans to do this is such a gift to the community.”

Though educational outreach programs are not required since ICA will not receive city or county funds, the Bramans plan to provide programs to schools and feature creative spaces for developing artists as part of the building design.

“At MOCA we had schoolchildren, young kids, first-graders, in art classes, photography classes, which we’ll probably do now,” Irma Braman said. “In all likelihood, we’ll do older junior high and up students now. Those are the students that are looking for scholarships, or need the experience to get where they want to go, so we would be there for them.”

Braman doesn’t expect other South Florida institutions will suffer from the addition of another major museum.

“Competition is not bad,” she said. “If [people] love art in one museum, they’ll want to see it in other places.”

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If you go

The temporary home of Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami opens ‘As I Lay Drying,’ an installation by New York-based artist Andra Ursuta, and Pedro Reyes’ participatory installation, ‘Sanatorium,’ as a part of opening celebrations for the new museum. The event is at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Moore Building, 4040 NE Second Ave., Miami. Admission is free. Visit

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