Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami
One of several new or expanded art museums in the city, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA Miami), opened in December of 2017 within a three-story modern structure designed to resemble a glass and steel box. The museum exterior reflects the collection of modern art with a sculptural south façade of interlocking metal triangles and recessed colored light panels. The organization’s galleries and programs encourage continuous experimentation in contemporary art as well as supporting the work of scholars and promoting the exchange of art and ideas. The museum galleries include spaces for exhibiting the work of local, emerging, and under-recognized artists. ICA Miami is also renowned for their community programs, which include performance art exhibitions, lecture series, and research opportunities.
Backstory and Context
The Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA Miami) is historically linked to the Museum of Contemporary Art, which opened under that name in 1996 in a Charles Gwathmey designed building in North Miami. In 2014, following the failure of a municipal-bond referendum to finance MOCA’s expansion, and the departure of the director, Bonnie Clearwater, the museum’s board sued the city for the right to move. The board cited the current neighborhood’s disinterest in the museum’s mission and programming as the cause for moving. After a protracted legal battle, MOCA maintained its name and location, but the new ICA Miami organization was also created. ICA Miami moved to a space in an Art Deco building in the Miami Design District that art dealers Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz once used as a gallery. The space had remained vacant since the couple chose to focus on exhibiting their own art and opened the de la Cruz Collection in 2009, in a nearby 30,000-square-foot building.
Thanks to generosity of auto magnate Norman Braman, ICA Miami is now located in a new 37,500-square-foot building – split between 20,000 square feet of gallery space and 15,000 square feet of garden patio. The structure was designed by Spanish architects María José Aranguren and José González Gallegos, who are no strangers to designing for the arts. The front of ICA Miami is similar to the ABC Museum in Madrid, also designed by the architects. Other notable buildings by Aranguren and Gallegos are the National Visual Arts Center in Madrid and the Archaeological Museum of Córdoba. Designing ICA Miami was the Spanish firm’s first venture into the United States (US). The firm aimed to create an integrated experience for the visitor, which combines modern art and architecture, as well as some striking views of the Miami cityscape.
The modernist styled ICA Miami building is boxy, though bright materials and curvilinear forms keep it from being awkward or clunky. The front façade is blanketed in geometric forms inspired by triangles. Spaces in the forms allow recessed lighting to illuminate the façade at night. Museum officials envisioned the museum as a magnet; both figuratively and literally. A dynamic and welcoming appearance draws visitors in, while dark matte metal components resemble the actual forms of magnets. Though the front of the building lacks large windows, the rear of the building is composed of floor to ceiling panes of glass. These portals overlook Miami and the sculpture garden behind the Museum. The building serves a double function: a space that houses and exhibits a range of diverse works and installations and a cultural anchor and a major element of the urban surroundings.
Shows at ICA Miami are spread across three levels, in rooms flexible enough to accommodate different types of exhibits. The top two floors house temporary exhibitions. On the ground floor are the galleries for the permanent collection, long-term loans and a project space for emerging artists. ICA Miami has achieved acclaim for its artistic collection and presentation, which presents emerging local artists side by side with more established artists from the canon of contemporary art. For example, the opening exhibition at ICA Miami featured works from well known artists such as Picasso and Jasper Johns, but sixty percent of exhibited artists were experiencing their first US museum exposure. One of ICA Miami’s greatest strengths is their programming. Museum programs range from performance art, to lecture series, to artists’ workshops. Programming is supported by the Museum’s Knight Foundation Art + Research Center, which aims to further scholarship and dialogue about South Floridian arts. The Museum has no admission fee, making it accessible to all. Miami has no shortage of great art museums. ICA Miami positions itself as one of them through avant-garde exhibitions, a fresh perspective on contemporary art, and support for local artists and communities.
About the Museum. ICA Miami. Accessed November 9, 2020. https://www.icamiami.org/about/.
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