Long gone are the days when Miami was solely a beach destination. Over the past twenty years the contemporary art scene in the magic city has grown to be vibrant and thought-provoking. This significant shift started when the Swiss fair Art Basel’s organizers decided to disseminate their cultural brand with an outpost in Miami Beach, what followed was a dramatic transformation and since then the city has embraced itself as a site ripe for the vigorous contemporary art scene.
Nowadays Miami is teeming with creative endeavors and artistic programming; there is a richness of Art Museums, there is also a wide selection of commercial art galleries and immersive art exhibits like Superblue. Yet, the treasure trove of this burgeoning art landscape is the existence of various private collections throughout the city that accept visitors.
A group of the city’s most prominent collectors have opened up art-filled spaces, so Miami has actually become one of the few places in the United States that has such a wealth of private collections that are accessible to the public all year-long. Fortunately, there is now a plethora of lavish dedicated spaces - several of them custom made- that present a wide variety of artworks ranging from Ye’kwana artifacts to contemporary works.
Amongst some of the private collectors that helped draw Art Basel to Miami were Don and Mera Rubell, who have been art enthusiasts for over 50 years and are one of the largest open private collections in the US (they own more than 7,500 works by more than 1,000 artists). According to some experts, they paved the way and catalyzed other art collectors to display their treasures to the general public. Thirty years ago, they opened their Collection in a former DEA warehouse in Wynwood; this helped transform the neighborhood which underwent a radical transformation and became a magnet for graffiti artists and art galleries, shops and restaurants. In 2019 the married couple moved their collection to the nearby Allapattah neighborhood and renamed their space the Rubell Museum. The Rubells have amassed a truly magnificent selection of contemporary art from the 1960s onward- it is one of the world’s most substantial- and includes masterpieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Martha Jungwirth, Jeff Koons and Louise Lawler amongst many others. The lavish 100,000 square-foot space includes 40 galleries, a library, and a lovely indoor-outdoor restaurant serving Michelin worthy basque food.
For this season, the Museum will have on view the exhibition of Basil Kincaid: Spirit in the Gift; and also, a showcase of paintings by the Cuban-born and Miami-based Alejandro Piñeiro Bello, in conjunction with other shows besides the Collection Highlights that include two Yoyai Kusama Infinity Rooms.
A couple of blocks away in the Allapattah neighborhood is El Espacio 23, a contemporary art space founded in 2019 by real estate tycoon and collector Jorge Perez, that can be perceived as a complement to the other artistic enterprise to which Perez has pledged his name and fortune: The Perez Art Museum of Miami (PAMM). El Espacio 23 is located within a repurposed 28,000 square-foot warehouse, on view will be To Weave the Sky: Textile Abstractions, survey presenting fiber-based works by over 100 intergenerational artists from around the world.
Nearby in the Wynwood Arts District is the Margulies Collection. Martin Z Margulies started collecting more than forty years ago and is currently lauded and recognized on lists such as the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors. His compendium of art is considered by art connoisseurs to be one of the most significant of its kind, it features works by some of the most famous names in art history. Housed in a 50,000 square foot retrofitted warehouse in the Wynwood District, the collection is presenting several new exhibitions including Helen Levitt: New York Street Photographer that showcases wonderfully vivacious snapshots of the inhabitants of poorer neighborhoods of the Big Apple in the 1930s and 1940s. From the many, many artworks displayed there are some unmissable pieces from the permanent collection from masters like Isamu Noguchi, Nancy Rubins and Michael Heizer, also noteworthy are some monumental early works by Anselm Kiefer that will impact audiences. It is worth mentioning that the Margulies Collection has a longstanding commitment to the welfare of underprivileged and disenfranchised people in Miami, the admission fees generated by Art week traffic are donated to the Lotus House - a shelter for women and children- so your admission charge will benefit the needy.
Another outstanding collecting couple: Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz who are originally from Cuba and built their art collection more than 30 years ago with an original focus of modern Latin American art which then evolved into contemporary international art. In 2009 they opened their collection to the public as a privately funded museum in Miami’s Design District that showcases works by Mark Bradford, Isa Genzken, Glenn Ligon and many others. Currently they own more than 1000 works, but it is acknowledged that the anchor of their collection is the work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres for whom the de la Cruz were not only patrons but close friends. Presently they are displaying the exhibition House in Motion / New Perspectives that represents the collection's history, bringing together paintings, sculptures, and site-specific installations.
Craig Robbins is known for helping modernize South Beach and for being the developer behind the Miami Design District. Furthermore, he also holds a very impressive collection of over 1200 pieces of art and design that are installed throughout his company’s corporate offices and exemplifies the thesis that art enhanced spaces foster vibrant communities. Located within the Design District headquarters of Dacra, the collection is open by appointment and will be showcasing A Train of Thoughts: Figuration and Conceptualism in Craig Robins Collection.
Within walking distance is the Juan Carlos Maldonado Collection, which was established in 2005 by the Venezuelan entrepreneur with the mission to contribute to the study and appreciation of Geometric Abstraction as a universal style that transcends geographies and cultural backgrounds. The exhibition presented this year traces back through the 18 years of the collection, including an array of Ye’kwana basketry that are in dialogue with some of the iconic pieces of Western geometric abstraction in the collection.
Last but not least is the recently inaugurated Marquez Art Projects, an 8,000-square-foot exhibition space in Allapattah that champions emerging visual artists founded by the real estate developer and restaurateur John Marquez. The space has four rooms that are populated with work created primarily in the last five years. Specifically planned to inaugurate during Art Week is Cusp a new body of work by Miami- and New York-based artist José Delgado Zuñiga.
Be sure to swing by and visit these extraordinary private collections that have been fundamental in transforming Miami into an art destination and continue to give value to our cultural community.