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Monday February 12, 2007

“We want to ensure that MAC’s legacy is not only maintained, but strengthened with the combined resources of both MAC and MAM.” Terry Riley issues a non-response to the Save MAC open letter. (via a new javascripted-out TnfH) Update: The Herald had better luck getting a reaction out of Riley then Tyler Green: “When I read [the letter], I thought about it, and if I had received it I would have signed it.” The gist is, they don’t know yet exactly what the end result of the merger will be.


Tuesday February 6, 2007

An open letter to Miami Art Museum

Here’s an apparently anonymous campaign that’s circulating on email. It raises the Miami Art Museum and Miami Art Central partnership, specifically with concerns about MAC’s identity. They ask that you add your name to the bottom of the letter and e-mail it to them at They’ll be forwarding the letter with all the names they receive the MAM’s board and Terence Riley. They want them all back by 8 pm tonight (sorry, I just got it myself).

While I agree with the general sentiment of the letter regarding MAC’s excellence and the need to preserve its vision and artistic staff, and I will be adding my name to the list, I’m not sure the level of concern is warranted; Riley has shown himself to be a very effective leader, and I think keeping the hardcore art people (clearly represented by this letter) happy. Nonetheless, the tone is positive, and I hope they get lots of support for this.

An Open Letter to MIAMI Art Museum

February 5, 2007

To: Board of Trustees 2005-2006, Miami Art Museum (MAM)
c/o Terence Riley, Director, Miami Art Museum (MAM)

We, the undersigned, having been made aware through recent news reports of the merger of Miami Art Museum (MAM) and Miami Art Central (MAC), would like to bring to the attention of MAM’s Trustees the level of appreciation we share for the outstanding quality and scope of MAC’s achievements and contributions to our community since its founding in 2003.

At the same time, we would like to express our deep concern over the prospect that the internationally distinguished exhibitions and programs developed at MAC may be compromised as a result of the merger of the two institutions. Our community has benefited enormously from the scope and quality of MAC’s acclaimed exhibitions and educational programs, the product of the creativity and hard work of its Executive Director and Chief Curator Rina Carvajal and her talented staff, with the generosity of MAC’s founder, Ella Fontanals Cisneros.

Over the past three years, the program at MAC has consistently been at the forefront of art museums in Miami and, with the end of exhibitions and related programming at MAC’s Red Road facilities scheduled for late-April, we foresee a serious vacuum that could undermine our city’s reputation as a burgeoning center for the visual arts.

Since it has now been made clear that “MAC is MAM,” we are directing ourselves to you as the custodians of MAC in the hope that you will act to ensure that MAC and its legacy are kept alive and that its world-class exhibition program be continued and fostered under the auspices of MAM, to the benefit of our community and the credit of your institution.


(to be affixed)

Update: A related, if not completely coherent, post on Eye on Miami.


Thursday December 21, 2006

Miami Art Museum and Miami Art Central partnership

MAC Back

When I first heard about the partnership and possible merger between the Miami Art Museum and Miami Art Central (Links: MAM and MAC), I was aghast. I like things the way they are — these are two great institutions with very distinct curatorial and operational philosophies, and (like RL in the comments of the TNFH post) I didn’t see how any partnership between the two would do anything but water down those philosophies, creating a larger but less interesting homogenized whole.

But I’ve spent almost a week thinking about this now, and kicked it around with a bunch of smart and prominent local art people, and I’ve come around. The MAM has a new building to build in Bicentennial Park, and it needs to raise at least $100 million for it. You don’t do that by sending out a solicitation mailing. This deal may not bring Marty Margulies to the table, and ther collectors, such as the Scholls, are already working with the MAM, but the MAC is a gathering place for the hundreds of less prominent South American collectors who live in Miami, and this deal has the possibility of making them feel much more connected to the MAM. And of course Ella Fontanals-Cisneros has enough money herself to make the MAM pay attention when she makes a suggestion. A deal like this puts a lot of important momentum into an important fundraising project.

As for the MAC, well, it’s difficult being an organization that gets the majority of its money from one private source — just ask the once-wonderful PBICA. In a merger, the MAC’s facility becomes a satellite space for the MAC, in return for which the MAC gets . . . a say in the curatorial direction of the MAM? The MAC’s exhibitions have been described as more “cerebral,” and it has a strong inclination to exhibit South American art. But the MAM may already be heading in that direction, what with the new Director, it’s open Curator position, and it’s mission, which is all about art in the “western hemisphere” anyway.

In other words, this may actually be a good fit. The MAC gets absorbed into the MAM, we loose a little bit of a differentiated curatorial philosophy but gain a reinvigorated museum with three(!) significant exhibition spaces. In the more immediate term, have you seen how much programming the MAC does on weekends? It will certainly be great to have some of that thinking trickle to downtown. And as Tyler Green points out, the more distinctive extreme of MAC’s programing may be migrating to cifo anyway. And the permanent existence of MAC may not have been tenable anyway — how long can Fontanals-Cisneros focus on MAC and cifo anyway (and serve on MAM’s board)?

(One interesting side concern is the MAC’s staff? They’re really the ones that really make a museum what it is. If the merger really hits in six months, there are going to be lots of redundant people. When the new MAM building opens, the staff needs will increase again, but there’s probably years between those two dates. What will happen there remains to be seen.)

But so an eventual merger seems inevitable. It seems that there are reasons to be optimistic that this is the best way forward, just not the reasons the Herald article gives. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, all that.


Thursday September 21, 2006

Video Art at MAC

Peter Campus, Interface, 1972
My friends and I goof around in front of Peter Campus’ Interface

I have neither the knowledge nor the fondness for video art to be writing any sort of review about an exhibition of it. But I stopped by the opening of Video: an Art, a History 1965-2005 at Miami Art Central Tuesday, and I think this is another of those shows that everyone should see. In part this is because video art has the potential to be fun, even for those who don’t generally sit still for capital-A “Art,” and this exhibition is; it’s a “take the kids, take grandma!” kind of thing. While a few of the pieces are in the “like TV, only stranger” mode, many others have a physical interaction with their setting, using big multi-screen installations, live video cameras, and projections to interact with the viewer. Isaac Julien’s Baltimore, which forms the centerpiece of the show, is a three-screen mini-movie.

It’s going to be fun for the art snob too, though. I described the Dan Graham piece in the show to Cohen (who called me while buying cigarettes in Times Square; he’s in NYC working on a Masters), and he knew exactly what it was; “that’s a seminal fucking piece, man.” It was like that with everything, and actually, so the art snob will probably be most easily impressed if I just give you the list of artists in the show: Vito Acconci, Isaac Julien, Samuel Beckett, Thierry Kuntzel,Dara Birnbaum, Matthieu Laurette, Peter Campus, Mark Leckey, Stan Douglas, Chris Marker, Valie Export, Bruce Nauman, Jean-Luc Godard, Marcel Odenbach, Douglas Gordon, Tony Oursler, Dan Graham, Nam June Paik, Johan Grimonprez, Walid Ra’ad / The Atlas Group, Clarisse Hahn, Gary Hill, Zined Sedira, Pierre Huyghe, Bill Viola.


Saturday August 5, 2006

Snap Judgements at Miami Art Central

A scene of rooftops taken from an even higher rooftop. Rubble on one roof, people sitting at a table on another.
Randa Shaath, Untitled, from the series Rooftops of Cairo, 2002-3, Twelve gelatin silver prints, Courtesy of the artist [and crudely rephotographed by me in the gallery, hence the crappy quality]

Three men and a boy hang out in a room with newspaper headline posters covering the wall behind them. 'FURY OVER HIJAK HOAX.' 'MOB JUSTICE SPREADS.' 'DO WOMEN NEED OWN VIAGRA?' 'CHIEFS IN THE DARK AS STAR VANISHED.'
Guy Tillim, Ntokozo and His Brother Vusi Tshabalala at Ntokozo’s Place, Milton Court, Pritchard Street, Johannesburg, 2004, Courtesy the artist and Michael Stevenson Gallery, International Center of Photography, New York

Colorful costumes, celebration in the woods.
Theo Eshetu, Trip to Mount Ziqualla, Ethiopia, 2005, Courtesy the artist

You want to make a snap judgement? Enter Miami Art Central’s gallery. You’ll be faced with several huge, drastically out-of-focus pictures of uniforms. You won’t be tempted to go in for a closer look (large out of focus photos tend not to reward close looking), and you might temporarily question the wisdom of your decision to come. As it turns out, the show, despite making this oddly poor first impression, is full of amazing work. And MAC [flash!] has a habit of saving its best stuff for upstairs.

But let me pick on them a little more. From the brochure: “the recognition of African photographers and their unique visual language has come about only recently.” I’ll have to take curator Okwui Enwezor word for it, because the show certainly doesn’t exhibit anything like a particular “unique visual language.” Many of the individual photographers have a UVL, to be sure, but I perceive no more of a hint of common sensibility in this show then in, say, Aura of the Photograph: The Image as Object recently at the Harn. That show presented photography from around the world, and from the entire history of the medium.

Of course this is a good thing; any exhibition claiming to give even the most cursory look at the photographic work of a continent of 840 million people and 20 percent of the world’s land area had better be pretty freaking diverse, and Snap Judgements is. The show has its share of uninspiring pictures, but it’s full enough (too full maybe; pictures are packed tightly, double-hung in places) to include dozens of pictures that are, in turn, beautiful, alarming, tender, and haunting. Just go already.

Miami Art Central
5960 SW 57th Avenue
Miami, Florida 33143
Free Sundays, $5 other days


Thursday July 20, 2006

Elisa Turner reviews Snap Judgements. I can’t wait to see the show. (Note to the Herald web team: Please hit “refresh” and look at the articles when you post them. On this one all the body copy is in italics.) (via TnfH)


Thursday May 18, 2006

KH of tNFH reviews the Anna Maria Maiolino show at MAC for Miami Sunpost. I wasn’t crazy about the show myself, but I intend to see it again.