Miami art museum The Bass emerges from $12 million refit
The Bass Art Museum is showing a new look after a two-year revision
The Bass, Miami Beach’s contemporary art museum, will emerge tomorrow from a $ 12 million renovation. Architects David Gauld and Arata Isozaki, who both worked on the museum’s expansion 16 years ago, led the renovation that laid the foundation stone in 2015. A major reconfiguration of the building’s internal structure has resulted in an increase in programmable space by almost 50 percent, including four new galleries, a museum shop, a café run by Thierry Isambert, and its own educational facility.
The museum was founded by the City of Miami Beach in 1964 following a donation from a private collection from residents John and Johanna Bass. It opened in a 1930s Art Deco building – formerly the Miami Beach Public Library and Art Center – designed by Russell Pancoast, and it was also once the first public art exhibition space in South Florida. In 2001, the museum was expanded for the first time by Isozaki and his company who added a new wing and second level to accommodate a total of 16,000 square meters of exhibition space.
The historic 1930s building was designed by Russell Pancoast. Photography: Robin Hill. Courtesy The Bass, Miami Beach
‘From the beginning, one of the most important values of this construction project was that we had to be on the same footprint – [the museum] had to be sustainable after our opening, ”says Silvia Karman Cubiñá, director of the Bass Museum. In addition to the new galleries, two outside terraces are now covered, which were unusable for most of the year due to the heat of Miami. The back of the museum has since been converted back into the creativity center, with classrooms and a meeting room now open to the community.
Gauld’s biggest challenge, he explained, was respecting the design of his mentor Isozaki while responding to the museum’s needs. ‘[Isozaki] It’s very philosophical, ”said Gauld from New York when previewing the new room. “If Isozaki were to design a building, he would later draw it as a ruin, with the expectation that it would not only be changed but also destroyed afterwards.” With the blessing of the 86-year-old Japanese architect, Gauld went to work, most importantly removing a large ramp in the lobby from Isozaki’s design and replacing it with a new staircase that “streamlined circulation”.
While the space shines a lot with modern furnishings, Gauld has respected its predecessors Pancoast and Isozaki and used materials that preserve the building’s aesthetic. The museum consulted with Miami’s Historic Preservation Board, with Cubiñá admitting she was grateful for the design’s limitations. The circular lighting in the new courtyard areas is reminiscent of Miami’s Art Deco heritage, while new walls erected in Florida revert to the building’s original design.
Gauld worked with New York studio Project-Space, a New York-based studio founded by Jonathan Caplan to design the interiors for The Bass public spaces. ‘There were essentially two components too [my] In short: Firstly, to create a flowing, harmonious relationship between the gallery area and the multi-purpose rooms that lead to and from it, explains Caplan, and secondly, to give these separate rooms their own identity and dynamism. ‘
Installation view of Pascale Marthine Tayou’s exhibition ‘Beautiful’. Photography: Zachary Balber. Courtesy The Bass, Miami Beach
Caplan argues that the importance of these spaces is often overlooked or underestimated. “This can sometimes lead to such spaces and, through association, the entire museum becoming secular and repulsive – in the worst case a dead zone,” says Caplan. “We didn’t just want to minimize this, we wanted to reverse it, because these rooms are not only the first and last impression that a museum conveys to the visitor, but in this case are also spatially at the center of the museum.” Cubiñá agrees that the new interior has made the lobby more “porous” and attracted visitors to the museum.
On the upper floor, Ugo Rondinone has taken over the entire redesigned second floor with “Guten Abend, Schöne Blau”, part of a large retrospective with several institutions that includes works spanning three decades of Swiss artist practice from the late 1990s to the present. Rondinone is in good company for the museum’s reopening: Cameroonian artist Pascale Marthine Tayou has mixed his own works with pieces from the Bass Museum’s permanent collection in the gallery on the ground floor. In addition, a newly commissioned, site-specific work by Tayou entitled Welcome Wall (2015), which contains animated LED signs reading “Welcome” in over 70 languages, sends a profound message of inclusion from the redesigned lobby of the Museum.