ASC See Miami Project: The Bass Museum- Marielisa Villasmil

Student Biography

The Bass Museum of Art

My name is Marielisa Villasmil and I am a pre-med student at Florida International University. I am majoring in Biology with the goal of pursuing a career in the medical field. But besides the sciences, I also have a love for the arts. I started playing the piano when I was just 6 years old up until middle school, where I then learned to play the violin. Throughout high school, I maintained connections with the art, being a part of the Orchestra program as well as taking art related electives like music theory and art appreciation. Although now in college I have been focusing on STEM, I continue to involve art in my life, such as by taking this course.The arts are a part of who I am that I hope to never lose.

Geography

The Bass Museum at Miami Beach

The Bass is located on 2100 Collins Ave in the most popular place in Miami, Miami Beach. Miami Beach is a cultural hub where the art world comes together with the people. It is a great city for the Bass because it doesn’t confine the museum to a small space between large buildings or houses. Instead, it’s in a spacious city driven by tourism with a free feel to it. More specifically, the Bass has a large surrounding park that continues to complement the museum. It gives a breath of fresh air where everything feels more vibrant, which is a perfect feeling to have before and after going into the museum. The space also allows for installations of huge art pieces that people can interact with. Being surrounded by many other art museums and fairs, as well as fine dining and boulevards, helps bring the experience full circle for visitors.

History

The Bass Museum was founded in 1963 by the City of Miami and opened to the public the following year with the bestowment of John and Johanna Bass’s private art collection. The Bass family were art collectors for many years and had gathered over 500 works, including Old Master paintings. Originally, the building was the City of Miami Library but underwent construction to become the Art Deco building with the help of Architect Russell Pancoast (The Bass Museum of Art). 

Since its opening, Bass museum has gone through several renovations, with its biggest being in 2015 where the museum embarked on a $12 million project to transform the museum entirely in hope of enhancing the visitor experience. The impressive detail is that the museum went through an internal makeover with little change the existing exterior (Olson). As an outcome, the museum dedicates half of its space to eight total exhibitions for its art. The remaining space is shared equally for education and social purposes. The Museum created a courtyard, café, and museum shop in order to bring a little bit of everything for guests. Most importantly, the museum created a designated facility for the Bass Creativity Center, which is the largest dedicated education facility for a museum in Miami-Dade. But these amazing changes to the Bass would not be possibly without the architects, Arata Isozaki and David Gauld.

Despite its small space for exhibitions compared to other museums, the Bass prides itself in its ability to create more artist-based, full room installations. This also drives the museum to constantly be changing its temporary collection and rotating its huge permanent collection which in turn allows the museum to always be new and relevant for the public (interview with Isabella at The Bass). This goal derives from the museum’s ten year program where they aim to acquire contemporary art into their permanent collection.

Mission

Pascale Marthine Tayou’s “Welcome Wall”

“The Bass, Miami Beach’s contemporary art museum, creates connections between international contemporary art and the museum’s diverse audiences. The Bass shares the power of contemporary art through experiences that excite, challenge and educate.”

Mission Statement from the Bass Museum’s official website

The Bass Museum’s mission is essentially to provide international art that allows people to connect with the art. After getting a feel of the museum and speaking to visitors and staff, it was evident that they aspire to provide cutting edge contemporary art that will attract the community to the art world. The Bass does this by displaying art that incorporates a vast variety of mediums and artforms, like design, fashion and architecture. But above all, they emphasize a lot on showcasing art the helps the museum preserve the character of Miami Beach. It is a goal of the museum to educate the community along with way about the connections of art to Miami’s culture.

Access

Picture of The Bass admissions sticker

Overall, the museum is very accessible to the public. Although it is not free, tickets sell for just $15 general admission and $8 for students, seniors, and the youth (ages 7-18). Additionally, it’s free for children 6 and under, active duty and retired military personnel, and Miami Beach residents and City of Miami Beach employees. 

The museum is also accessible with its hours, since it is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. It also has special date where the museum is open from 10am to 9pm. On top of that, the museums free for all visitors about one Sunday a month.

The Bass offers several different memberships that provides free entrance to the Bass as well as some other benefits. Some memberships are:

  • The general membership for $50 provides free entrance to the Bass, as well as complimentary admission to art fairs like Art Miami, Aqua, CONTEXT, and Art Wynwood. Other perks include a 10% discount at the museum shop and entrance to member-only receptions. For artists, students, and teacher this membership goes for just $25.
  • The Dual/Family membership works for up to 2 adults and children under 18 for $100. It also includes special discounts and free admission to over 300 museums. 
  • The affiliate membership is $250 and includes access to curator talks and free admission to over 1,000 museums.

One hidden cost for attending the museum is the parking. The cost is not only monetary (with the main parking lost costing $4 an hour) but it also costs people’s time since looking for parking can be a long and frustrating experience. This downside of the museum is heavily connected to the geography. Although located in Miami Beach comes with a lot of benefits, it does have these hinderance due to its popularity. 

Collection

The Bass Museum has many works of art in their permanent collection, but it is constantly rotating from being on display to being kept in storage. Some of the permanent collection was removed in October in order to make room for new exhibitions for Miami Art Week. The works of art included in this project are the ones that were on display during my visit.

Ugo Rondinone’s Miami Mountain, 2019

Miami Mountain is 42 feet, colorful sculpture placed in front of the museum on the corner of 21st Street and Collins Avenue. The piece consists of 5 colorful stones stacked together to create the human form. According to a short video on the sculpture, Ugo encompasses his love for nature with romantic minimalism. To him, he wanted to create a piece that would bring color to Miami and by using very childlike symbols and colors, create art that the public could have a non-verbal encounter with. When visiting the museum, I witness how much the public was enjoying this work of art. People would take selfies with it, sit starting at it, and even create their own works of art with the smaller stones surrounding the installation.

Sylvie Fleury’s Eternity Now, 2015

The Eternity Now installation is the first work of art you see without even realizing it. It is located outside the building, at the entrance of the museum. The work is made of neon texts in a blue-green color. What is fascinating about Sylvie Fleury and her work is that she doesn’t create or invent anything. Instead, she takes words and bring them into a different light, literally. The phrase “eternity now” is almost a juxtaposition, encompassing the future and the present. Her goal with art is to find words and phrases that stick with people and connect with their lives. The medium of neon lights and its colors are a direct connection to Miami’s culture, being that the neon lights are distinct to Miami’s night life. Overall, Fleury uses the fashion world to influence her artwork as a way to create work that is constantly changing and relevant to the public.

Pascale Marthine Tayou’s Welcome Wall, 2015

The Welcome Wall includes LED signs displayed on a huge white wall. This work, commissioned for the Bass Museum, displays the word “welcome” in 75 languages. The layout of the signs gives an appearance of a linguistic map. The piece is definitely eye catching to the public, with myself included. And being placed in the lobby of the museum, it is the first pieces of art you see when you enter the Bass and the last before you exit, bringing almost two meanings to the work. It perfectly brings a sense of unity to the museum as the Welcome Wall highlights its aim of connecting international art with the people of Miami. 

Exhibitions

Michalene Thomas’s Better Nights, DEC 1 2019- SEP 27 2020

Michalene Thomas’s Better Nights immersive work of art including paintings, photographs and collages, and mirror work. Better Nights was inspired by a polaroid photograph Michalene found of her mother. Overall, the installation honors her mother by showcasing an 80s inspired world of celebration and feminism. From the moment you enter the installation it is like you are transported back in time. The installation includes two rooms, both designed entirely by Michalene as a means to create an experience. One room encompasses the 80s era in its entirety, from the patterned tiles and fuzzy carpets to the vibrant wallpaper. The show also seems like a home with seat and potted plants being placed to allude to a living room. The other room is almost entirely different, made out of complete mirror. There’s mirror on the walls, the floor, ceiling, even the furniture. This room though also contains sofas seats and plants bringing a sense of normality into the outdated theme of the rooms. Out of all the exhibitions, this was my favorite because it is so aesthetically pleasing with its edge look but at the same time it is very homey. 

Lara Favaretto’s Blind Spot, DEC 1 2019- APR 19 2020

Lara Favaretto’s Blind Spot is a very interesting piece of art that attracted a lot of the visitor’s attention for being so unique and interactive. The collection includes “The Library” which is made of huge shelves containing colorful books that were meant to be disposed of but instead Favaretto used them. Another part of the installation, and the main work, is one commissioned for the museum to be part of its permanent collection, is “Gummo VI.” This installation includes 5 automated car wash brushes of different colors and of an immense size. When you stand close to the brushes, you gather static and your hair may even stick up. This funny interaction is why this work of art was so intriguing for guests. Blind Spot is a perfect example of how Lara’s art although seems very playful at a glance, it carries a much deeper meaning. Overall, she emulates change and loss with her art through creative means as a way to connect better with the audience. 

Haegue Yang’s In the Cone of Uncertainty, NOV 2 2019- APR 5 2020

Haugue Yang’s In the Cone of Uncertainty installation is the biggest exhibition in the museum, taking up 4 rooms. In this exhibition, there are a wide variety of mediums such as light sculptures, window blind installations, ballerina-like sculptures, and sound and light art. She includes all these works of art spanning from the last decade to create an artistic environment that explores time and place from several different perspectives. Her “Strange Fruit” installation connect the future of technology in today’s age with nature by creating man light sculptures of light sources entangled with leaves and hand props. Her “Boxing Ballet” installation also explores humankind’s figure but with movement this time instead of light. This work includes six sonic figures made of varying metals and rope. Two of these figures are connected to the ceiling to produce circular motions when pushed. Her “Yearning Melancholy Red” piece includes light sources displaying red hues and a mirrored piece. It also includes drums that create varying flashes of white light when played, creating a distinct contrast to the red. This piece was also a very interactive work of art. The last installation as part of this huge collection is her “Coordinates of Speculative Solidarity.” This piece is similar to her “Strange Fruit” installation because she once again uses nature as the focal point of her art. The exhibition includes walls that display a top view of Miami as well as hurricanes. The work also includes window blind installations on the walls and several cans decorated with fabric.

Special Programs

Bass Museum has many events and programs such as:

  • IDEAS program: The museum opened the Bass Creativity Center in 2017 as a learning hub for the Bass IDEAS program. It takes an educative approach to teach creativity and positive growth to children. This program was built with Stanford University’s Institute of Design and embedded into program’s curriculum at Bass museum.
  • Free guided tours: The Bass conducts several free guided tours in order to enhance the art experience when visiting the museum. The tours are usually on the weekends at 2pm.
  • Spring, Summer and Teen Studio Art Camp: The Bass provides several different educational camps. These programs aim to educate the youth on the art and its different mediums as a way to promote creativity. The programs range in prices. 
  • Art for kids: this program aims to teach kids how to make art, mostly with painting. The Bass aims to encourages young artists in making art, whether just for a hobby or as a future career.
  • The Bass Ball: this fundraiser event is very important for the museum every year because it financially contributes to installations and other programs the museums hosts. 

Visitors

Umbereen Inayet, Commissioner and Curator of Public Art and National Award-Winning Artistic Producer

Have you been to the Bass Museum before?

  • Yes, I have, many times.

So, what attracts you about the Bass museum to keep coming back?

  • I wanted to see the Mickalene Thomas exhibition. So, it’s not really the museum itself, it’s the artists in their program. I also wanted to see Pascale’s work too, because I work at the City of Toronto where we produce public art and we’ve shown him before.

What is it that you work with exactly?

  • I work for the city of Toronto, and I commission and produce public art. So, we do an event called Nuit Blanche, which is this really big overnight art event; it’s the biggest in North America and it’s free. So, we commission public art exhibitions all over the city.

Can you tell me your favorite work of art or exhibition at the Bass museum?

  • Definitely, Michalene because she’s so bad ass talking about women and distortion of femininity, beauty and her culture. I love the immersive space that you can explore, and it feels like a home in the 70s. It’s really cool, I love immersive installations. Also, Favaretto’s piece is really great because it’s about change and grief and loss; how life throws you and sometimes it’s big change, but also small change. 

How would you say the Bass Museum is different from other art museums you’ve gone to?

  • I think it’s more contemporary and political work, as well as larger immersive pieces. I love that, that it is more installation based. I also like the fact that is speaking to the times and it is not afraid of talking about dark things.

Do you think art is important to a community?

  • Absolutely, it’s a form of language that we need to communicate; the emotions to express ourselves. Good art is really responding to what’s happening around the world but also what’s happening inside of yourself. If people express themselves through art, it allows other people to connect to their story as well and makes you feel like you’re not alone. I was thinking about it today how everyone has a story, so what you’re looking at is their personal story. And if you don’t have a way of expressing yourself to consume this emotional language, you’re going to have a society that is very sick and robotic, focused just on consumption and narcissism. Not that artists, aren’t, but it gives us that grey matter that we can talk. We can’t necessarily communicate through texts and social media, but it allows you to feel. 

So, would you say it’s important to push the youth towards art?

  • Yes, definitely, for both historic and contemporary reasons. I just came back from the Frost Museum and Perez because I wanted to see science and art. So, I think it’s really important to see artifacts, it’s historic record of time. If you lose history, you’re not grounded, you’re floating around in the modern times. I think you need both contrasts of different eras over time so you can learn and understand how we’ve communicated as species over centuries. I think you need that, both the past and the present, and you also need to look at the future.

Portrait

Isabella, Guest Service Associate

What is your position and how long have you been working at the Bass Museum?

  • I am a guest service associate which means work at the front desk, I answer any question, the phone, I also give tours and a gallery guide. I started interning here in June and officially got hired in August. So, I’ve been here for about 4 months.

What do you like about working here?

  • I think the exposure to art is awesome. I feel like unless you’re someone that visits museums very often, you don’t get to be around art like this. Also, I graduated with a major in fine Arts, so this is right in my element; I love it. I love the behind the scenes of installing art and taking art down. You know, someone from the museum is creating these artist’s visions in a room. It’s so cool, there’s a lot of problem solving. And it’s crazy to think that I have lived just 20 minutes away from here my whole life and I hadn’t been to this museum until I started working here, plus I get in for free since I’m a resident. So, this was my first introduction to the museum, and I loved it. It’s also really great to have people that don’t really know about art, and you are able to really teach them and show them hoe amazing art is. The reactions are so great.

What differentiates this museum from others?

  • We are a little smaller than other museums, but our shows tend to be a little more extravagant. So, like you saw, we have three full installations. These are not just things that we hung on the wall; they alter the space in some way. And being in Miami beach, we do have the ability to be more luxurious and we’re international as well. Cause no one is really from here, everyone is from somewhere else. Another thing that differentiates us is that old permanent collection that we have because we’re able to have pieces from our history with contemporary art. So it’s almost like we show old pieces in new perspectives. 

Do you think visiting museums have a positive effect on society? Especially, to the youth?

  • Yeah, at least when I was younger, I never liked museums because it was that thing that my parents always dragged me to. But as I got older, I really learned how important it is, especially on the message the museum is trying to convey. Because people learn so differently, so some people learn with art much easier than other ways. And many times, the art really means something and conveys an important message. Especially for young people, this museum is really engaging and can really interest people. And I think people that are usually not interested in art that come to museum like this can spark really interesting conversation of art and the importance of it. And I feel like people my age are very creative and are not scared to have these hard conversations and really know how to express themselves.

Summary

The Bass Museum of Art is a great museum that brings together international contemporary art that encompasses the character of the city of Miami Beach. It does this flawlessly by having a solid permanent collection that the community can interact with of any age and background. Its temporary exhibitions are also very great because it’s the more contemporary and cutting-edge art in the museum. This makes the museums much more relevant and newer, which brings a lot of attraction from the public, especially during Miami Art Week. This mission was also very evident throughout the temporary exhibitions. Each exhibit had a unique feel that didn’t consist of just an interesting painting. Each room was a piece of art and an experience in itself. The artwork in the rooms were tactfully placed to produce some sort of effect that could excite anyone, from children to art enthusiasts. It would also include pieces from international artists that explored their own personal connection to the art world through their cultural experiences. Many pieces even included excerpts of the artist’s live for a more immersive experience in how art pieces would be interpreted. Although several rooms contained the work of the same artist, there was not one theme to represent all of the rooms and they could vary greatly in design, from stationery objects to dynamic movement.

Overall, the only negative of the museum is its location, which is also a huge positive. Being centered in Miami beach allows for a great da filled with several other activities in the community. But parking and traffic can really sour this great experience.

The museum although it is very small compared to most museums, it did not hinder my experience in the slightest. In fact, because it was smaller, it made my visit more enjoyable. I was able to look back and remember all the works of art. For me, this experience has made me even more intrigued in visiting museums in my community. I will definitely be going back to the Bass Museum.

Citations

“About the Transformation.” The Bass Museum of Art, The Bass Museum of Art, July 25, 2016. Web, https://thebass.org/about/the-transformation/

“Art.” The Bass Museum of Art, The Bass Museum of Art, July 25, 2016. Web, https://thebass.org/about/the-transformation/

Jorge Graupera, “Sylvie Fleury,” The Bass Museum of Arts, 2015

Jorge Graupera, “Ugo Rondinone’s Miami Mountain,” The Bass Museum of Arts, 2016

Olson, Carly. The Story Behind the Bass Museum’s Renovations. ADPRO, Dec 1, 2017. Web, https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/miami-bass-museums-renovation

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