Post #400 • November 2, 2004, 6:41 AM • 22 Comments
Artblog.net recommends voting Yes on Bond Question #8, which will, in part, fund the whole Museum Park shebang to the tune of $275 million.
Despite Martin Z. Margulies's objections expressed yesterday, despite the fact that the Miami Art Museum did not deign to answer questions posed by your humble (ahem) chronicler, and despite the fact that in several ways Museum Park seems like a terrible idea, I recommend that you vote Yes.
I advise this as a matter of realpolitik, not on the basis of principles. Principles dictate that parkland ought to remain parkland, rendered enjoyable by sensitive landscape architects and a security presence. Principles dictate that MAM and the Museum of Science ought to generate their own financial solutions, buy privately owned land, and build their expanded facilities on the nickel of individual investors, while the $275 million goes to a Manhattan Project directed at dislodging Miami from its #1 ranking as the poorest city in the country. Principles indicate that a museum whose collection, presented as such, has continually disappointed me until several weeks ago when I reviewed "Light and Atmosphere," ought not receive a humongus facility by way of taxpayer largesse until it establishes a better track record. Principles dictate that no favors should be granted to a museum board incapable of establishing diplomatic relations with the four biggest collectors in town. Principles dictate that we learn the lesson of public land givaways from the example of Parrot Jungle - who said thank you sort of like the parrots do, with $25 admission fees. Principles dictate that the city ought to get out of the public cultural facilities business in light of the Performing Arts Center debacle - not just the mismanagement and cost overruns, but the fact that at this stage of construction, the building looks like a turtle that someone hacked in half with an ax.
But in the Magic City, principles demand too much.
We should regard this as a totally self-interested project designed to coddle the interests of some rich, ambitious people, like the American Airlines Arena. (Actually, that Manhattan Project ought to design an Architectonica design-seeking missile.) But the interests of these particular rich, ambitious people intersect those of us plain old art lovers to a greater degree than a lot of other rich, ambitious people in town. Remember, back in 2000 when this whole Museum Park deal got going, its supporters first had to outmaneuver the folks who wanted to build another baseball stadium on the site. Putting museums there locks those people out for good. Museum Park aspires to have a sculpture garden, so unlike the AAA, they have a reason to take up a role of stewardship for the surrounding green space. Two cultural facilities on that spot starts to make development on Biscayne Boulevard between 2nd and 15th Street look less harebrained, may revitalize downtown, and increases the likelihood that the elimination of the nightmare that is I-395 will come to pass. The design itself avoids architectural grandstanding, which caused much of the $67 million cost overrun at the PAC (the builder couldn't work with the starchitect's drawings), and ought to be easier to put up than the PAC. Beats the heck out of a baseball stadium.
MAM director Suzanne Delehanty is nearing a station of life at which one might consider retirement. Her logical in-house successor is Senior Curator Peter Boswell, who brought in some of the heaviest hitters ever to grace MAM - he oversaw the Brice Marden and Chuck Close shows (and, I believe, the Martin Puryear show as well). His aesthetic tastes run towards the sensible and sensitive. Putting a big museum under him, whether he becomes director or not, would provide the local art world with a boon.
So I'm going with it. Worst case scenario, which won't happen: MAM totally implodes, we fail to rehabilatate a defunct greenspace, clog the city with another disused building (what's one more?), waste a ton of money (what's another few hundred million?), and go from #1 poorest city in the US to #1 poorest city in the US. In the meantime, Head Start, Fairchild Garden, the new Coral Gables Museum, and many other worthy endeavors get some serious dough.
Best case scenario, which could happen: we get a big new art museum, a reason to set foot into Bayfront Park, and assurance that nothing totally stupid (baseball stadium) will happen to the site.
Just one thing - someone must bridge this senseless chasm between the Gang of Four (clans Margulies, de la Cruz, Scholl, and Rubell) and MAM. If we take Margulies at his word, the Board needs to enact major revisions.