Vote paves way for Bass Museum to expand
By Christina Cepero Umpierre
The Bass Museum of Art on Miami Beach will close Sunday until fall 2016 to increase programming space by 47.5% on its existing footprint with a $7.5 million city grant.
The Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board voted 6-0 Tuesday to approve the partial demolition, renovation and expansion of the two-story structure at 2100 Collins Ave.
The interior reconfiguration involves replacing a ramp with a staircase and enclosing the courtyard and terrace to boost programmable space from 17,772 square feet to 26,212.
The Bass will add two galleries for a total of five and two classrooms for a total of three.
The museum attracted a record 65,000 visitors during its 50th anniversary year in 2014, doubling attendance in five years.
“We need our building to catch up with us,” said Silvia Karman Cubiñá, the museum’s executive director and chief curator since 2008.
An average of 300 people a week participate in the museum’s educational programs.
The redesign will include a reception area with a shop and added classroom space to offer more classes to more children and add an after-school program.
“We’re going to change the character of the visitor experience,” said Mrs. Cubiñá. “When we designed the building it was in a time when visitors came to museums in a very contemplative mode. They came to see art and they left.
“Now museums are asked to be places of entertainment, to have coffee, educational programs, be much more interactive.”
During construction, the museum will display contemporary art in the first floor lobby of the Miami Beach Regional Library across the street as well as outdoors in Collins Park outside its entrance.
“We’re going to be sharing resources,” said Jennifer Shipley, library branch manager. “I think it’s a positive situation.”
Miami-Dade County issued the Friends of the Bass Museum a temporary permit from September 2015 to September 2016 for bassX to display nine exhibits in the library’s first floor lobby and offer weekly programs in its upstairs classroom, including Bass Babies and portfolio classes.
The museum office will remain on site and summer camp will also be held at the Bass while the building is prepared for construction, which will start in mid-August.
Museum leaders are interviewing contractors this week.
The 2,000-piece collection is to be transported to a secured warehouse.
Designed in 1930 by Russell Pancoast, grandson of Miami Beach pioneer John A. Collins, the Art Deco building at 2100 Collins Ave. housed the Miami Beach Public Library and Art Center before the Bass opened there in 1964.
In 1978, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2002 the museum added 16,000 square feet designed by Japanese architect ArataIsozaki in collaboration with his New York partner David Gauld.
The Bass is again working with Mr. Isozaki and Mr. Gauld for its interior expansion.
“I’ve been to Tokyo three times to meet with him,” Mr. Gauld said. “He very much supports everything we’re doing.”
Miami Beach city planning staff recommended approval. Tracy Slavens, attorney for the Friends of the Bass Museum, said the museum agreed to city staff’s request to keep intact an original staircase, develop a lighting plan and ensure the coral stone west wall is protected.
“You’ve really brought the museum into its own,” said city historic preservation board member Jane Gross. “People who visit here now actually go to the museum.”
Gary Farmer, the city’s cultural affairs program manager, commended museum leadership for coming up with the plan to expand without building an addition, which would have cost $15 million.
The city commission approved the $7.5 million grant for the work from its capital budget in 2013.
The museum’s annual budget is $3 million, Mrs. Cubiñá said, adding that two-thirds comes from fundraising and the rest from municipal funds.
The City of Miami Beach owns the building and collection while a 26-member board runs the museum, which has 21 full-time employees and 1,200 members.
“They have really made a name for themselves in the national art world,” Mr. Farmer said.
Exhibits initiated at the Bass have gone to museums in Purchase, NY; Dallas, and Cincinnati.