Describing Labor

Written by judyholm on . Posted in Museums and Private Collections


Describing Labor

by Judy Holm



Describing Labor is a thought-provoking, emotionally-charged art exhibition commissioned by The Wolfsonian-Florida International University in Miami Beach Florida, created by artist Esther Shalev-Gerz.


Occupying the entire seventh floor of the museum, the project actually begins in the elevator; with the background voice of museum founder Mitchell Wolfson contributing to the experience of “describing labor.”


The exhibition is brilliantly constructed, creating direct and relevant contemporary content that links to the heritage of the museum as well as to the historical place of manual labor around the globe- from the period of 1885 to 1945. 


Shalev-Gerz theorizes that this period of time, roughly beginning with the industrial revolution and ending after the Second World War, was the last time that laborers were conveyed and depicted as prominent subjects of art, and with the emotion of “heroism.”


At the core of the exhibition are art objects relating to the figure of laborers during that stretch of time.  Approximately forty pieces of art –ranging from paintings and prints to sculptures and photographs (mostly belonging to the private collection of the Wolfsonian), were carefully selected by Shalev-Gerz as the integral layer for the exhibition.  She then recruited twenty-four people from the art industry as participants.  These artists, curators and professors were each asked to choose one of the pieces, based on their personal connection and artistic bias. 


Subsequently, the participants were asked to locate a place to photograph their selection within the massive archives of the museum, which stores over 100,000 objects.  The final photograph of each art work renders each piece indelibly connected to its surrounding framework, and to its unique curator- creating a link of the historical art work and depiction of labor with the present.  These twenty-four photographs, shot with depth and detail, in predominantly dark setting, create the next layer of the exhibition.  The individual works are also presented as an ensemble, on one wall within the museum. The contrast between the framed images in a free-form collage displayed a stark white wall and each image ensconced in a powerful photographic dark frame is one of the brilliant aspects of the exhibition.


As alluded to in the title of the exhibition, the project contains layers and subtle messages formatting the depiction of the theme.  Each of the twenty four participants is individually interviewed and discusses the theme of labor as well as the reason for the selection of their piece.  The interviews are shot at close range with a black background, and run in a video loop side-by-side with another image scanning in detail their individually selected work of art.  The juxtaposition of the voice and expression of the individual participant with the intentionally discordant view of the art work perhaps reiterates the idea that “describing labor” is not merely a simple answer derived from the presence of its objects.




Each resulting tableau depicts an entire story about the participants’ interpretation of the theme – choosing different aspects and emotions connected to labor.  Social injustice and disparity, subjugation, heroism, monotony, stoicism, solemnity, power and strength are just some of the emotions evoked in the exhibition.  The observer may reflect on how and why the concept and practice of labor have shifted so dramatically over time.  A Shalev-Gerz points out, we are now visually flooded with the faces of politicians, celebrities and athletes, but the visualization of those who create objects has all but disappeared from art and from prominent media.


Museum Director, Cathy Leff muses, “Describing Labor insists that the luster of things does not lie hidden beneath the patina of time; rather, the patina itself holds latent meanings awaiting activation.”


The relationship between words and images is integral to the exhibition.  In discussing the work with assistant curator Matthew Abbess, he draws attention to the concept of art “speaking to us.”  How and why different people see art in a certain light, and respond viscerally from their own experiences and historical perspective is often what connects us to history, or a physical object or image.


Describing Labor shares with the viewers a panoply of ideas, strong visual images, and with intellectual stimulation and exploration of the theme of labor, it challenges the audience to consider the changing role and voice of labor over time, and how people today relate to the past. 


The exhibition which debuted during the week of Art Basel Miami Beach on December 3, 2012 will remain open to the public through April 7, 2013.

Museums, Collections and Group Collaborations

Written by judyholm on . Posted in Museums and Private Collections

The heart and soul of the Miami art scene is perhaps best exemplified in its museums, private collections and collaborative projects.  The locations included in this guide showcase some of the loveliest jewels of the metropolitan area, and are grouped together because, unlike the galleries, their art is not for sale.

The Museums

The art museums featured in this guide are diverse and unique- as is discerned by their architecture and their art.  Each of these preeminent museums offers a different position in terms of their mission statement, collections, and exhibitions.  The ensemble creates a strong and dynamic presence in the art world: Bass Museum of Art, Miami Art Museum (MAM – which will transition to PAM, the Perez Art Museum of Miami in late 2013), Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA),  The Wolfsonian– Florida International University (FIU).

Other niche museums which grace the Miami landscape are: Frost (FIU), Jewish Museum (FIU), Lowe Museum of Art (University of Miami), and Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.


Passionate and Philanthropic Patrons

In addition to the access to beautiful museums, Miami residents and visitors are fortunate to have the deep support and passion of some extremely philanthropic art patrons – all who dedicate an incredible amount of time and money to their collections and foundations, which are open to the public.

These four collections and foundations represent not only a generosity of spirit, but an avant-garde and visionary leadership in the contemporary art world.  We are so privileged and appreciate the dedication of these inestimable patron families of the arts: Cisneros Fontenals, De la Cruz; Margulies, and Rubbell.

Visiting the Museums and Private Collections 

Discovering the artistic jewels of Miami is always such a pleasure. A particularly dynamic way to tour them is through the Art Concierge Private Services and Art Tours.  We provide customized private tours and connections to the inner art circles of Miami.  We can orchestrate personalized tours  and guide you through the best of the current exhibitions.

Arts Education and Support

The role of educating our children about the arts is paramount to the future of a better society.    Understanding the history and connection of the arts throughout the world should be an integral part of education.

Funding of the arts in the public school systems has been dramatically cut over the years, thus the importance of cultural  institutions that provide platforms of education grows commensurately.

As the federal, state and local governments provide an increasingly smaller percentage of their respective budgets to support the arts, it is critical for corporations and individuals to contribute as much as possible to the funding of all of our cultural organizations. Much of the funding of programs and exhibitions, as well as general operating costs, is reliant on the generosity and support of the community.




Written by judyholm on . Posted in Museums and Private Collections

Bass Museum of Art

2100 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139
tel +1 305 673 7530

View on map 

Miami Art Museum

101 West Flagler Street
Miami, FL 33130

tel +1 305 375 3000

View on map 

Museum of Contemporary Art Miami

Joan Lehman Building770 NE 125th Street
North Miami, FL 33161 
tel +1 305 893 6211

View on map 

The Wolfsonian, Florida International University

1001 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139
tel +1 305 531 1001

 View on map 

Niche Art Museums

3101 Northeast 1st Avenue,

Miami, FL

(520) 529-1108
The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum

Florida International University
10975 S.W. 17th Street
Miami, FL, 33199

tel +1 305 348 2890  

View on map 

Jewish Museum of Florida (FIU)

301 Washington Avenue

Miami Beach, FL 33139
tel +1 305 672 5044

 View on map

Lowe Art Museum (University of Miami)

1301 Stanford Drive  Coral Gables, FL 33146
tel +1 305 284 3535

 View on map 

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

3251 South Miami Avenue
Miami, FL 33129

tel +1 305 250 9133

 View on map 







Private Collections and Collective Collaborations

Written by judyholm on . Posted in Museums and Private Collections

Private Collections

Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO)

1018 North Miami Avenue
Miami, FL 33136

tel +1 305 455 3380

View on map 


Rubell Family Collection

95 NW 29th Street
Miami, FL 33127

tel +1 305 573 6090

View on map 

De la Cruz Collection

23 NE 41st Street

Miami, FL 33137
tel +1 305 576 6112

View on map 


The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse

591 NW 27th Street

Miami, FL 33127

tel +1 305 576 1051

View on map 



Collective Collaborations

The Bakehouse Art Complex

561 NW 32nd Street
Miami, FL 33127 
tel +1 305 576 2828

View on map



1035 N Miami Avenue, Suite 200
Miami, FL 33136
tel +1 786 347 2360

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Locust Projects

105 Northwest 23rd Street
Miami, FL 33127

tel +1 305 576 8570

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Miami Beach Urban Studios

Florida International University- College of Architecture + The Arts

420 Lincoln Rd. Suite 440
Miami Beach, FL 33139

tel +1 305 535 1463

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Beauty at the Bass

Written by judyholm on . Posted in Museums and Private Collections

Beauty at the Bass – More than a Pretty Façade

Excerpts from 4/5/12 Miami Beach News Article, by Judy Holm

The Bass Museum of Art is the iconic bright and shiny diamond of the metro Miami art world.  Rising majestically from its glorious location on Collins Avenue, it represents all that Miami has become in the milieu of fine art and innovative programming.

Located on the site originally built to house the Miami Beach Public Library and Art Center, the building was designed in 1930 by Russell Pancoast, grandson of Miami Beach pioneer John A. Collins.  First opening its doors in 1963, The Bass Museum displayed a private collection of Renaissance and Baroque works of art that was donated to the City of Miami Beach by John and Johanna Bass. Vastly evolving from its founding collection, the Bass Museum of Art currently offers a dynamic year-round calendar of exhibitions exploring the connections between contemporary art and works of art from its permanent collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings, sculpture, textiles, Apulian Vessel Gallery and Egyptian Gallery. Artists’ projects, educational programs, lectures, and free family days complement the works on view.

Architect Arata Isozaki designed an addition to the museum between 1998 and 2002 that doubled its size from 15,000 to 35,000 square feet.  Most recently, the museum selected internationally acclaimed Oppenheim Architecture + Design to lead its first phase of design and renovation tied to the 2010 completion of Miami Beach’s Collins Park. Oppenheim redesigned and relocated the museum’s arrival area to flow from and into the new park on Collins Avenue.

Today, the museum thrives under the leadership of Board of Director President George Lindemann, and Silvia Karman Cubiñá, Executive Director and Chief Curator.   

With a mission “to inspire and educate by exploring the connections between our historical collections and contemporary art,” Silvia Karman Cubina reflects that “all art was once contemporary and inversely, that all contemporary works of art are part of a continuum of art history.”
Exhibitions at the Bass Museum present art in dynamic conversations spanning time, history and cultures. Their educational programs demonstrate that art is a catalyst for creativity and positive growth, especially in the area of early childhood education. The museum provides affordable resources for the teaching community, based on sound scholarship.

Education through art is paramount for our future.  At the Bass Museum, education is highlighted through some very innovative programs that allow adults and children as young as two years old to appreciate art and learn about its importance in our lives.


The Lindemann Family Creativity Center was  inaugurated in the Museum in January 2012. “Finally, we have a place to experiment, essentially create a laboratory for artistic experiments, where teachers, parents and children can be inspired to solve design problems and stimulate their imaginative energies. The specially designed work tables and art equipment make this classroom space unique in South Florida,” George Lindemann.

The Lindemann Family Creativity Center is the home of the museum’s IDEA@thebass programs of art classes and workshops.

IDEA@thebass stands for Identify, Discuss, Envision, Assess.

Developed in conjunction with  Stanford University’s acclaimed Institute of Design, IDEA classes employ a method of teaching known as  Design Thinking, an open ended method of problem solving that allows children to brainstorm, work in teams and engage in creative play.

Never too young…never too old

“Bass babies” and “bass buddies,” launched in February 2012, are programs designed for young children (ages two through four, and four through six, respectively).  These sessions are held semi-monthly throughout the spring, and are led by a Montessori teacher utilizing art as the outlet for creativity and positive reinforcement.

The Creativity Center is also offers Art Club for Adults, lectures, film screenings, and teacher training workshops. Additional children’s programs include pre-school art classes, after school, weekend and summer classes for children. The Children’s Trust Network will provide scholarships to those that qualify.

Furthering art education for all ages is vital – bravo to the Bass Museum for its wonderful contributions to our community. 

Admission to the museum and the Lindemann Family Creativity Center: Free for Miami Beach residents.  Cost for non-residents: adults $8, children and students $6, and children under 6 are free.  Museum hours, Wednesday through Sunday, noon until 5:00 p.m. Reservations are not required.

Bass Museum of Art, 2100 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach FL 33139,, 305.673.7530

Miami Beach Urban Studios (MBUS)

Written by judyholm on . Posted in Museums and Private Collections

Miami Beach Urban Studios (MBUS) – the New FIU Creative Think Tank

Excerpts from 3/7/12 Miami Beach News Article, by Judy Holm

MBUS, a new addition to The College of Architecture + the Arts of Florida International University (FIU), is home to some very exciting programs and innovative learning opportunities for its students. The College is comprised of seven departments, ranging from Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Interior Architecture to Art and Art History, Communication Arts, Music and Theatre.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Brian Schriner, Chair of our Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce Arts and Culture Council, and Dean of the College, about the Miami Beach Urban Studios (MBUS) in the newly acquired 16,000 square foot space at 420 Lincoln Rd.  Dr. Schriner explained that some of the reasons they have opened this satellite location is to integrate the Arts and Architecture students with the vibrant city of Miami Beach, and include practical experience via internships and community activities on Miami Beach.  Through this program, the students will acquire a very different perspective from their studies on the main campus location in Miami.

“In this international and creative environment, our faculty will collaborate with prominent artists,scholars, and designers to offer our students an exceptional educational experience that is truly Worlds Ahead,” Schriner said.

The building itself is located in the center of the pulse of Miami Beach – Lincoln Road, at the main “artery” of Washington Ave.  Creativity and artistic inspiration, paramount to every student in this College, are heightened by the energy and sensorial stimuli that abound in South Beach.

MBUS includes a public gallery, design studios, performance and rehearsal spaces, offices and class rooms.  It is a notably well-designed space, with synergies enveloping the activities and physical needs of the diverse practices.  For example, the rehearsal rooms are integral to the overall layout, yet allow for the requisite sound isolation from the surrounding student workspaces, which have an open format that is conducive to a more collaborative and multidisciplinary creative process.

One of the most exciting aspects of the MBUS is the new Office of Engaged Teaching, Scholarship, and Creative Activities (ETSCA), established by Dr. Schriner. 

The focus of the Office of ETSCA is to leverage the Arts to “create, innovate and inspire a more beautiful, sustainable, healthy, and just tomorrow.” It is committed to research and activities that will impact the health and sustainability of local and global communities; it will bring together various FIU offices, local governments, business leaders, students, alumni and faculty to accomplish its mission.

“The establishment of the new ETSCA will certainly prove to be of great benefit to not only Florida International University, but the entire local community,” said Schriner.

The access to this location on Lincoln Rd has been made possible by the generosity of Ambassador Paul L. Cejas, for whom the main campus Architecture School is named.  A strong supporter of FIU for over twenty years, Ambassador Cejas is strongly committed to the future development of the Arts and Architecture.  The new MBUS is an important testament to the possibilities of future innovations within these fields.

“Art and architecture are two passions of mine,” said Cejas.  “I’m also passionate about FIU and nothing bring me greater satisfaction than playing a part in having arts and the university come closer to our community in a way that enhances both.”

Each discipline in The College of Architecture + the Arts draws on creativity and the connection of the world via art.  The educational process draws from understanding the history of the respective subject matter, and bridging the present into the future of new developments.  What better place to learn and innovate than in the heart of Miami Beach? 


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