Miami Beach’s Expanded Bass Museum of Art Reopens

Undergoing a $12 million renovation by David Gauld, the new space will open by the end of the month

Miami's newly renovated Bass Museum of Art will debut October 8.
Photo: Robin Hill
The Bass Museum occupies a landmark former public library designed by Russell Pancoast in the 1930s. Photo: Courtesy of the Bass Museum

The Bass Museum in Miami, which occupies a landmark former public library designed by Russell Pancoast in the 1930s, has been undergoing a $12 million renovation since 2015. The museum was founded in 1964, and the first major expansion was done in 2001 by renowned Tokyo architect Arata Isozaki and his former employee and protégé, New York architect David Gauld. Now Gauld, who launched his own practice in 1997, has spearheaded the latest renovation, scheduled to be completed on October 29, and increased the exhibition space by almost 50 percent.

An architectural rendering of the new main staircase. Photo: © David Gauld Architect, 2016.

Those who have visited the Bass in recent years will have noted the monumental ramp that formed a passageway from the original building to the new wing, built in 2001. While the new wing was impressive, a large part of the museum’s potential exhibition space wasn’t being used. Large-format works were installed in the area during special exhibitions, but as an architectural element, it had more form than function.

A detail from Rondinone’s vocabulary of solitude, 2014, which will be on display as the inaugural exhibition. Photo: Courtesy of the artist and the Bass Museum of Art

For the renovation, David Gauld worked closely with Isozaki, now 86, visiting him in Tokyo several times during the process and receiving his blessing to update the space. A new central staircase has been constructed, along with a visitors’ lounge, café, and lobby where the ramp once existed, and on the second floor, a new gallery has been incorporated into a pre-existing exhibition space. The renovation was done without interrupting the original footprint or external aesthetic of the building.

“Years ago, I went to an exhibition at the Nezu Museum in Tokyo, and it was about the particularly Japanese attitude towards transforming objects,” said Gauld. “There was pottery that had been broken and mended, scrolls that had been cut up and reframed or presented in a different way. The Japanese feel that when something changes over time, through different conditions, that it actually adds to its value. I understood then why Isozaki was so open-minded to having this project changed 20 years later.”

A model of one of the rooms in Ugo Rondinone’s exhibition on display at the artist’s Harlem studio, New York. Photo: Lucy Rees

Of the many improvements he made to the building, Gauld says the new courtyard is his favorite. The addition of a 30-foot wall of windows encloses the space under a roof that bridges the courtyard and the Pancoast building. All the vertical connections were made in glass while the ceiling features large, glowing LED orbs that will function as trompe l’oeil of the windows, visually expanding the new interior. Intended for events, the space will feel open and allow views of the exterior.

The first exhibition, titled “good evening beautiful blue,” will be by celebrated Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, whose work already features prominently in the collection. One of his iconic multi-colored stone totems, Miami Mountain, was unveiled on the front lawn during last year’s Art Basel Miami Beach. This will be Rondinone’s first solo museum show in the U.S. and will take over the Bass’s second floor. There is also a concurrent show by on-the-rise African artist Pascale Marthine Thayou. A self-titled solo show by Mika Rottenberg opens during Art Basel Miami Beach. Along with physical renovations, the Bass is expanding its permanent collection under the directorship of Silvia Karman Cubiñá.

Pascale Marthine Tayou, Pascale’s eggs, 2014-2015, an exhibition view from 2015. Photo: Courtesy of the artist and the Bass Museum of Art
Mika Rottenberg, Lips (study #3), 2016. Single channel video installation, mixed media. Edition of 6 with 1 AP. Photo: Pierre Le Hors. Courtesy of Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York

“good evening beautiful blue” is on view from October 29, 2017 through February 19, 2018.

“Pascale Marthine Tayou: Beautiful” is on view from October 29, 2017 through April 2, 2018

“Mika Rottenberg” is on view from December 7, 2017 through April 30, 2018.