Via Brett Sokol for New York Magazine:
If the glory, freneticism, excess, and sunny evanescence of the current contemporary-art boom has a symbolic home, itâ€™s Miami Beach. Thanks to the appearance of an exponentially more fabulous Art Basel Miami Beach fair each December since 2002, the once-tattered resort town has gained a new sense of itself as an aesthetic destination that goes beyond the mere appreciation of a set of well-wrought silicone implants. Now members of the local Establishment, enamored with their smart new friendsâ€”collectors, artists, and curators from around the worldâ€”want to see if they can get them to stick around. Itâ€™s partly about wishing to be taken seriously as a cultural alternative to New York and Los Angeles. But itâ€™s also a bet that fertilizing the creative class is good economic-development policyâ€”especially in a city hit hard by the real-estate meltdown. Which is why a local developer and collector, Craig Robins, is starting a free postgraduate art program in Miami.
Heâ€™s not alone in this municipal-improvement gambit: Terry Riley, a former Museum of Modern Art curator, moved down two years ago to be director of the Miami Art Museum and oversee building its $220 million Herzog & de Meuronâ€“designed home. Riley cites the example of Spain and its Guggenheim Bilbao as a model: â€œThey wanted to catch up, join the European Union, and transform the country. They realized that to do that, they had to go from being a cheap vacation destination of sangrÃa, sand, and sun to a place that could compete with the rest of Europe as a major cultural destination.â€
Thatâ€™s what Robins, a mam trustee, wants most of all, too. â€œMiami is on the verge, but we need to keep stimulating creativity,â€ he says, rising from his office desk and passing a John Baldessari paintingâ€”a dead plant emblazoned with the credo that always happens. (â€œLooking at it keeps me sharp.â€) â€œI felt that the only thing missing was a graduate school. Our artists get to the next level and have to leave Miami if they want to continue their education. Why should we lose them to Yale?â€ In fact, the current Whitney Biennial features three Miami artistsâ€”William Cordova, Adler Guerrier, and Bert Rodriguezâ€”more than any other city except New York and L.A.
The son of a local developer, Robins is a Miami Beach native whoâ€™s always had an interest in art (he wanted to trade in his graduation Rolex for a Salvador DalÃ print). He learned that thereâ€™s added value in a cleaned-up bohemia. â€œEverybody thought these properties were useless,â€ he recalls of South Beachâ€™s cheaply purchased Art Deco buildings, many of which his company restored as boutique hotels and chic retail strips. Artists were a key part of the mix that revived the area: Courtesy of Robins, many found themselves with subsidized studio spaces or special commissionsâ€”enough that in 1992, this magazine christened the resort â€œSoHo in the Sun.â€ Art has been part of his real-estate strategy ever since, from the $250 million Aqua residences, bedecked with work by Guillermo Kuitca and Richard Tuttle, to Miamiâ€™s design district, where the Robins-founded Design Miami fair (in partnership with the owner of Art Basel) has drawn crowds to otherwise deserted streets. Not coincidentally, Robins is the districtâ€™s biggest landlord.
This area will also be home to his new program, headily named Art + Research. If all goes according to plan, itâ€™ll open in September 2009 with eight-to-twelve â€œresident artistsâ€â€”who will receive full scholarships, studio space, housing, and stipends. They hope to expand it later. The University of Miamiâ€“operated venture already has an impressive roster of New Yorkers onboard. Founding faculty include artists Liam Gillick and Rirkrit Tiravanija, both of whom teach in Columbiaâ€™s M.F.A. program; Yale instructor Steven Henry Madoff; and White Columns gallery director Matthew Higgs (they will all squeeze Miami tutorials into their current gigs). Former Columbia art-school dean Bruce Ferguson consulted on it. And for added star power, sitting on the board of Robinsâ€™s nonprofit Anaphiel organization to guide the school are former Whitney director (and Robinsâ€™s cousin) David Ross, John Baldessari, and exâ€“Art Basel director Sam Keller. Robins will kick in $2 million to help fund Art + Research for its first four years, and the University of Miami has promised to help raise another $2 million.
Unlike at Columbia and Yale, there wonâ€™t be any formal M.F.A. degrees awarded to those who complete the two-year program, which will revolve around a topical theme that changes with each entering biannual class. Accordingly, donâ€™t expect to see the â€œresident artistsâ€ hunker down in front of easels and live models. â€œMost art is conceptually based now. Itâ€™s art based on an idea,â€ says Madoff. â€œIt didnâ€™t turn out that the twentieth centuryâ€™s most influential artist was Picasso. It turned out it was Duchamp â€¦ We donâ€™t need to do foundation courses, how to draw, how to sculpt â€¦ You donâ€™t need three credits for American Art History From 1945 to the Present.â€
Read the full article here