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To Go To This Miami Art Museum, You Have To Sign Up In Advance

Alan McCollum Exhibit ICA Miami 2020
Photo by Zachary Balber
via ICA Miami
The exhibit "Allan McCollum: Works Since 1969" marks the Wednesday reopening of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.

A Miami-Dade art museum is reopening as COVID-19 cases decline in South Florida.

This story was updated at 10:45 a.m. on Sept. 4, 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a major blow to local cultural programming. Just Wednesday, organizers of Art Basel Miami Beach announced that this year's event has been canceled.

Cultural programs are adjusting to virtual experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. And many museums across South Florida have been closed since March.

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A few galleries and outdoor exhibits have reopened recently. In Miami-Dade, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami is taking this next step as coronavirus cases decline locally and around the state.

ICA Miami is opening back up to members only Wednesday and to the general public Thursday. WLRN’s Alexander Gonzalez spoke with Alex Gartenfeld, the museum’s artistic director, about welcoming back visitors after several months on hiatus.

WLRN: Why is ICA Miami deciding to reopen now?

ALEX GARTENFELD: I think so many of us have experienced, not just an absence of art, but also an absence of physical contact with artworks — this idea of a shared space that a museum represents. The fact that we have an open-air sculpture garden where people can view art, but also reconnect with some of their neighbors, is definitely one of the reasons that I'm so delighted that we can reopen our doors now.

What safety measures is the museum taking to protect guests and employees?

To come through our doors, you'll need to have a timed ticket. All you do is go online, and from there you can select an hour-long time period during which you can enter the museum. We’re going to ask that everybody who comes to ICA is bringing a mask and following some of our instructions around circulation and safe viewership. Of course, everyone is social distancing on the premises.

What about pre-screening guidelines?

Before you sign up for a ticket, please ensure that you have not been exposed to somebody who is currently experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and that you're not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 yourself.

What challenges did ICA Miami face during the time the museum was closed — a period when people couldn’t come to see the art in person?

We closed our galleries in the middle of March, and immediately we were faced with the question of how we share our art and education programs with a broader public without a space. We've embarked upon a robust video program, in partnership with the Knight Foundation. We commissioned eight new works of video art by artists living and working in Miami.

We also took all of our classes and curriculum online, and we've seen an incredible response in terms of enrollment, and our ability not just to reach and touch people in our community, but also to reach new audiences the world over.

ICA Miami is free to the public. How does that funding model play a role in being able to reopen sooner?

Being free is certainly a passport for us and it brings us to communities who might not otherwise have access to contemporary art. And perhaps it's possible that the pandemic is one such occasion. Thanks to the generosity of our donors and major funders of the organization, we don't necessarily rely upon a box office to reopen. We're able to make decisions of our own reopening.

What are the new exhibitions that mark the museum’s reopening?

We are hosting the first U.S. museum survey of Allan McCollum. He’s an iconic artist who’s been working since the late ‘60s but never had an exhibition of this magnitude at a museum in the U.S. Some of his most well known works are called “Plaster Surrogates.” We have hundreds of them, ceramic picture frames hanging on the wall.

A green vase sculpture is placed in front of a drawing series by artist Allan McCollum.
Photo by Zachary Balber
"Drawings" by Allan McCollum at ICA Miami. The exhibit opens Wednesday along with the museum's reopening since the coronavirus shutdowns in March.

On the ground floor, we're opening an exhibition entitled “The Goat” for Tomás Esson. Originally from Cuba, he’s an artist living and working in Miami. His painting is incredibly emotional, expressive, but also provocative and political.

This is his first museum project anywhere, actually. We have three galleries dedicated to three decades of his work. He also created for us a new wallpaper — that is autobiographical, I would say. It includes symbols throughout his career combined into a new mosaic-like work.

Why did you choose these artists for the reopening? Or was this part of the plan before the pandemic?

We plan our exhibitions years in advance. McCollum’s exhibition has been in development for five years. I hope that his work is timely and relevant. I think it is. His work is all about how collections create meaning in communities. Over the last 20 years, he's been doing research into museums all over the country, looking at how people's lives and identities are defined by the collections that exist there.

Correction: In an earlier version of this Q&A, Alex Gartenfeld, the artistic director at ICA Miami, said one of Allan McCollum's projects was a collaboration with a button maker in Maine "to create shapes that would exist for every person in the town in which that button maker lived."

WLRN received an email Friday from McCollum. He said that the button project took place in Bend, Oregon, and there was no specific quantity reference to people living there. The Maine projects were separate, involving four home-based craftspeople in different towns in the state.

According to McCollum, the reference to creating "shapes for every person in the town" relates to another project that involved making thousands of prints for a township in upstate New York.

This interview is part of “Intermission,” WLRN’s series looking at how South Florida’s arts community is coping during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you’ve got a story for us, please send an email to talktous@wlrnnews.org, with the word “Intermission” in the subject line.