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Perez Collection Disappoints Some: Buyers Remorse?

The controversy over the Miami Art Museum, which traded its name for $35 million to Jorge Perez in 2011, had died down. Trustees who quit over the decision and outside opponents (including me) had no choice but to grin and bear it: the $220 million project proceeded despite complaints that the Perez gift was not large enough in the whole context of the building. Nor were questions about the quality of the art he was giving as part of the gift ever answered.

roberto-matta-315pxNow they are coming back. Since March 14, the museum has been showing a selection of the works Perez donated — the first look by the public. Frames of Reference, on view through June 2, includes some 45 works by the likes of “José Bedia, Beatriz González, Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta Echaurren, Diego Rivera, and Joaquín Torres-Garcia, among others,” according to the press release (which, by the way, pegs his gift now at $40 million). It’s the last show in the museum’s current space; it moves to the new Herzog & de Meuron building in December.

The exhibit has sparked two responses. In the Miami Herald, Anne Tschida put the show in context:

…this is not a complete survey of Latin American art, and it should not be viewed as such. These are framed references to the origins of certain genres of modern and contemporary Latin painting, mostly figurative, from lands below our border; they are also specifically references to the world of the man who collected them.

…What jumps out next is that this doesn’t look like a typical Miami show. Our emphasis and strength has been contemporary art — often art made in the decade of this century. Because of the newness of our institutions and even our art scene, we rarely see big, sprawling shows focused on earlier eras.

Tschida likes some of the works, particularly Matta’s Crucificción (above), but notes that others, specifically the early works by Lam and Rivera, are not top-rate. But she’s willing to wait to see the remaining 65 paintings in the gift before making a judgement.
Over at the Miami New Times, however, art critic Carlos Suarez De Jesus is not happy. He calls the show a “thorough sampling” of the 110, and says “it also raises worrying questions about whether the Pérez Art Museum Miami’s permanent collection will match its world-class facility…the collection lacks the cutting-edge punch the museum will need to equal the excitement surrounding the new building on Biscayne Bay designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron.”
He too singles out the Lam and Rivera as second-rate, says the exhibit “doesn’t inspire great hope for MAM’s new permanent collection” and adds “Inside MAM’s old home on Flagler, viewers are left with the impression of a collection checked off a wish list by someone with a picky taste for the traditional rather than the adventurous.”
I would think that the museum would have put out the best from the 110-painting gift in this exhibit, considering the questions the public had. For now, that gives the edge to the view of Suarez De Jesus.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Miami Art Museum 

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