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Last But Not Least

The Miami Art Museum says goodbye to its current location with an exhibition that highlights the cultural journey of its most ardent benefactor.

Pedro Figari’s “Gato,” undated

Amelia Peláez’s “Autorretrato,” 1935

Cundo Bermudez’s “Mujer Tomando Café,” 1994


Wifredo Lam’s “La Table Blanche,” 1939.


What better way to bridge the Miami Art Museum’s evolution into the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) at its future bayfront home than with the original location’s last exhibit showcasing 45 of the 110 works donated to the institution by local real estate developer, art collector and new namesake Jorge Pérez. On view from March 15 to June 2, Frames of Reference: Latin American Art from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection gives a glimpse of what’s to come when these pieces, conservatively estimated at $20 million and comprising approximately 10 percent of the total permanent collection, are interspersed throughout PAMM when it opens this fall.

Much like the Bass Museum’s new mission links its Renaissance and Baroque foundations with contemporary art, PAMM’s permanent collection will be installed thematically rather than geographically, according to Chief Curator Tobias Ostrander.

“Miami is an international city whose residents share many common threads,” says Ostrander, “so this approach made more sense.”

The curator’s intentional use of the word “reference” in the show’s title reflects Pérez’s purpose and growth as a collector. Born to Cuban parents in Argentina, the head of the Related Group focused on Latin American art upon realization he would probably never live in those countries. In addition to strengthening Pérez’s cultural roots, the term also alludes to the museum’s identity. “Since these works are some of our oldest and most important, they’re touchstones or frames of reference, too,” adds Ostrander.

Although not all of the 110 pieces in the exhibition are of Latin American provenance, Ostrander chose to highlight that aspect of the show. Within that context, artworks unfold as a thematic, art history-heavy timeline of the genre via landscapes, images of country and town life, still lifes and abstracts.

“What’s really interesting about them is that Pérez acquired pieces by artists on the brink of reaching their mature styles,” says Ostrander, citing the works that were made when young Latin American artists living in Europe were influenced by that continent’s masters, including Matisse and Mondrian. For instance, “Crucificción” by Roberto Matta Echaurren, a Chilean surrealist who spent several years in Paris, holds significance for its prominence through inclusion in retrospectives and as one of his initial shifts from works on paper to oil painting. Similarly, “Construcción con dos Mascaras” by Uruguay native Joaquín Torres García, who is considered the grandfather of Latin American constructivism, was painted late in life. Ostrander also selected Cuban artist Amelia Peláez’s self-portrait circa 1935 for its contribution to the genre and concurrent resurgence. “Miami has always supported her, but she’s having a major rediscovery.”

Rediscovery and reference—sounds like the MAM to PAMM transition is on the right path.