Perez Art Museum Miami Opens at Last

When Pérez Art Museum Miami debuts this week, director Thom Collins says, it'll be an arts facility unlike anything else in the world.

The building, which will open with more than 500 pieces on display, including paintings, sculptures, and other mediums, is itself a work of art, Collins says — the largest, most expensive, and most buzzed-about masterpiece to debut during this year's Miami Art Week.

"PAMM was specifically designed to become a cultural hub at the heart of the city. Rather than a structure which isolates viewers from the physical and social fabric of Miami and from one another, Herzog & de Meuron's building is in every sense open — a comfortable public gathering space where people, art, and nature come together in surprising and stimulating ways," Collins says of the cutting-edge art palace. "With its vertical gardens and lush vegetation, and its numerous, carefully located windows, which allow for natural light and stunning views of the surrounding park, city, and bay, the building offers novel experiences wedded to the novel ideas that animate our exhibition and education programs."

Buzz about the museum's opening is off the charts, with the entire city invited to join the celebration free of charge Wednesday, December 4, through Sunday, December 8, even as Art Basel hits a fever pitch. And like the building itself, PAMM's impressive roster of debut exhibits has been organized to reflect Miami's distinctive social and cultural dynamics and position as a global hub.

Headlining PAMM's vibrant raft of offerings is Chinese über-artist Ai Weiwei, who was a consultant on Beijing's iconic "Bird's Nest" stadium, also designed by Herzog & de Meuron, for the 2008 Olympics. "Ai Weiwei: According to What?" marks the first major international survey of the influential artist's multifaceted practice.

The sprawling retrospective will feature Ai's work of the past 20 years, ranging from photography to the large-scale sculptures for which the artist is best known. The exhibit will include a towering wall of his trademark tangled bicycles, created specifically for the PAMM debut.

Also on tap is "Amelia Peláez: The Craft of Modernity," a focused assessment of Amelia Peláez del Casal (1896-1968), one of the most important Cuban painters of the modernist era. Peláez is best known for her vibrant and colorful compositions that border on the abstract while capturing the well-defined nature of Havana's traditional domestic interiors.

Situated in six galleries across two of PAMM's floors, "Americana" is a thematically displayed, long-running showcase of artwork culled from the museum's permanent collection. It features works produced by artists from North, South, and Central America and the Caribbean. The incisive overview of PAMM's holdings is presented in sections titled Desiring Landscape, Sources of the Self, Formalizing Craft, Progressive Forms, Corporal Violence, and Commodity Culture, combining works created over the past 80 years across the hemisphere at historical turning points.

PAMM also boasts four site-specific installations created by its inaugural group of resident artists, who worked with the museum on their commissioned projects throughout the past year. The quartet includes Morocco's Bouchra Khalili, Israel's Yael Bartana, Poland's Monika Sosnowska, and Hew Locke, a British artist of Guyanese descent, whose provocative installation For Those in Peril on the Sea, suspended from the ceiling, gives the impression of a mass exodus, referencing both Miami's historic immigration experience and the institution's proximity to the ocean.

"PAMM's inaugural exhibitions should be immediately relevant to and exciting for local audiences, while offering a programmatic vision that will seem novel and fresh to our international visitors," Collins promises.