Welcome to Miami and the Beaches has a dolphin on its cover. This tourist booklet is full of ads about shopping, places to eat, LGBT concerns, and attractions like the Jungle Queen Riverboat. It doesn’t mention what I consider the best thing to see in Miami Beach, Wolfsonian-FIU. FIU stands for Florida International University, and the Wolfsonian is a very different kind of museum in South Beach’s Art Deco District where a masterpiece art deco decoration over a fountain greets you as you enter. Miami Beach elders saved an unusual building that has become a 5 Compass attraction.
The Wolfsonian is lucky to survive in a sand, surf, spa and spend atmosphere. This South Beach’s art deco area is hot, hot, hot. But Miami Beach once had a large retired community. Retirees with an average age of 67 created this research center that opened to the public in 1995. The average age of residents in South Beach is 32 now and dropping by the day.
The Wolfsonian’s mission is to illustrate and preserve great designs created between 1884 and 1945. Its collection has grown to 120,000 objects from the Industrial Revolution until the end of World War II. The permanent collection is exhibited on the 5th floor. The ones above it have temporary shows like the excellent “Modern Dutch Design” that closes on June 11, 2017. It contains objects like this illuminated mosque created to be an advertising display for a Dutch tea and coffee importer. It may or may not be out when you visit. Ruth & I studied it with a couple from its source, The Netherlands. They just happened to be in the area, learned about this show, and were enjoying it immensely. If a place I grow to love contains a visitor comment book, I really enjoy looking through it. On one page was this, “Sooooooooooooooooooo Cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I”m going to Amsterdam this summer”
The Wolfsonian’s permanent collection can be almost anything. In total delight I studied vacuum cleaners, paintings like the disorienting “Suicide with Skyscrapers”, wall panels from an ocean liner that no longer exists, World’s Fair memorabilia, etc. This museum’s considerable collection contains works from many countries like The Soviet Union and Japan. But most of the stuff I really cared about sprang from American industrial design.
The decorative arts are on vivid display in The Wolfsonian. Because art changes as society does, it’s a special treat to see an era frozen in time; and the fact that it included art nouveau gives this museum an added dimension. In its list of spring offerings The Wolfsonian’s Director, Tim Rodgers, cleverly changes Mies van der Rohe’s famous quote to “More is more.” In The Wolfsonian, he’s right.