Every so often Miami gets it right, and that is clearly the case with the new Pérez Art Museum Miami, or PAMM. Completed just in time for the December Art Basel fair, the building itself—120,000-square-feet inside and 80,000-square-feet outside—is a masterpiece worth visiting.
 
Designed by the renowned Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, PAMM sits on an elevated platform that overlooks the waters of Government Cut, with its causeways, bridges and cruise ships. A vast canopy creates a shaded veranda open to light and breezes, surrounded by landscaping and terraces. Wide stairs connect the platform to a waterfront promenade, creating a continuous open space. Native tropical plants hang from the canopy in long, green fingers.
 
On the main floor of the three-floor structure there are vast exhibit halls with floors of blond wood and walls of industrial concrete. Upstairs galleries are more finished, with polished stone floors and banks of ceiling lights. Overall it is an amazingly pleasant space.
 
The permanent collection, such as it is, was not much in evidence during our recent visit. Yes, there were single works by Botero, Matta, Bedia and Torres-Garcia, but otherwise scant evidence of the Latin American art donations from Jorge Pérez, for whom the museum was controversially named.
 
However, this absence was more than compensated for by a substanial array of temporary exhibits, including nearly 40 works by Cuban painter Amelia Peláez (through Feb. 23), a fascinating selection of documents from the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry (through May 25) and a whimsical installation of ship replicas by Hew Locke entitled “For Those in Peril on the Sea” (also through May 25).
 

Artwork and sculptures by Ai Weiwei, one of China’s most famous contemporary artists.

 
The most interesting is a large display of works by Ai Weiwei, one of China’s most famous—and provocative—contemporary artists. This combination of large-scale sculptures, photographs and videos is the first major U.S. retrospective of his work, and something of a coup for PAMM (through Mar. 16). 
 
As a political artist, many of Weiwei’s works challenge the status quo in China, as well as push questions about Chinese identity and the significance of everyday objects. His “Jade Handcuffs,” created with ancient stone carving methods, reference his (and others’) incarceration by Chinese police. His “Stacked” exhibit creates a maze from bicycles—long the only mass transit in China—built by the Forever Company starting in the 1940s. More controversial still is a metal floor sculpture created from the re-bars of a collapsed school building which killed hundreds of children, and his “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn,” the famous photos of Weiwei dropping an ancient vase to question the value and meaning of original art work.
 
So get to the PAMM as soon as you can. It a beautiful facility, and with roughly half the cost covered by Miami-Dade County, it’s a model  of private/public collaboration at its best. 
 
 

Pérez Art Museum

1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm, till 9pm Thurs.
Admission: $12 adults, $8 seniors, students & youth (7-18), free for kids under 7.
 
 

Photos By daniel azoulay