Sometimes a single building can transform the image of a city. Despite the traumas, tantrums and cost overruns associated with its construction, the Sydney Opera House quickly came to symbolize a commitment to creativity and modernity. No longer a colonial outpost at the bottom of the world, Sydney was suddenly perceived as a dynamic Pacific Rim metropolis. The rusting steel town of Bilbao was similarly given an unexpected new identity by the titanium whorls of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim museum.
The debut of the Faena Forum in Miami Beach, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas at the behest of developer and hotelier Alan Faena, may not have quite the same revolutionary impact, but it is the latest stage of a developing trend. The past few years have seen Miami transformed from a crime-ridden place of few artistic pretensions into the creative hub of the Caribbean and Central America, as well as a city with increasingly strong connections to both Brazil and Argentina.
Miami’s new identity as a creative hot spot is often dated to the first Art Basel held in Miami Beach in 2002. The original Art Basel international fair was held in the Swiss city in 1970 and was the brainchild of three gallery owners: Ernst Beyeler, Trudi Bruckner and Balz Hilt. More than 16,000 visitors attended the inaugural show to see works displayed by 90 galleries from 10 countries. Last year, its young Miami sibling attracted 267 galleries from 32 countries and over five days drew 77,000 visitors. The next show is scheduled for December 1-4, 2016. Paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs and films will be displayed in the main exhibition hall — the Miami Beach Convention Center on Washington Avenue — while large-scale artworks, films and performances will be shown at nearby Collins Park and SoundScape Park.
In 2013, Miami’s newfound commitment to the creative arts was further boosted by the opening of the Pérez Art Museum (formerly the Miami Art Museum) in an award-winning building designed by Herzog & de Meuron at 1103 Biscayne Boulevard. The location on Biscayne Bay was provided by the City of Miami. The museum itself cost $220 million to build, with the Argentina-born real-estate tycoon Jorge M. Pérez, a longtime trustee and collector of Latin American art, making a personal gift of $35 million.
When it opens in December, the Faena Forum will sometimes display art, but its overriding goal is to be a new kind of multidisciplinary center, contained within a building that can house dance and theater, as well as lectures and political debates. For Alan Faena, Miami is preeminently the place where Latin American and North American cultures can undergo a creative synthesis, a fusion emblematic of a newly intertwined and interdependent world.