A New Season in South Florida



Business cycles influence the financial health and programming possibilities of cultural institutions. South Florida, historically related to real estate speculation, currently undergoes a major downturn in property values and sales volume. Those quick fortunes made in “flipping,” construction and developing now appear a thing of the past. Museums and performing arts organizations compete for the same foundation, corporate and traditional old-money family patronage. Approaching these sources, the arts are in competition with philanthropic causes: terminal diseases, homelessness, children, and poverty. The effects of the recession in cultural South Florida have not been uniformly felt. Many of the scheduled programs were planned in times of bonanza. Belt-tightening is evident, however, in some forums.

The blockbuster Lam exhibition at the Miami Art Museum is followed by “Selections from the Permanent Collection” (an inexpensive, often creative possibility) and “Yinka Shonibare.” Since the transition from Center for the Fine Arts to MAM, the institution was charged with the study and exhibition of the art of the Americas since the postwar. A British contemporary artist, Mr. Shonibare fails to adhere to the traditional MAM mission: showcasing XX and XXI century art of the Americas. With many important Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean artists dealing with the problematic of race and class, the exotic choice in the main county-sponsored museum defies policy logic.

After the Imperial Highness fiasco, the Bass Museum is on its way to full recovery. Under the leadership of Interim Administrator Gary Farmer, the alleged imperial princess resigned from her post on the Board and a search committee is busy finding a professional to replace Diane Camber. Without even minor Google research, former Miami Beach mayor David Dermer and the museum’s former director organized with the so-called Imperial Highness Princess Thi-Nga of Viet Nam (there is no Empire of Annam or Vietnam since 1945, the family of the last Emperor, no relation to the Miami Beach resident, lives in France) an elephant parade, a Jaguar convertible pageant for the faux royal and the mayor, fundraisers, and a jade exhibit at the museum. Without due diligence and investigation, the museum accepted and acknowledged gifts from a Princess Thi-Nga Foundation that did not legally exist as a non-profit at the time. Donations were made in the form of charges to a personal American Express card. Mrs. Thi-Nga Goldman received the Key to the City of Miami Beach. Her jade collection was shown at the museum, unvetted by East Asian art scholars and in possible violation to conflict of interest standards.

The Bass opens its space to a great exhibit of XX century works on paper from the Fundación Mapfre featuring Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, and Francis Picabia. A group of portraits from the permanent collection is brought together under the title “Splendor in the Bass.” The institution is justifiably proud of its English Neoclassical chef d’oeuvre Benjamin West<em’s Countess of Northhampton, with Her Daughter Elizabeth (1762).

The Lowe Art Museum, awake from a period of soporific exhibits, continues “Excavating Egypt: Great Discoveries from the Petrie Museum.” A visit to this show is absolutely de rigueur for every South Floridian. The journals and photography from Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie complement exquisite Egyptian jewelry, objet d’art pottery, sculpture, and historically enlightening items of everyday life. It is not typical Egyptology at the Lowe. What arrived in UM from London allows the visitor new insights into the life of this civilization at various stages of development. In January, the institution prepares for the opening of a blockbuster organized by the Gilcrease Museum: “Las artes de México.”

The art season takes off in South Florida with Art Basel. Unfounded rumors had Art Basel-Miami Beach moving to Los Angeles in 2011, leaving the internationally successful Design Miami behind. With the management of the Miami Beach Convention Center going to Messe Schweiz, the fair’s parent company, plans for a move to California may be revisited. Last year, eight fairs coexisted with the event that has placed Miami in the international art arena. Although some Art Basel customers could be unfaithful in spending their art dollars with the competition, some may look at the additional art activity around South Florida in early December as an expanded market that benefits all. The New York Times publishes daily supplements from Miami Beach during the fair. This year, Art Basel-Miami Beach will be spearheaded by Marc Spiegler and Annette Schönholzer, proven insiders. Major galleries like Marlborough, Munich’s Galerie Thomas, Salzburg’s Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Barcelona’s Polígrafa, New York’s Mary-Anne Martin, Galerie Lelong, Gagosian Gallery, Paris’ Galerie Hopkins Custot, and Galerie Gmurzynska are scheduled to showcase their usual high-caliber offerings December, 2008. The fair has come to be known as the “winter rendezvous for the international art world.”

The director of a musical ensemble designs a variety of programming with fresh perspectives from soloists and guest conductors. South Florida audiences have looked to the New World Symphony as a source of poetically conceived offerings with musicians from a wide variety of nationalities and backgrounds. It is in diversity that the orchestra and its public gain depth of musical understanding. Ax, Ashkenazy, Feltsman, Gluzman, and Bell make up an all-male Ashkenazi clan of star soloists during the 2008-2009 season. Are there no women Sephardic musicians? Michael Tilson Thomas wants us to experience a Miami Beach musical equivalent of New York’s Yiddish Theatre made famous by his grandparents Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky or there is a budgetary malaise that accounts for this uniformity.

The Concert Association of Florida has prepared a magnificent year of musical protagonists for South Florida audiences. Valery Gergiev –legendary figure — will lead the Kirov, the New York Philharmonic will visit the Arsht Center under Lorin Maazel, and Vladimir Spivakov will be in South Florida with the Russian National Philharmonic. Interestingly, the Concert Association has become an obligatory stopping point for renowned Russian ensembles and soloists. Could this be in response to the presence of an affluent Russian community in Sunny Isles and Bal Harbour? The Great Artists Series will feature chamber music with the Orpheus Orchestra and violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.

The Cleveland Orchestra announced that its Music Director Franz Welser-Möst has extended his contract until 2018, the 100th season of great American musical association. In September of 2010, Maestro Welser-Möst will assume the directorship of the hallowed Wiener Staatsoper. Next year, the Cleveland will begin an important collaboration with the Miami City Ballet and its artistic director Edward Villella. The first of these events will be a benefit performance at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. The Miami City Ballet will subsequently perform at the Cleveland’s summer home, the Blossom Music Center. The orchestra’s spokesman states: “the culmination of Franz Welser-Möst’s and Edward Villella’s vision for the collaboration will be the commissioning of a composer, choreographer and contemporary artist to create a new ballet for the two companies.” This season, the Cleveland will perform Shostakovich’s Symphony # 7 (“Leningrad”) and Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder.

Sunday Afternoons of Music, a serious and understated music series that started at Temple Beth Am host the likes of Philippe Entremont, Richard Goode, Aprile Millo, Dawn Upshaw, Sherrill Milnes, and Bella Davidovich, continues its mission of bringing great music to South Florida. The series gets started with violinist Elmar Oliveira (Tchaikovsky International Competition Gold Medalist) on September 7 at the University of Miami’s Gusman Hall. The Bergonzi String Quartet with Shelton Berg will follow on September 28.

The Miami Bach Society – a titanic endeavor — has put together its new season with a first concert featuring UM’s Collegium Musicum at Temple Bet Breira on Sunday, September 21, at 4:00 PM. There is anticipation for an organ recital by Tom Schuster on October 26 at First United Methodist Church of Coral Gables at 4:00pm. The Tropical Baroque Music Festival begins Friday February 27.

Celebrated impresario Judy Drucker was asked to join the Florida Grand Opera as Senior Artistic Advisor. With a few exceptions like Deborah Voigt, the departure of Robert Herman marked the absence of celebrity voices from the Greater Miami Opera (Florida Grand Opera). The Superstar Concert Series is conceived to bring this situation to an end. Baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, a favorite of Ms. Drucker, alongside soprano Ekaterina Siurina will get the series started on Saturday, January 10. The next recital features Metropolitan Opera tenor Mercello Giordani on March 9. He will be joined by soprano Leah Partridge. Finally, a musical luminary, baritone Bryn Terfel visits South Florida with soprano Sarah Coburn on April 6.

Economic challenges to artistic institutions in South Florida will bring forth new and creative fundraising strategies. Development departments (especially at MAM and the Chopin Foundation) will continue to rummage the titled remnants of Europe in an effort to bring to Miami’s fêtes the most exotic, dukes, ladies, sirs, and princesses: an entire “daliesque” bestiary. The elections and post-election uncertainties will illustrate the level of commitment of the art public in the area, evidenced even in attendance levels to important performing events. The 2008-2009 cultural season in South Florida will determine how a young city handles a crisis; it will test mettle and maturity.

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    May 17, 2011 @ 7:28 pm


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    August 13, 2011 @ 9:18 pm


    She has the collection, that doesn’t mean she is a PRINCESS.

    Thi Nga claimed herself a Princess. IT is a lie.
    She can’t allow people to post comments on her YOUTUBE, because NOBODY accept her as a Princess.
    NGUYEN Kings (1802 – 1945):
    Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri, Tu Duc, Duc Duc, Hiep Hoa, Kien Phuc, Ham Nghi, Dong Khanh, Thanh Thai, Duy Tan, Khai Dinh, Bao Dai.

    She said Gia Long was her great great great grandfather, Minh Mang was her great great grandfather.
    Then which of those Kings were her great grandfather, and grandfather? Her dad was not even a King, not even a Prince. HOW CAN SHE be a PRINCESS?

    Did she know about MINH MANG’s Rule before claiming Princess?