Ah … the coveted Art Basel Vanity Fair party at the Wolfsonian Museum. It was a two tiered tony affair: VIPs from 6 to 8 p.m.; young girls in tight dresses and the men who love them, arriving later. The latter, by the way, is how South Beach rolls. And, the Wolfsonian, in the heart of its Art Deco Historic District, is as iconic as the Wolfsons themselves. The family launched a chain of South Florida movie theaters, television and radio stations. And, outside the Wolfsonian, it’s common to find tour guides with foreign charges pointing at this key example of Deco Design.
New Director Tim Rodgers walked us around the Museum that houses Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson, Jr.’s collection of 20th Century modern design and art. This year, Vanity Fair took their Basel presence up a notch, taking over the Wolfsonian’s first floor with programming on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, keyed to its artistic mission. “There were designers in a variety of different fields,” Rodgers told us, “from TV set designers, to Movado watch designer Yves Behar, to music producer Laurie Anderson’s ‘Heart of a Dog.’ We also had the social media club, which was in the cafe of the Museum, an open invitation to journalists and writers to come and experience the programming.”
The Museum’s story is Miami’s own. “Micky’s father was the Mayor of Miami,” Rodgers said, “and involved in real estate. Micky followed a slightly different path. He became a U.S. diplomat in Italy and settled in Genoa, moving between New York, Miami and Paris.” His appreciation for art started at a young age. “He began collecting at age 12, and established the Wolfsoniana in Genoa and the Wolfsonian museums in the 90s to house his treasures,” noted Rodgers. “Within two years, it became part of FIU and a public institution.”
“We hold approximately 180,000 objects in the permanent collection, which spans the time period 1850-1950, and a large research library covering the same period. We look at all things modern,” explained Rodgers. “We have paintings and sculptures, but we also have toasters and clocks.”
Jean Shafiroff, Robin and Dominick D’Alleva were fascinated by the library’s early 20th Century propaganda art. Micky was particularly interested in how propaganda art moved minds. The fascist Nazi posters and works on paper and Italian Futurist paintings from World War I are fascinating components of the Museum… that we hope remain relics of the past.