The building was designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, a major New York-based architectural firm that has worked on institutional projects from the expansion wing of the Guggenheim Museum to the Mina S. Rees Library at the CUNY Graduate Center. MOCA NOMI was constructed in 1996, and the company writes on their website that the museum "transforms an existing parking lot into an urban art plaza and redefines the town center as a cultural complex. The building is composed of four articulated and interconnected elements, which are assembled as a composition of cubist objects to form a dynamic visual collage that provokes curiosity, engagement and an appreciation of both art and architecture." As the photograph by Steven Brooke shows, it has a colorful array of geometrically-shaped parts, and it incorporates aspects of Floridiana with terracotta tiles, water features, and palm trees. Oddly, the colors do make it stick out like a proverbial sore thumb in an urban area. The interior has 23,000 square feet of gallery space akin to a warehouse with movable walls, which works perfectly for a contemporary art museum.
Looking at the museum's website, I realized that while I didn't go on a regular basis and now regret not having seen some exhibitions, I did see some fantastic shows through the years. In October 2004, I saw one of the performances of Pablo Cano's The Toy Box, a marionette performance inspired by Claude Debussy's 1913 children's ballet La Boîte à Joujoux. The Miami-based artist Cano is known for his innovative use of puppets and marionettes, and is commissioned frequently to do work for the museum, including a new exhibition of his work opening this month. Earlier that same year, I had seen the Louise Bourgeois exhibition Stitches in Time which focused on the cloth work she does now later in life (some of which was also in the retrospective I also saw at the Guggenheim this summer). In late 2002, I saw the YES Yoko Ono exhibition that had been organized by the Japan Society in New York. I found the exhibition a fascinating introduction to fluxus and performance art, although admittedly scholars still aren't always sure where to place her in the art history canon. I found much of her work to be very clever, but other works, such as Cut Piece (1965), still can make you shiver, watching men (and women) cutting away her clothing on stage while she does nothing to stop them. And of course I cannot forget the Gianni Versace exhibition, The Reinvention of Material, from 1999. Versace's association with South Beach is well known, so it was appropriate this exhibition was there. They had a section where you could handle samples of his materials, which made sense considering the exhibition's theme. I took my ex, DFG, and my mother to see that show. Needless to say, my fashionista mother absolutely loved it; I had to watch her that she didn't run off with anything.
But, ultimately, I have to say probably the most memorable show I saw there was my very first in 1998. It was the Keith Haring retrospective that had originally been at the Whitney Museum. My memory of it was that it was jam-packed with his work, encompassing everything from his early sketchbooks to his later cartoon-like figures on enormous canvases. It was dazzling and eye-opening in every sense imaginable. There was even an entire room set up recreating Studio 54 with televisions everywhere playing the Grace Jones video "I'm Not Perfect" (1986). You'll notice Haring designing her dress at different parts in the video. Check it out (you really can find anything on YouTube).