The Art World at Home: Bass Museum Director Silvia Cubina Is Organizing a Citywide Public Art Show and Enjoying Her Reading Nook

Between tracking hurricanes, organizing scavenger hunts, and catching up on some opera, Cubina has been pretty busy.

Silvia Cubina.
Silvia Cubina.

Silvia Cubina, the director of the Bass in Miami Beach, is as busy as you’d imagine.

Between organizing a sprawling show that’s being staged throughout the city, she’s also been tracking hurricanes, organizing scavenger hunts, and catching up on some opera. We caught up with her to get a sense of what life’s been like in these whirlwind few months.

What are you working on right now?

“Art Outside,” a​ citywide public art initiative of more than 15 works of art located throughout Miami Beach, starting at the Bass Museum with Susan Philipsz’s sound installation, ​Too Much I Once Lamented​ (2019), and Arturo Herrera’s T​ogether​ (2020), a recently commissioned wall mural, looping through the Miami Beach Convention Center and City Hall, where Zanele Muholi’s photograph is located, to Lincoln Road and the Beach Boardwalk, ending at Collins Park with Ugo Rondinone’s ​Miami Mountain ​(2016)​.​ “​Art Outside”​ is an art exhibition, exercise circuit, and a city tour, all in one. You can find an interactive map here.

Walk us through the when, where, and how of your approach to this project on a regular day.

No two days are the same with “​Art Outside.” ​For a few months now, I’ve been working with the Bass team and the artists on logistics, installation, and permitting, as well as creating interactive signage with QR codes and a Google map. Our curator, Leilani Lynch, has organized a section of “Art Outside” aptly named ​”Work from Home,”​ presenting nine photographers along the Beach Boardwalk. Additionally, we are in full production for Abraham Cruzvillegas’s ​Agua Dulce,​ a 14,000-square-foot public installation in Collins Park, comprising more than 1,000 healing plants native to South Florida. It opens November 29.

What is bothering you right now?

Oh dear. Lately, I have been trying to focus on the small, daily tasks that bother me. For instance, last week I was bothered and worried about Tropical Storm Eta (which wasn’t small in itself!) and the possible damage inflicted upon ​Agua Dulce​. I am happy to report that the storm veered away from Miami and ​Agua Dulce i​s doing just fine!

Today, I’m bothered by an issue we had with permitting, the constant downpour of rain, and the question of whether we will be able to install a work on time… and whether I’ve gained a pound or two.

What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

Museums, as you can imagine, have had to get quite creative in their fundraising. The Bass, in partnership with Brunello Cucinelli, is doing an outdoor art scavenger hunt. We had a “dress rehearsal” with staff running around outside, gathering clues and competing to win—lots of laughter and fun!

Silvia Cubina's team preparing for "Art Outside." Photo by Silvia Cubina.

Silvia Cubina’s team preparing for “Art Outside.” Photo by Silvia Cubina.

Are there any movies, music, podcasts, publications, or works of art that have made a big impact on you recently? If so, why?

Florida Grand Opera invited us to a private concert for 15 people in a huge warehouse. The soprano sang “Flower Duet” from Léo Delibes’s opera,​ Lakmé​. The setting, the music, and the opportunity to be together again were beautiful.

Also, I read Americanah​ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I can’t remember a thing about the two last books [I read], but I keep coming back to thinking about this amazing book.

What is your favorite part of your house and why?

This is a no-brainer. We have a reading nook, which we affectionately call “the Cubby”, that we carved out of a small bedroom. The Cubby is my favorite room in the entire house, by far.

A work by Hernan Bas. Photo by Silvia Cubina.

A work by Hernan Bas. Photo by Silvia Cubina.

What’s your favorite work of art in the house and why?

There is always a changing answer to this question, as I like to move art around a lot. Today, I’ll pick a little painting on paper by Hernan Bas of a young man drinking from a glass of wine and spilling it onto his shirt.

Are there any causes you support that you would like to share?

As best as we can, my husband and I like to support Puerto Rican artists. Lately, and especially now with virtual and online options, there have been a few auctions, fundraisers, and artist-led initiatives that we’ve participated in. Puerto Rico is a special place for us, having grown up there and our two boys being born there.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Not so guilty—I swim every day!

Chilaquiles! Photo by Silvia Cubina.

Chilaquiles! Photo by Silvia Cubina.

What’s going on in the kitchen these days? Any projects? And triumphs or tragedies? 

Our kitchen was quite active in March and April, but it’s been downhill since then. Like a lot of us, I was cooking up a storm and putting even more energy into setting elaborate tables. My biggest triumph was trying out my friend Fernanda’s recipe for chilaquiles, along with a thematic table. And as for tragedy: a mushy, or rather completely disintegrated, Crêpes Suzette.

Which two fellow art-world people, living or dead, would you like to convene for dinner, and why?

It’s too hard to choose two! Covid has made travel so much harder, so I dream of having a beach picnic with all the artists in “Art Outside,” including Elmgreen & Dragset, Rafael Domenech, Sarah Morris, Dan Graham, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Karen Rifas, José Bedia, Carlos Luna, and Arturo Herrera. It would be such fun!

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