Miami Gives Zoning Approval for New Private Contemporary Art Museum Belonging to Billionaire Bruce Berkowitz

The collection will feature showpieces by Richard Serra and James Turrell.

Bruce Berkowitz with Tracy Berkowitz at the grand opening gala for New World Symphony Honoring The New Frank Gehry-designed campus. Image: Patrick McMullan

Bruce Berkowitz with Tracy Berkowitz at the grand opening gala for New World Symphony Honoring The New Frank Gehry-designed campus.
Image: Patrick McMullan

After getting bogged down in red-tape for months, Miami zoning officials have approved plans for Miami hedge-fund manager Bruce Berkowitz to build a private museum on Biscayne Boulevard, thus further cementing Miami’s place on the culture map.

Renowned Miami art patrons Norman Braman and Martin Margulies have been instrumental in encouraging the aspiring museum builder to pursue his dream of a brand new “fortress-like” museum in Miami, Florida, according to the Miami New Times.

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Berkowitz, who heads Fairholme Capital Group first announced plans for the “eye-popping museum/office building,” which got preliminary zoning approval Friday, roughly a year ago but quickly became frustrated with the delays and red tape related to the approval process of the City of Miami. According to the New Times, the city “was having trouble squaring the odd building guidelines set out by the Miami 21 building codes.”

The writer, Kyle Munzenrider also opines that [gasp!] having a structure that is part open-to-the-public art museum and part equity-fund management office “unintentionally says a lot about the state of the commodification of art.”

“I was done. I was finished,” Berkowitz told the Miami Herald. “I was one day away from hiring the person to make a big for-sale sign on the property. Then a few of my friends called me. I’m new to this. But they said, ‘We think you can get this done. What you’re going through is not unique. We think the city really wants this to happen.’”

Image: via Arquitectonica.

Image: via Arquitectonica.

In addition to encouraging Berkowitz to pursue his plan for the museum, Braman and Margulies also pressured Miami’s planning board. Now—perhaps not coincidentally—the city is expected to give Berkowitz the final green light this week.

Though not too much is known about Berkowitz’s collection, the New Times says the museum will include two giant modern works of art—Richard Serra’s 218-foot sculpture Passage of Time, which will sit outside and James Turrell’s light installation, Aten Reign, the latter of which was originally destined for the 2013 Guggenheim Museum show in New York.

The original plan was tweaked a bit, including opting for a surface parking lot in the back over an underground parking lot. A raised platform in the front of the building has been nixed to make the area more amenable to pedestrians. The inverted pyramid structure of the five story building remains. Offices for Berkowitz’s fund management company will occupy the top floors while the museum will occupy the bottom floors.

The report says Berkowitz’s museum is the latest example of the “Miami model” whereby museums are run by private collectors and mostly feature their personal holdings.

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