Its big, blocky white facade and fancy stonework are a one-of-a-kind presence amid the commercial/touristy scene on Washington Avenue. One of my favorite Greater Miami museums displays a one-of-a-kind permanent collection of mostly European and U.S. artifacts, artwork, artisanry, and design from the late 19th- to mid-20th centuries. The difference here is that this isn’t purely art for art’s sake, but a reflection of history, society, politics, and socio-economic issues. So yes, those 1926 stained-glass panels, for example, are luminous and lovely, but they also reflect themes and allegories relating to Ireland’s independence. Fascinating political and World War II propaganda posters are part of the mix, as are vintage stoves, vacuum cleaners, Bauhaus furniture, and other items from a particular era of modernization. The fifth floor is the permanent collection, while other floors host rotating exhibitions such as 2014’s “The Rebirth of Rome,” focusing on art and architecture in fascist Italy. Also check out the funky museum store, with beautiful books, DVDs, retro objects both decorative and useful, and a cafe (also open to non-museum visitors) where you can eat/drink organic while watching black and white silent movies on a large flatscreen TV (last time I was in, it was Buster Keaton in The General).
- David Paul Appell