The Wolfsonian -- FIU
The Wolfsonian is a modern art museum unlike any other that is also a department within Florida International University. It was founded by Miami native Mitchell Wolfson Jr. in 1986 and opened to the public in 1995. It is located in the renovated and expanded former Washington Storage Company building where Wolfson began storing his collection in the 1970s. Wolfson later purchased the Mediterranean Revival style building, renovated it to meet his needs and then bequeathed the building and his entire collection to Florida International University in 1997. It is now the primary home to the Mitchell Wolfson Jr. Collection of Decorative and Propaganda Arts. The Wolfsonian is part of the larger Miami Beach Architectural District, often referred to as the Art Deco District.
Backstory and Context
Mitchell “Mickey” Wolfson Jr., prominent collector and architectural and modern design expert began collecting modern artistic items in the 1970s and soon required additional space to store them all as his collection grew. He then selected the 1927 Washington Storage Company building to serve his storage needs. By 1986 his collection occupied 90% of the storage space within the building. That being the case, Wolfson simply purchased the building that same year and established the Wolfsonian Foundation to oversee his collection and make it available for research. The staff then spent several years registering, cataloguing, conserving and researching Wolfson’s extensive collection.
Wolfson later hired Mark Hampton and Architect William Kearns to renovate, convert and expand the building into a world class museum and research facility in 1992. The building’s first floor was of an extended height to accommodate vehicles driving within to unload items into Miami Beach’s first freight elevator. It now houses the Wolfsonian’s auditorium, café, main lobby and gift shop. Hampton and Kearns also added the smaller 6th and 7th floors to the building which are now home to the museum’s temporary exhibitions. The 5th floor contains the museum’s permanent exhibition, entitled Art and Design in the Modern Age. The building’s 3rd floor houses the Wolfsonian’s non-circulating research library that contains over 60,000 items to include rare books, historic periodicals and various works of propaganda.
Today, the Wolfsonian divides its over 180,000 items into two groups: the library and objects collections. Both collections focus on works of modern art from 1850-1950. The objects collection contains furniture, works in glass, ceramics, metal, textiles, industrial-design objects, works on paper, and ephemera. Most of these works are derived primarily from American industrial design and Art Deco, Dutch and Italian Art Nouveau, propaganda from both world wars as well as the Spanish Civil War, and New Deal decorative and graphic arts. Objects from the U.S., Italy, Germany, Great Britain, and the Netherlands are most represented at the Wolfsonian.
Thematically, the Wolfsonian’s collections are divided into such categories as Art Deco, Arts and Crafts, Modernism, and World’s Fairs and Expositions among others. A sample of recent exhibitions would include Americans All: Race Relations in Depression-Era Murals, Modern Dutch Design, and Material and Meaning: Earthenware, Stoneware and Porcelain. The Wolfsonian also offers numerous public, family and school educational programs and fellowships. Sections are also available for rental for special events and occasions.
"Museum History." Wolfsonian. Accessed March 9, 2017. http://www.wolfsonian.org/about/museum-history
Nebhrajani, Roshan. "A 'serious museum' in a tourist playground." The New Tropic. February 8, 2016. Accessed March 9, 2017. https://thenewtropic.com/wolfsonian/
Rifkind, David. "The Wolfsonian -- FIU." Community Newspapers. September 6, 2013. Accessed March 9, 2017. http://communitynewspapers.com/miami-beach/the-wolfsonian-fiu/
Damon-Moore, Laura. "Miami's Modern Design Library: The Wolfsonian." Designers & Books. October 29, 2013. Accessed March 9, 2017. http://www.designersandbooks.com/blog/miami-s-modern-design-library-wolfsonian