Miami is just a little over a century old, one of the youngest cities in the United States. As such, the city just hasn’t had as much time as other cultural centers, like New York, Paris, and London, to build up museum collections full of antiquities. Still, Miami’s museum scene has a lot to offer. The institutions here specialize in smaller, more focused collections reflecting the forward-thinking, multicultural flair of the city.
Bass Museum of Art
This is the only art museum on Miami Beach devoted to linking art history with contemporary art, in a mix of shows spanning its permanent collection and traveling exhibitions. The museum’s permanent holdings include numerous European paintings form the early Renaissance to Impressionism. Recent temporary exhibitions have included works by both local contemporary artists and presentations of Egyptian antiquities.
Address: 2100 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum
Florida International University’s on-campus museum in west Miami-Dade is a bit off the beaten tourist track, but worth a visit for a look at a fast-developing cultural institution. The permanent collection emphasizes Latin American and 20th Century American art, but the museum hosts traveling and Miami-centric exhibitions as well.
Haitian Heritage Museum
The only museum proper in the Design District, this small but ambitious venue hosts both exhibits of Haitian art and cultural programs. It also sponsors an arts outreach program in area public schools.
Address: 4141 NE 2nd Ave. #105C, Miami
Formerly known as the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, History Miami is a particularly kid-friendly establishment that traces Miami’s development from swamp settlement to bustling cultural center. Interactive permanent exhibits include everything from touchable fossils to music triggered by the push of a button, while different themed shows rotate in the museum’s downstairs space.
Address: 101 W. Flagler St., Miami
Jewish Museum of Florida
This ambitious museum in the SoFi area of South Beach documents the Jewish experience in Florida starting from 1763. Temporary exhibits of art and history focus on more specific themes, while public programs present films, concerts, dance shows, children’s theater, and more. The museum also preserves Jewish history in Florida through an oral history program and preservation of archival research files.
Address: 301 Washington Ave., Miami Beach
Lowe Art Museum
The University of Miami’s on-campus museum provides a brief but broad look at the entire history of art. Unlike comparable museums in Miami, the Lowe Art Museum presents entire galleries dedicated to African and Asian arts. Rotating exhibits present temporary shows of local interest, from Cuban art to student work.
Address: 1301 Stanford Dr., Coral Gables
Miami Art Museum
Founded in 1997, this is one of the youngest museums in Miami. Still, MAM is one of the most ambitious, with a sprawling new campus planned for the upcoming museum park, still in construction in downtown Miami. Until then, the museum remains in downtown’s Miami-Dade Cultural Center, adjacent to History Miami. As it continues to build its permanent collection of contemporary art, the museum focuses on traveling exhibitions and shows by local artists.
Address: 101 W. Flagler St., Miami
Miami Children’s Museum
This huge, family-oriented museum, on a small island connecting downtown with South Beach, focuses on educational play. At Miami Children’s Museum, children can run free through a permanent gallery that focuses on practical skills. For example, a health and wellness area helps build good nutrition and exercise habits, and a full, mini-scale supermarket allows kids to shop or play cashier.
Address: 980 MacArthur Causeway, Miami
Miami Science Museum
This relatively small, homegrown science museum is, like the Miami Art Musuem, due for an upgrade. If it can raise enough money to match a pending multi-million-dollar grant, the Miami Science Museum will also join the art museum in the still-under-construction museum park in downtown Miami. In the meantime, its original building presents rotating exhibits in the front gallery, and a grab-bag of permanent displays in the back. An outdoor area focuses on local endangered wildlife. The attached planetarium also plays regular shows throughout the day devoted to astronomy, with entry included in admission price, as well as monthly laser music shows after hours.
Address: 3280 S. Miami Ave., Miami
Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art, or MOCA, is one of the smallest museums in Miami, but it is hands-down the most cutting-edge. The museum boasts an impressive, tightly curated permanent collection of art made after the ’70s. But the most exciting are the in-house curated temporary exhibits, which include rare solo shows by hot artists as well as thematic group shows. The museum also hosts occasional traveling exhibitions, and features plenty of public programs.
Address: 770 NE 125th St., North Miami
Vizcaya Museums and Gardens
This sprawling, gilded age mansion and grounds was the winter home of industrial age titan James Deering in the late ’10s and early ’20s. The bayfront site was done up in high Renaissance revival style, and remains stunningly preserved today.
The Wolfsonian got its unusual name from its founder, wealthy collector and arts patron Mickey Wolfson. Located in the heart of South Beach, the museum focuses heavily on industrial and graphic design from between 1885 and 1945. Interesting thematic exhibits focus on, say, wartime propaganda art or lavish Gilded Age interiors.
Address: 1001 Washington Ave., MIami Beach
World Erotic Art Museum
This seemingly endless, slightly disorienting museum presents a grab-bag of any and all kinds of art vaguely dealing with an erotic theme. Objects in its individual galleries are grouped both by subject matter and time period, or, sometimes, neither — modern sex toys can occupy the same space as faux-ancient sculpture. Though this establishment is definitely not for the demure, it offers revealing surprises at every turn.
Address: 1205 Washington Ave., Miami Beach
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