The Bass Museum of Art occupies what was originally the Miami Beach Public Library and Art Center, designed in 1930 by Russell Pancoast, grandson of Miami Beach pioneer John A. Collins. Pancoast’s designs shaped the exotic landscape of Miami Beach, including Peter Miller’s Hotel at 1900 Collins Avenue. Distinctive art deco features of the façade of the museum include sculptures by Gustav Boland of stylized carved sea gulls and bas reliefs above the entrance portals depicting colonial Spanish sailing ships, a pelican eating a fish, and cruise ships, boats and planes coming to Miami Beach.
This was Miami’s first public building with an exhibition space for the fine arts, and it was designed to preserve the symmetry of the formal gardens of Collins Park, which had been donated to the City of Miami Beach by Collins and laid out in the 1920s. This building is now the centerpiece of the city’s historic district and was placed on the National Register in 1978. Together with the Miami-Dade Public Library and Miami City Ballet, the Bass Museum is a cultural anchor of Miami Beach within the Collins Park neighborhood.
In 2001, the internationally acclaimed architect Arata Isozaki was hired to design a new wing which offered the museum an additional 16,000 square feet of gallery, retail and reception space. Isozaki’s works combine a traditional Japanese sensibility with Western postmodernism. The new wing exhibits signature features of Isozaki’s design aesthetic, such as his creation of ying-yang juxtapositions between positive and negative space. Other Isozaki major projects include the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona, the Team Disney Building in Orlando, and the Tokyo University of Art and Design.