The mission of the Bass Museum of Art is to “present contemporary art to excite, challenge and educate.” Curators and artists actively engage with the collection, presenting a myriad of interpretations and perspectives. For this reason, visitors are presented different and multiple selections of the permanent collection at any given time.
The permanent collection of the Bass Museum of Art spans more than five hundred years and four continents, including Renaissance and Baroque paintings; Rococo court paintings and English portraiture; nineteenth- and twentieth-century landscape and historical paintings; painting and sculpture from North America, Latin America and the Caribbean; contemporary photography; Asian art; European decorative arts; as well as a unique collection of works on paper. Works from the collection will be rotated on a regular basis in the Sol M. Taplin Gallery and the newly renovated Peter E. and Annemarie H. Houghton Gallery, located on the first level of the museum.
In 1963 John and Johanna Bass donated their Old Masters collection to the city of Miami Beach, a generous gift which has brought pleasure and enlightenment to many thousands of visitors. The collection of more than five hundred European works from the fifteenth to the early-twentieth century, including an important group of more than two hundred paintings and significant holdings of textiles and sculpture, provided a solid foundation on which to develop a major institution with one of the most comprehensive collections of European art in the Southeast.
The nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century paintings that comprise the collection bear witness to Mr. Bass’s continued links with his birth country of Austria. The Bass Museum probably has a more representative group of Austrian paintings, including local schools, than any other collection in the United States. Among notable artists the museum’s collection includes paintings by Jacob Jordaens, Peter Paul Rubens, Gerard Seghers, Ferdinand Bol, Giovanni Barbagelata, as well as a stunning altarpiece by Italian Renaissance masters Sandro Botticelli and Domenico Ghirlandaio, one of only a handful of Botticellis on public view in the United States.
In addition to painting, the collection contains sculpture, works on paper, decorative objects and a handsome textiles selection. One of the masterpieces in the textiles collection is the famous sixteenth-century Flemish tapestry The Salute before the Tournament. It has a particularly prestigious provenance in that it was part of Henry VIII’s collection at Knole House in England and was later purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan in the early-twentieth century before it came into John Bass’s collection.