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ICA Miami opened in its new home in the Miami Design District on December 1. The inaugural show, “The Everywhere Studio,” features over 100 works by 50 artists from the past half century including Carolee Schneemann, Matthew Barney, Rosemarie Trockel, Yves Klein, and more. Also on view is a new installation of paintings by Chris Ofili, a debut series by Tomm El-Saieh, an installation by Charles Gaines, and pieces by Allora & Calzadilla, Abigail DeVille, and Mark Handforth in the sculpture garden.
WHITEWALLER: You’ve been with the museum as director for almost two years now, while the new home for ICA has been built. It seems like such an ideal situation to make sure programming and the architecture of the new space go hand in hand.
ELLEN SALPETER: It’s exciting—it’s why I came. I love Miami, but the opportunity to add something to the cultural mix in Miami in a time of fervent cultural expansion is exciting. This is an institution of contemporary art that is really about art and ideas. We have extraordinary exhibition spaces in the new building. And our programming, from youth to adult, is so critical. I feel so strongly that coming to Miami is about expanding that discourse and allowing more and more people to participate in it.
WW: What has it been like to essentially build from the ground up, creating a mission for an institution in the 21st century?
ES: My first hire was Gean Moreno, who is our curator of programs. He’s a Miamian; he has a long history here. I want to see graduate-level critical theory and inquiry programs. We have all these great universities in Miami, so we launched a pilot year of our Art and Research Center, partnering with international universities and bringing in globally recognized scholars to dialogue around relevant issues in the art world and in Miami.
At the root of everything we do is, of course, artists. We are an artist-first museum, committed to working with living artists. With the expanded spaces, we have the luxury of looking at contemporary art and issues through a prism of the postwar era.
WW: What kind of tone did you want to set with the inaugural exhibition, “The Everywhere Studio”?
ES: “The Everywhere Studio” takes a look at how the way artists work in their sites of production has predicted and responded to changes in society at large. It’s an expansive group show that starts as early as Picasso and Guston and Yves Klein, up to emerging artist who are doing installations.
I felt like a big group show celebrating artists and studio production was really important. It was important to us to set the tone, to say that we’re about artists, we’re supportive of artists and how they work, and we want to bring to Miami all these great works that you can see in one place.
WW: You moved to Miami for this position. What has been your impression of the cultural community since you arrived?
ES: There is a palpable enthusiasm for year-round arts programming. There’s this idea that we have Art Week and that’s it. We had three events this spring, and all three were at capacity. I realized we can program all week and be at capacity! So I’m excited that there’s this energy and enthusiasm and appetite for more and more dialogue around the arts. Art it is relevant to Miami audiences and to Miami communities, and it can help solve and augment issues in Miami.