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MIAMI — The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse (founded and operated by collector Martin Z. Margulies) is located in a 45,000-square-foot building that butts up against a highway and sits just across the street from a discount clothing store in Wynwood, the city’s graffiti-splattered hipster enclave. Miami police patrol the neighborhood by car, on horse, and from the air, as well as situating temporary lookout towers that rise up over the streets on lifts. All of which seems excessive, given that the greatest danger in the neighborhood is either succumbing to the fumes generated by dozens of artists spraying paint or being injured by the cops themselves.
The collection and its display are something of an oddity. For starters, the sprawling warehouse is vastly underlit, and the work displayed takes on the shadowy patina of a late winter afternoon. The effect is somewhat striking given the amount of deluxe sunniness available just outside. The basement/bunker impression is reinforced by the overall layout, which can run you from dimly lit corridor to dimly lit corridor.
The art on view is interesting but idiosyncratically chosen, a sort of very personal greatest hits record that mashes up individual artists in such a generic mix that ultimately the groove is lost. To be fair, though, the collection is an astounding tribute to a driven collector and reflects that rather than the broader, more academic ambitions a museum might have. And despite the currently murky distinctions between a collection and a museum, the roster of artists on view at the Margulies is first rate. Art world brand names represented include Dan Flavin, Jason Rhodes, Joan Miró, and Isamu Noguchi, to name a few. Notably, the permanent collection is dominated by male artists, which is hardly shocking given the macho jockeying that’s needed to stay apace in the top tiers of the market. There’s also currently an exhibition of quite important Brancusi photographs — 29 rare gelatin silver prints, presented by Bruce Silverstein Gallery — and a compelling series of photographs exploring the interactions between elephants and humans in Indian society by South Florida photographer Annette Bonnier.
In a generous gesture, the door at the Margulies Collection this past weekend was staffed by alumni of the Lotus House, a shelter for women and children, and the admission fees generated by Art Basel traffic were donated to the organization as well. In the parking lot, a steady stream of well-heeled visitors piled out of taxis and chauffeur-driven cars to be greeted by a long table of women working for the shelter. These women had once been homeless and are now (to varying degrees) back on their feet again. The intersection of such enormous wealth and privilege with those teetering on the edges of society was startling, and a stark reminder of the great distance that separates the haves from the have-nots. It was a compelling footnote to the daft excesses of fair culture. Lotus House alumni were also stationed throughout the collection and, besides being helpful, in some cases offered real insight into the work nearby. The Margulies Collection deserves credit for not only highlighting the plight of homeless women in Miami, but also utilizing their undervalued talents.
The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse (591 NW 27th Street, Wynwood, Miami) is open through April 25, 2015.