When people think about South Beach the last thing that comes to mind is a museum or higher education. People automatically think Ocean Drive, flowing drinks, and sparkling seas; yet, hidden inside a discreet Art Deco building on Washington Avenue is The Wolfsonian-Florida International University (FIU) museum, library, and research center. The Wolfsonian-FIU’s collection is used to illustrate the persuasive power of design and art on the masses, and has been doing so for the last 15 years.
The Wolfsonian-FIU is comprised of two collections with around 180,000 pieces of art and design from the time period between 1885 and 1945. This time period spans from the height of the Industrial Revolution all the way up until the end of the Second World War. All sorts of objects are one display ranging from rare books, paintings, glasswork, and more. The museum features works from Italy, Great Britain, Austria, France, Hungry, Czechoslovakia, Germany, and the United States, among other nations. Curiously, this Miami Beach gem is part of the Smithsonian Affiliations program, along with the Frost Art Museum at FIU.
Thanks to Mitchell Wolfson Jr., a Miami Beach native who is a collector and expert in architecture, decorative arts, and modern design, The Wolfsonian-FIU came into existence. In the 1970s, Wolfson Jr. began collecting the majority of the objects and rare books in the collections at the museum. Among the most interesting areas present in the museum’s collection are the Dutch and Italian variants of the Art Nouveau style, the Spanish Civil War, American Industrial design, and New Deal decorative and graphic arts.
Today, The Wolfsonian-FIU is located at 1001 Washington Avenue, which is the former Washington Storage Company building, where Wolfson Jr. originally began amassing his collection. The museum is considered one of seven FIU campuses in the system, and provides a great educational escape from the heat and frivolity of South Beach. In addition to the beautiful Art Deco-themed museum space, The Wolfsonian-FIU offers a lovely store and café, featuring gleaming terrazzo flooring designed by Michele Oka Doner, the Miami Beach native who designed the terrazzo flooring at Miami International Airport (MIA).
The Wolfsonian Café, or as it’s currently known as, the Dynamo Food Factory & Café, is a great spot that is ideal for luncheons, cocktail receptions, or a coffee and treat, such as Grate Madeleine’s gourmet madeleines and other European-inspired foods. The café offers patrons a relaxing ambiance surrounded by metallic bookshelves with a highly curated selection of interesting reads. So, what are you waiting for? Head on over to The Wolfsonian-FIU, and indulge in an espresso-based drink, wine, or craft beer, paired with delicious vanilla, key lime, chocolate chip, or Nutella-filled madeleines, all while reading an interesting book and expanding your horizons.