Hurricane Dorian: As Storm Nears, Arts Institutions Brace for Impact

Chairs on South Beach in Miami Beach, as Hurricane Dorian nears.

South Beach in Miami Beach, as Hurricane Dorian nears.


As Hurricane Dorian churns in the Atlantic Ocean, heading toward the United States, it is not yet clear where or whether it will next make landfall. Already, though, it has knocked out power and damaged buildings in the U.S. Virgin Islands while sparing most of Puerto Rico. Some forecasts have it building into a Category 4 hurricane before hitting South Florida. Below, updates on how arts communities are responding to the storm.

Miami-Area Museums Shutter, Deinstall Art
Though Hurricane Dorian isn’t expected to make landfall in Miami until Tuesday morning, some museums in the city and its surrounding area are closing. The Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami will shutter on Friday afternoon, along with the rest of the school. And the Bass Art Museum in Miami Beach has also begun preparing, having deinstalled Eternity Now (2015), a Sylvie Fleury neon sculpture that typically hangs on the museum’s facade, on Thursday. The Bass will close this afternoon, with plans to reopen Wednesday. Meanwhile, a representative for the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami said the institution was “working closely with the City of North Miami’s Division of Emergency Management to secure the structure of the museum, including Jack Pierson’s Paradise, which is part of MOCA’s permanent collection.”

Some institutions have already begun to close for the weekend. The Jewish Museum of Florida at Florida International University likewise announced plans to close on Friday, and will reopen on Wednesday. Tomorrow, the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami will close; it will reopen on Wednesday. And the closures have begun to extend beyond the Miami region: the Boca Raton Museum of Art closed on Friday and will “reopen once it is safe to resume regular operations,” according to a statement sent to ARTnews. The Orlando Museum of Art said it would close on Tuesday—the day the hurricane is expected to make landfall in Flordia. —Alex Greenberger

Nina Johnson Gallery in Miami Prepares, Advises Clients with Outdoor Sculptures
“I just came from the gallery and made sure everything was secure,” said Nina Johnson, whose namesake gallery has operated in Miami since 2007. “We always make sure that everything is away from the door and the windows, and luckily, with a renovation of our building, we put in as many precautions as we could to make it storm-safe. We have impact windows, and everything is set up for this scenario.”

Johnson has fielded queries from some collectors. “We’ve had a few calls from clients with works installed outdoors asking for advice for how they can prep those pieces,” she said. “Typically, when we sell sculpture for outdoor installation down here, we give people advice at the time about what should happen with the work. Should it stay where it is and be covered and protected from debris? Should it get moved? If it needs to get moved, we usually put them in touch with the artist for advice about what needs to happen to be able to do that safely and then reassemble it properly. If they don’t already have a team of installers they work with, we can refer them. Most of the art storage facilities here are hurricane-ready.”

Otherwise, waiting and hoping is next. “It’s looking as though we might avoid the worst of it here, and that’s what we’re hoping for. We have two exhibitions that open next Friday, so we’re hoping we can move forward with those as planned.” —Andy Battaglia

National Art Gallery of Bahamas Will Close
The Bahamas was under a hurricane watch on Friday morning, with the storm expected to reach many of its islands by Sunday. The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, which is located in the capital city of Nassau, has said that it plans to shutter on Saturday in preparation and remain closed on Sunday. Monday is normally its off day, and so its aim is to reopen on Tuesday, business as usual, “with safe passage of the storm,” it said in a statement.

In West Palm Beach, the Newly Expanded Norton Preps
In February, the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, completed an extensive expansion designed by Norman Foster. Now it is prepping for its first major hurricane since reopening. The museum will close at 5 p.m. today until further notice, and all the artworks outside the museum, including those in a new sculpture garden, have been protectively wrapped or moved inside. (That includes the iconic 19-foot-tall Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, 1999, by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, which has pride of place on the grounds.) Museum staffers are planning to be on hand at the museum throughout the storm.

An Update from Fort Lauderdale
About 30 miles north of Miami, the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale is planning to be closed from Saturday through Tuesday, in advance of possibly being hit by Dorian. It said in a statement: “As a part of Nova Southeastern University, the museum follows university instructions regarding closures. The museum has an extensive hurricane manual, which we also follow, and we have already prepared the museum for Dorian’s impending arrival.” It added, “We wish Everyone a safe next few days.”

Readying Private Collections
It’s not just museums that have to plan for potentially catastrophic storms. Florida is home to many major private collections, and their owners are taking precautions. Jonathan Schwartz, the CEO of the fine-art logistics company Atelier 4, said in an interview that his team starts planning for hurricane season in the U.S. in July. One major client had their work removed from their Miami Beach home this earlier week, Schwartz said, though he was quick to add that not everything can get evacuated. “A lot of people see a storm coming and ask for their art to be taken out of their homes, but there’s only so many handlers and so many trucks,” he said. Almost all of his employees are out with clients right now, with a small remainder caring for the company’s warehouse at Miami International Airport. —Annie Armstrong

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