MAM acquire Xavier Cortada's work about urban change in Miami to its Collection

Absence of Place, 2005, one of Miami artist Xavier Cortada’s best known works, was recently acquired by the Miami Art Museum (MAM) for their permanent collection.

MAM acquire Xavier Cortada's work about urban change in Miami to its Collection

The piece is an installation made up of 180 photographs Cortada took in Miami in 2005, cataloguing 180 places in the city that at one point, in some way or another, were part of the artist’s life.

The images are printed on yellow paper giving them a “nostalgic” look. Wrapped in plastic envelopes, they could be archaeological artifacts hanging on a wall. Cortada wrote brief descriptions or anecdotes in pencil below each photograph, but one soon notices that the words and the picture do not match. In fact, the text refers to a place that is absent, that is not in the picture – the city of a younger Cortada.

He goes on to interweave irony with nostalgia, but with sensitive and knowing Miami eyes. His words point to the location of the site where buildings were missing: You can see (or rather, not see), a Catholic school now a parking lot, a famous Basque restaurant replaced by a public housing building, and the first home he lived in Miami becomes the athletic field of a local high school.

Absence of Place was last exhibited in “Miami in Transition” at the Miami Art Museum (MAM) in 2006. The piece serves as an urban documentation, cultural criticism, as well as the personal testimony of Cortada living in a tropical city where everything rots, corrodes or is replaced with something new only to succumb to the endless process of bulldozing and forgetting, renewal and hope.