At the Wolfsonian, Life’s a Beach

bathing beauties.jpgWere we to give an award for the world’s most UnBeige museum, The Wolfsonian would be the easy winner. The wonderfully eclectic Miami institution, a division of Florida International University, didn’t have to look far for the inspiration behind its new summer exhibitions, both of which center around the beach (just a few blocks away). Curated by The Wolfsonian’s Marianne Lamonaca, “Beauty on the Beach: A Centennial Celebration of Swimwear” is a swimwear design retrospective, while “Sun Stroke Stimulus” examines “contemporary bathing culture” through the photographs of Miles Ladin. Both shows are on view through October 11.

(Miles Ladin).jpg
(Photos: Miles Ladin)

While the topless number designed in 1964 by Rudi Gernreich is currently raising eyebrows at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the full measure of swimsuit history is at The Wolfsonian, where “Beauty on the Beach” explores swimwear design and marketing, and how they shape and reflect popular ideas about fitness, beauty, and glamour. A look at the swimwear industry’s use of new materials (Lastex, anyone?) comes just in time for the current debate about performance-enhancing suits.

But it’s not all iconic bikinis and tan-thru Dacron. The show also explores the “beneficial effects of water, known since ancient times, for both health and hygiene” and gets contemporary with the installation of Ladin’s photos. Commissioned by The Wolfsonian to create a contemporary portrait of Miami Beach bathing culture, he set out to capture the distinctly Miami mix of raw beauty and “aspirational desires presented in the display of flesh” (see also: Miami Social). Notes Ladin, “The acquisition of the tan, the physique, the lifestyle, is all meant to entice the viewer to desire what they see.”