The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach’s contemporary art museum, is now hosting Nam June Paik: The Miami Years exhibition

What’s new in my obsessions? Experiencing the summer during winter. I recently came back from Miami, the motherland of palm trees, oranges, and mixed cultures, an incredible match of different backgrounds displayed together.

Surprisingly, Miami has been a welcoming city for migratory flows from neighboring and non-neighboring countries, which led to the generation of a Spanish-based cultural fervor (the second-largest U.S. city with a Spanish-speaking majority after El Paso, Texas), which still fuels the city. 

In this scenario, you can breathe a history of contamination which, over the years, has made the destination the home of Vice(s) but also a landscape of experimentation, encounters, celebrations, and an enviable artistic, engineering, and human dare so rare that it is hard to believe in.


Nam June Paik, in Miami FL, 1990. Photography by Brian Smith.


Bakelite Robot, 2002. In 1986, he introduced Family of Robot, a series of nearly life-sized anthropomorphic sculptures that symbolized a family nucleus, within which each member represented household electronics such as radio, televisions playing his works.
Picture courtesy of the Bass

The other one (besides me) who fell completely in love with the city was Nam June Paik.

Within a contemporary world dominated by electronic devices and -nowadays- video-based social networks, it is strange that his name does not come up very often.

So who is Nam June Paik?

Well, basically he is known to be the “father of video art”. He pioneered the field through a unique way of using digitized composition, by combining them with unusual devices and supports as a creative expression.

Robots, video synthesizers, experimental music and working methods. Paik established himself as one of the early innovators of video art and set the stage for many of the contemporary art practices we see today. Through groundbreaking performances, immersive artworks and interdisciplinary collaborations, Paik established new approaches to music and television, changing the way we look at screens.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art summing in Nam June Paik: Electronic Superhighway video trailer the philosophy of the artist.

The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach’s contemporary art museum, is now hosting Nam June Paik: The Miami Years exhibition that features works by the Korean American visual artist and uncovers the little-known history of the artist’s life in Miami Beach and his connection to the surrounding South Florida community.

The first time Paik’s work was shown at The Bass was in 1987, with Video Transformations.


Nam June Paik with the cellist Charlotte Moorman (1933-1991) who collaborates with him on sensational performances where Paik explored the humanization of technology by applying electronic sculptures to Moorman’s body. One of their major project was the Tv Cello.
Photo from The Bass exhibition.

Born in Seoul, Korea, in 1932, Paik worked and lived in New York City but developed a vivid connection to Miami. He kept an apartment on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach until he died in 2006, a place where he sought refuge, and where he found his creative peaks thanks to the leisure pace that the place offered.

The Miami atmosphere led him to another level of intuition: the city was his ideas' incubator for the works he then would realize in the New York studio.


Nam June Paik, TV Cello, 2003. The early “TV Cellos” were performed by Moorman, then Paik considered later versions to be independent sculptural works. This 2003 sculpture is part of the permanent collection of The Bass.
Picture courtesy of The Bass

He was indeed very present on the Miami art scene: Paik was honored at a fundraising event for The Bass in 1999, where the noted curator of film and media arts at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, John Hanhardt, introduced and remarked Paik, whose works Hanhardt would then present in a phenomenal retrospective exhibition the following year.


Picture courtesy of The Bass

Or the Art Miami in the same year, where Paik was awarded the International Distinguished Art prize for his pioneering and forward-thinking use of video and television, to explore the relationship between art and information.

But it was in the late 1980s that led Paik to purchase the South Beach condo, the symbol of his fellowship with the community. During those times Paik was working on two large-scale, site-specific projects for Miami International Airport. The installation is considered one of the greatest works of his life.


“Miami” sketches from Paik about the Miami International Airport installation project reproduced in Milan Triennale booklet, 1988.
Picture from The Bass exhibition


Nam June Paik, TV Miami, 1990. Miami International Airport installation. Undated color photograph. Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places Trust, Public Art Collection.


Nam June Paik, TV Miami, 1990, installed in Miami International Airport. Undated black-and- white photograph. Miami-Dade County Art
in Public Places Trust, Public Art Collection

Commissioned in 1985 by the Miami-Dade Country Art in Public Places Trust, the artist’s work was the result of a county effort to rethink some processes for acquiring public art. Paik was invited to develop with airport planners and architects site-specific artworks based on videotaped images and sounds based on computer and electronic technology.

Since he coined the term “electronic superhighway” in 1974 by referring to the video medium, Paik envisioned the transformative power of electronic media for networking and connecting people from every part of the globe. His progressive ideas and playful works demonstrated an acute awareness of the rising power of digital media, both in contemporary art and -especially- in the future of social networks and technology today.