Tuesday, June 2, 2020

In Loving Memory: A Tribute to Christo, Known for his Massive Public Arts Projects

Christo, the conceptual artist known for his massive and enduring public art installations around the world, died Sunday of natural causes in New York City. He was 84.

Photo by WorldRedEye.com at PAMM

Christo and his wife and artistic partner, Jeanne-Claude, used both natural and manmade monuments as their canvas, wrapping existing structures in fabric to give them new life on a massive scale. Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrapped up famous monuments such as Paris’s Pont Neuf in 1985, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 1988, and Berlin’s Reichstag building in 1995. In South Florida, we especially remember Christo and Jeanne-Claude's 'Surrounded Islands' in 1983.

Pérez Art Museum Miami: Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-83
A Documentary Exhibition
October 4, 2018—February 17, 2019
Image: PAMM Book Signing and Art Talk by Christo 

On May 7, 1983, the installation of Surrounded Islands was completed in Biscayne Bay, between the city of Miami, North Miami, the Village of Miami Shores and Miami Beach by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Eleven of the islands situated in the area of Bakers Haulover Cut, Broad Causeway, 79th Street Causeway, Julia Tuttle Causeway, and Venetian Causeway were surrounded with 6.5 million square feet (603,870 square meters) of floating pink woven polypropylene fabric covering the surface of the water and extending out 200 feet (61 meters) from each island into the bay. The fabric was sewn into 79 patterns to follow the contours of the 11 islands.

For two weeks, Surrounded Islands, spreading over 7 miles (11.3 kilometers), was seen, approached and enjoyed by the public, from the causeways, the land, the water and the air. The luminous pink color of the shiny fabric was in harmony with the tropical vegetation of the uninhabited verdant islands, the light of the Miami sky and the colors of the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay.

Since April 1981, attorneys Joseph Z. Fleming, Joseph W. Landers, marine biologist Anitra Thorhaug, ornithologists Oscar Owre and Meri Cummings, mammal expert Daniel Odell, marine engineer John Michel, four consulting engineers, and builder-contractor, Ted Dougherty of A and H Builders, Inc. had been working on the preparation of the Surrounded Islands. The marine and land crews picked up debris from the eleven islands, putting refuse in bags and carting it away after they had removed some forty tons of varied garbage that included refrigerator doors, tires, kitchen sinks, mattresses and an abandoned boat.

Permits were obtained from the following governmental agencies: The Governor of Florida and the Cabinet; the Dade County Commission; the Department of Environmental Regulation; the City of Miami Commission; the City of North Miami; the Village of Miami Shores; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management.

The outer edge of the floating fabric was attached to a 12 inch (30.5 centimeter) diameter octagonal boom, in sections, of the same color as the fabric. The boom was connected to the radial anchor lines which extended from the anchors at the island to the 610 specially made anchors, spaced at 50 foot (15.2 meter) intervals, 250 feet (76.2 meters) beyond the perimeter of each island, driven into the limestone at the bottom of the bay. Earth anchors were driven into the land, near the foot of the trees, to secure the inland edge of the fabric, covering the surface of the beach and disappearing under the vegetation. The floating rafts of fabric and booms, varying from 12 to 22 feet (3.7 to 6.7 meters) in width and from 400 to 600 feet (122 to 183 meters) in length were towed through the bay to each island. There were eleven islands, but on two occasions, two islands were surrounded together as one configuration.

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