Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) celebrated the opening of its newest exhibition Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-83 | A Documentary Exhibition, with a full week of previews and exclusive events that culminated on Thursday night (Oct. 4) with an opening celebration that featured a book signing and art talk by internationally-renowned artist Christo.
The evening program commenced with a signing, during which Christo signed books, posters, and personal photographs for the thousands in attendance. Following, guests gathered on bayfront steps for the art talk portion of the evening. To rousing applause, Christo walked guests through a slideshow of the projects he and Jeanne-Claude worked on over six decades. The artist then opened the floor to questions, during which he imparted personal insights into the fascinating story behind Surrounded Islands, 1980–1983, and addressed questions about his projects, process, and monumental career.
On view now through February 17, 2019, Surrounded Islands is an exhibition of archival materials and artworks around the renowned artists’ site-specific 1983 installation, in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. The exhibition also commemorates the 35thanniversary of Surrounded Islands—an anniversary that also coincides with the founding of PAMM’s predecessor institution, Center for Fine Arts. The history of Surrounded Islands is inseparable from PAMM’s origins, and the exhibition reinforces the idea that the museum’s evolution is inextricable from the development of Miami as both a city and an artistic hub.
In May of 1983, Christo and Jeanne-Claude encircled 11 manmade uninhabited islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay with 6.5 million square feet of floating, pink, woven polypropylene fabric. For just under two weeks, the results harmonized with water, sky, and foliage, creating a vivid composition in blue, green, pink, and turquoise. Despite its short duration, Surrounded Islands made a lasting impact on the city’s cultural history, marking the birth of Miami’s international artistic profile while anticipating its rise as a hub for contemporary art.
In addition to Thursday’s opening celebrations, PAMM celebrated the monumental exhibition with various events throughout the week.
The night prior, Museum Circle members were treated to an exclusive preview of the show during the Museum Circle Opening Reception (Wednesday, Oct. 3), where guests were treated to live entertainment by Fellows of New World Symphony, cocktails, and light bites. After the preview, select guests were invited to a private dinner celebrating the opening of the exhibition with Christo at the beautiful Star Island home of Linda and David Frankel.
The next day (Friday, Oct. 5), members of the International Women’s Committee attended an exclusive afternoon reception honoring Jeanne-Claude with guest speaker and art historian Dr. Carol Damian. The former director of The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum and chairperson of Florida International University’s department of art and art history, Dr. Damian is a strong fixture in Miami’s arts community, and a nationally recognized art historian.
The exhibition at PAMM is an adaptation of an earlier exhibition focused on Surrounded Islands, which traveled through Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, and Japan between 1984 and 1991. Like its precursor, the presentation at PAMM is of sweeping depth and breadth, comprising approximately 50 drawings and collages, a large-scale model of the bay and its islands, hundreds of photographs and documents, several photomurals, and physical components of the project. This extensive cache of materials attests to the profound challenges that the artist duo encountered over the course of three years (1980-1983) as they worked to realize their epic vision, overcoming formidable logistical and governmental obstacles with the help of hundreds of paid workers. The iteration at PAMM seeks to go beyond simply commemorating the original Surrounded Islands project and serve as a time capsule that captures and evokes a consequential time in Miami’s history.
Surrounded Islands had a strong impact on Miami, stimulating the growth of the local art community and encouraging the city to recognize the ways in which Miami could become a significant center for contemporary art. In a broader sense, the project had a unifying effect on the city as a whole, prompting residents to come together in celebration of the natural beauty that surrounds them. The project exemplifies art’s potential in fostering civic unity, an idea that Miami remains intensely invested in—an idea upon which PAMM is largely premised.
To learn more, please visit: pamm.org/surroundedislands.
Photos by World Red Eye