Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) presents Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-83: A Documentary Exhibition, an exhibition of archival materials and artworks around the renowned artists’ site-specific 1983 installation, Surrounded Islands, in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. On view from October 5, 2018 through February 17, 2019, the exhibition commemorates the 35th anniversary 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 uninhabited islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay with 6.5 million square feet of floating, pink, woven polypropylene fabric. For two weeks, the results harmonized with water, sky, and foliage, creating a stunning chromatic medley 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 serving as inspiration for untold numbers of people across the entire spectrum of the South Florida community.
Surrounded Islands was an endeavor of epic ambition, and the upcoming exhibition will present the entertaining and inspiring history by which this project became a reality. It is a narrative of empowerment, exemplifying the idea that lone individuals are capable of marshaling large civic forces to bring their dreams to fruition—that with determination, willpower, and compelling vision, anything is possible.
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 show will be 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.