Surrounded Islands — The Art Installation That Changed The Trajectory of Biscayne Bay’s Artistic Profile

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s 1983 “Surrounded Islands” art installation on
Biscayne Bay was the catalyst for a pivotal moment in Miami’s art profile. The iconic undertaking, while temporary, made a lasting impact on the city’s arts and culture history, and birthed a new era of contemporary art.

For two weeks, 11 manmade, uninhabited islands — which can be seen from the panoramic windows of Elysee — were surrounded by 6.5 million square feet of floating pink polypropylene fabric, resulting in a visually striking color composition.

Environmental and wildlife activists, residents, and other groups initially pushed back on the project when it was first proposed. At a time when political and civil unrest, a struggling economy and collapsing neighborhoods drove residents and tourists to regard the city as “paradise lost,” Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s idea was widely regarded as confusing at best and insane at worst. The proposal even drew outrage from some prolific writers who later recanted their bold opposition to the project. Christo and Jeanne-Claude, however, persevered and worked closely with the US army corps of engineers, as well as state and county regulators to develop a plan that ensured the installation and removal posed no negative affect on the environment or local community.

“Surrounded Islands” required two years of preparation beginning in 1981 before the luminous pink fabric was finally able to be rolled out. Attorneys worked on obtaining permits while marine and land crews worked tirelessly to pick up, extract and recycle approximately forty tons of varied garbage — including refrigerator doors, tires, kitchen sinks, mattresses and an abandoned boat.

In May of 1983, Christo and Jeanne-Claude successfully encircled 11 manmade uninhabited islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay with 6.5 million square feet of floating, pink, woven polypropylene fabric. The colorful montage of blue, green, pink and turquoise harmonized with the water, sky, and surrounding foliage, creating a visual experience that transformed the public’s regard for the project from hostile to enamored, virtually overnight.

The installation’s two-week lifespan made an enduring impact on the city’s cultural history, anticipating its rise as a hub for contemporary art while marking the birth of Miami’s international artistic profile. Many attribute the city’s reimagination to this single, fleeting work of art — for the first time in the city’s turbulent history, Miami was featured on national news for a positive reason, which ignited a new wave of pride for the city’s residents.

Today Miami serves as a beacon for artistic expression and is regarded nationwide as a respected mecca for contemporary art. It’s the thread that binds the social and cultural fabric of the city’s diverse neighborhoods together, drawing people from all over the world to explore the numerous instillations, exhibits and mural-lined streets.

The daring artistic spirit of Surrounded Islands still is evident in the elaborate artwork and eclectic galleries of Wynwood and the outdoor installations and gallery spaces of the Design District all of which you can easily explore without having to venture far from Elysee.

Elysee is positioned at the epicenter of the best arts, culture, culinary and social experiences Miami has to offer.In addition to artfully curated interiors, residents enjoy close proximity to the Miami Design District, Wynwood, Midtown, Brickell, Downtown and Miami Beach. Grand waterfront residences featuring breathtaking views of Biscayne Bay are now available. Sales gallery now open: 2955 NE 7th Avenue, Miami, FL 33137. To schedule a private presentation, call 305.767.1414.