First Miami/Miami Beach Biennale of Sculpture

By Juliana Accioly

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From December 1, 2010 through January 31, 2011 more than fifty world-class modern and contemporary art pieces will be dotting downtown Miami, as Gary Nader hosts the first edition of the Miami  /Miami Beach Biennale of Sculpture. The exhibit is the latest major local public art project – chosen to coincide with Art Basel, said Nader, but structured to extend the “official” Miami art season. “When it comes to art, Miami is still a very young city, almost like a raw canvas, a place where so much can be done,” he said. “To me it is the most beautiful city in the world, where I built my life – for me and my four children I want it to be full of art and culture year-round.”

A veteran to sculpture biennales, Nader has been attending these every-two-year celebrations of world-class modern and contemporary art for the past 30 years. Held all over the world – from Brazil to the Netherlands to South Korea – the exhibits are normally organized around a central theme or context or sometimes a variety of subjects and art concepts. In the world stage of biennales, the Miami version seems to acknowledge that the “City” is still rehearsing its lines when it comes to art. There is no central context to the show – its main focus is on outreach and inclusion. Nader said that in addition to making it a regular event, he hopes to encourage the city to have the most arresting sculptures from each edition integrated into public sights as permanent displays. “We have no intention to reinvent the wheel here,” said Nader. “The idea is to provide an incentive for people to walk around the city, encourage art lovers to appreciate what is already there,” he explained.

People who decide to wander the downtown circuit during this first edition of the project will be able to ponder abstract pieces like Roy Lichtenstein’s Three Brushstrokes in painted aluminum and Pablo Atchugarry’s Statuary Carrara. Colombian artist Fernando Botero, whose bubble-figured 12-foot-tall Adam commands the attention of shoppers at the entrance of Time Warner Center’s, has contributed two of his voluptuous nudes in bronze. The biennale will also showcase Latin-American artists such as Javier Marin and Rufino Tamayo from Mexico, Jesus Rafael Soto and Sydia Reyes from Venezuela, and Colombian Edgar Negret. From Europe, pieces by Bernar Venet from France, Olafur Eliasson from Denmark, and Greek artist Sophia Vari will also be in display. Middle Eastern art will be represented by Iraq’s Ahmed-Al-Bahrani and Khalid Farhan from Bahrein and the Cuban-American side of the spectrum by Agustin Cardenas and Julio Larraz. Nader’s “open-air museum” will be placed along the Biscayne corridor – with monumental sculptures showcased on the grounds of the American Airlines Arena and the landscape of the Bayfront and Bayside parks, while mid-size and smaller pieces will populate the lobby of the downtown Intercontinental Hotel.

Nader’s initiative to make public art a permanent feature of the city echoes with other current endeavors aimed at revitalizing Miami’s cultural exchange. With construction set to be finished in 2013, the new Miami Art Museum project recently received $100 million from the city. The project will occupy a 200,000 square feet facility with 120,000 square feet of programmable space. It will be the anchor to the 29-acre Museum Park, which will include exhibition of paintings, photography, video, and sculpture installations in its public gardens. Overlooking Biscayne Bay, the new museum will take over the area of Bicentennial Park and with the Adrienne Arsht Center nearby, it holds the promise of becoming Miami’s new cultural hub. Accessible and timely, Gary Nader’s project could also resonate to people on a more emotional level. While the recession has slowed the makeover, having easy-to-find cultural manifestations provides an optimistic counterpoint to the economic gloom. “An empty home is quite different from a home full of beautiful art,” he comments, “and so is a city.”

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