10 Must-See Public Artworks
in Miami

By Shayne Benowitz | Jun 21, 2017

From established to emerging artists, Miami’s Art in Public Places spans over 700 works across the county

Miami-Dade County’s Art in Public Places program was established in 1973 making it one of the most established in the country. The initiative is funded by a county ordinance that requires 1.5 percent of the construction cost of new county buildings be allocated for the purchase or commission of public art. Individual municipalities within the county have their own Art in Public Places programs, including Miami Beach. The result is more than 700 works on view in public buildings and parks throughout Miami ranging from canonical to emerging and local Miami-based artists. Get a survey of the program by hunting down these 10 must-see public artworks in Miami during your visit.

Isamu Noguchi at Bayfront Park

Created in 1986, Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi’s “Slide Mantra” is a 29-ton, 10-foot tall Carrara marble sculpture in Bayfront Park that resembles a nautilus shell. It functions as a slide with steps up the back and a spiral slide to the bottom. It originally appeared in the prestigious Venice Biennale. In 1990, it was acquired by Miami’s Art in Public Places and sited in Bayfront Park, which was also designed by Noguchi. The artist says Slide Mantra embodies his “long held belief that play could lead to a new appreciation of sculpture.”

Jim Drain at PortMiami

Blending functionality with artistic expression, Miami-based artist Jim Drain painted the bollards that run along the sidewalk of the passenger entrance at PortMiami in 2014, calling it “The Bollard Project.” In a thoughtfully arranged color sequence, each bollard is painted a bright combination of colors meant to reference maritime flags.

Tobias Rehberger at South Pointe Park

Rising 55-feet above South Pointe Park in South Beach, German artist Tobias Rehberger’s “Obstinate Lighthouse” looms over Government Cut greeting both pedestrians on a stroll through the park and boaters passing through the channel. Made of colorful aluminum and frosted glass discs piled atop each other in a sculpturally wobbly composition, it’s illuminated by LED lights “not to guide the ships but to greet all the visitors to the city,” says the artist. The piece was commissioned in 2011.

Ed Ruscha at Main Library

One of the masters of pop art, American artist Ed Ruscha was commissioned in 1985 to create a series of murals inside Miami’s main library. Known for his word art, Ruscha borrowed a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and painted it around the building’s rotunda: WORDS WITHOUT THOUGHTS NEVER TO HEAVEN GO. Designed by architect Philip Johnson, the library features 140 lunette windows to which Ruscha painted 56 with original works. Some of his lunettes stand alone while others are grouped in a series of panels, like TRUE, DEFINITE, POSITIVE and CERTAIN above the business and science sections.

Nicolas Lobo at the Underline

The Underline is a forthcoming linear park designed by the same firm that developed New York City’s High Line. In Miami, the park will stretch from Brickell to South Dade beneath the Metrorail line creating an engaging green space for pedestrians and cyclists. Art in Public Places recently installed its first commissions for the Underline, including Miami artist Nicolas Lobo’s “The Brutal Workout,” which is a participatory monkey bar-like structure made of stainless steel in a 10’ x 10’ cube that can rest on any side. The piece is designed to travel to four different locations along the Underline with a different orientation at each site.

Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen at Stephen P. Clark Government Center, Southwest Plaza

The husband and wife artist duo, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, were commissioned in 1985 to create a playful sculpture in the southwest plaza of downtown’s Stephen P. Clark Government Center entitled “Dropped Bowl with Scattered Slices and Peels”. Completed in 1989, the Dutch-American artists worked with painted cast concrete and steel plates to create eight larger-than-life bowl fragments, four orange peels and five orange sections strewn throughout the plaza.

Carlos Betancourt & Alberto Latorre at Animal Services Shelter

In 2015, Miami-based artist collective Carlos Betancourt and Alberto Latorre created a whimsical mobile suspended from the ceiling of the new Animal Services Shelter Lobby and Pet Adoption Mall. It’s composed of found objects and relics depicting cats and dogs ranging in size from 10-inches to 36-inches for a joyous composition that’s appropriate for the site where our four-legged friends find their forever home.

Snarkitecture at Marlins Park

When Marlins Park was erected in 2012 with a retractable roof and a swimming pool beyond the outfield, it was a contemporary architectural feat unto itself. The park is also full of public art. A highlight is New York-based artist-architect collective Snarkitecture’s ode to the “Miami Orange Bowl”, which previously occupied the site. They reconstructed the letters from the original sign at a 10-foot height and scattered them throughout the east plaza, some standing upright, others slightly submerged in the concrete or turned on their side. It symbolizes an ephemeral moment between destruction and rebuilding. As visitors move through the park, the letters spell out new words depending on their vantage point.

Garren Owens throughout South Beach

The next time you’re taking a stroll through South Beach, take notice of the street’s manhole covers. They’re actually a work of art by Miami Beach artist and designer Garren Owens, installed in 2007. Made of cast iron, his “Urban Deco” covers feature symbols of Miami’s sunshine, sea and Art Deco architecture.

Naomi Fischer at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Made of cast Portland cement, Miami-based artist Naomi Fischer created friezes around the doors and windows of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s Rose-McQuillan Welcome Center. She was inspired by depictions of flora ranging from 1920s French Art Deco movement to Ancient Greek vase painting. With air plants, orchids, birds and butterflies represented, Fischer says, “I wanted to create a work that would complement Fairchild’s global reputation as being more than a garden. It is a site of respite and sanctuary through art, beauty, and community.”

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