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By: Shayne Benowitz

While Art Basel Miami Beach has shone a spotlight on Miami Beach’s art scene for the last 20 years, the city’s commitment to public art dates back almost another 20. In 1984, Miami Beach’s Art in Public Places program was born as an initiative to bake art into the city’s projects by allocating a portion of its funds to commission public art pieces. As a result, Miami Beach has captivating public art installations stretching from South Pointe Park to the North Beach Bandshell.

In this city, you’ll find art in unexpected places. For instance, as you stroll through Miami Beach, keep an eye out for manholes in the streets. These “Urban Deco” cast iron covers were installed in 2007. They are emblazoned with symbols of sunshine, sea and architecture by local artist and designer Garren Owens.

With so much public art, visiting Miami Beach can feel like a cultural scavenger hunt. Read on for your guide to Miami Beach’s spectacular public art offerings.

Colorful pier gate at South Pointe Park
South Pointe Park pier gate created by Tobias Rehberger

South Pointe Park

Two of South Pointe Park’s most distinctive features were created by Frankfurt-based artist Tobias Rehberger. In 2014, his “eloquent south pointe park pier gate” was installed at the entrance to the picturesque pier. The graphic aluminum-and-steel gate is painted pink, lime and black.

Lighthouse sculpture at South Pointe Park
"Obstinate Lighthouse" with LED lights at South Pointe Park

A few years before that, in 2011, his “Obstinate Lighthouse” was erected 55 feet above Government Cut. The structure can be viewed by pedestrians strolling in the park and boaters passing though the channel. Made of colorful aluminum and frosted glass discs piled atop each other in a wobbly composition, it’s illuminated by LED lights, “not to guide the ships, but to greet all the visitors to the city,” Rehberger says.

Washington Avenue & 3rd Street

In 2010, artist Wendy Wischer installed “Liquid Measures” on the corner of Washington Avenue and 3rd Street. Consisting of three 4’ x 4’ x 4’ electrical boxes covered in hand-cut, blue mirror water glass tiles, the reflective piece references the area’s currents of both wind and water.

Interactive glass & steel art on Lincoln Road
Steel and glass concave and convex fun-house style "Morris" installation on Lincoln Road

Lincoln Road

At the western end of Lincoln Road, artist Dan Graham created an homage to Miami Modern master Morris Lapidus – who landscaped Lincoln Road when it was turned into a pedestrian mall in 1960 – with his steel-and-glass “Morris” installation in 2010. Recalling the kidney shapes of 1950s Miami Beach swimming pools, this concave and convex fun-house style structure is meant to be interactive, contorting reflections as you move through it.

Mosaic tiles on fountain on Lincoln Road
Enjoy underwater scenes on the Morris Lapidus-designed fountain on Lincoln Road

Nearby, local artist Carlos Alves was commissioned in 2004 for an art intervention of a 1960s fountain originally designed by Lapidus. Overlaid with ceramic mosaic tiles depicting underwater scenes with fish, coral and seashells, “Save Our Reefs” is a message of conservation and a reminder of the natural beauty of Miami Beach’s shoreline. In 1999, Alves installed a similar “Save Our Oceans” ceramic mosaic tile floor with octopus, crabs and seahorses at nearby City Hall.

NWS SoundScape
There is always something to see and hear in Soundscape Park, photo by Rui Dias-Aidos

Soundscape Park

The New World Center, designed by Frank Gehry, is a work of art unto itself. The adjacent SoundScape Park is a beloved community gathering spot where visitors and locals enjoy musical performances and movies under the stars. Thanks to Bill Fontana’s 2018 “Sonic Dreamscapes” sound and video installation, there is always something to see and hear in the park. Throughout the day and evening, sounds and videos inspired by the local marine and natural environments are piped into the park’s 72-channel Meyer sound and projection systems.

Roy Lichtenstein’s “Mermaid” greets visitors to the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater

Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater

Pop Art master Roy Lichtenstein’s 1979 “Mermaid” sculpture resides on the south lawn of the historic Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater near Lincoln Road. Made of steel and concrete with Lichtenstein’s signature comic book-style abstraction, a mermaid in red diagonal stripes reclines on waves with sunshine streaming on her from above.

Bent Pool sculpture at Pride Park
“Bent Pool” sculpture by Elmgreen & Dragset at Pride Park

Miami Beach Convention Center

When the Miami Beach Convention Center underwent a $620 million renovation in 2018, the city considered more than 500 public art proposals. The Art in Public Places advisory committee ultimately narrowed it down to seven works by artists from Brooklyn to Berlin situated in and around the newly redesigned space by Arquitectonica.

“Bent Pool” by Elmgreen & Dragset is a mind-bending, large-scale sculpture that depicts an arched swimming pool as if it’s been lifted from the ground on Pride Park. Presiding over Collins Canal Park are Joep van Lieshout’s enormous stainless steel “Humanoid” forms, while Sarah Morris’ “Morris Lapidus” is an homage to the architect’s famed “stairways to nowhere,” with custom-fabricated porcelain tiles overlaid on a grand staircase leading to the convention center.

Inside the lobby, Joseph Kosuth’s “Located World” is a neon text installation, Sanford Biggers’ “Somethin’ Close to Nothin’” is a multimedia work with paint on an antique quilt, and Ellen Harvey’s “Atlantis” is map of Miami Beach etched on glass. Along the building’s exterior, Franz Ackermann’s “About Sand” is a colorful, abstract mural.

Scott Rakow Youth Center

One of Miami Beach’s longest standing public art commissions is found at the Scott Rakow Youth Center in the form of “Untitled,” a large-scale, orange abstract steel sculpture by Charles O. Perry from 1977.

North Beach Bandshell Park

At the North Beach Bandshell, Miami Beach artist Kevin Arrow created a glass ceramic tile mosaic floor, entitled “Beatles Mandala (Amor=Love)” in 2014 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the British Invasion when the Beatles arrived in Miami Beach and played the Ed Sullivan Show at the nearby Deauville Beach Resort.

North Shore Youth Center

On the façade of the North Shore Youth Center, local Cuban-American artist Connie Lloveras’ mosaic clay tile “The Circle” was created in 2004 in collaboration with the North Beach community. Lloveras held a workshop where participants created their own etchings onto one of the 368 square tiles that make up the artwork.

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