On June 1, 2020, artist Christo, known in South Florida for his public art project “Surrounded Islands”, passed away. Christo’s 30-month project to encircle eleven islands in Biscayne Bay with bright pink plastic was an ode to Monet’s water lilies. These giant water lilies adorned the bay for two weeks, beginning on May 4th, 1983, from Bakers Haulover at the north end to the Venetian Causeway at the south end.
Initially, the idea for “Surrounded Islands” was unveiled by Christo in April 1981. However, approvals were needed from the cities of Miami and Miami Shores, Dade County, the Florida Department of Environmental Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As the approval process dragged on and the project was postponed several times, finally an exhibition date was set for May 1983. The 6.5 million square feet of high-floatation fabric that was bought in October 1982 from Germany came at a price tag of $180,000. Upon completion the entire project cost $3.1 million to execute and required ten permits, seven public hearings, four court appearances and four hundred workers to create.
Christo’s art was not all about just the viewing of the exhibit itself. The whole process from its first conception to its instrumentation intrigued locals and visitors far and wide. Starting from the first public hearings to the weeks leading up to the event that included premiere art exhibits, lavish cocktail parties, club themed nights and television appearances, Miami Beach was abuzz with this unique happening. The day before the unveiling, thirty two boats arrived simultaneously stocked and ready with the fabric to transform the islands into Christo’s art. In the next few weeks, thousands of South Florida residents and tourists took helicopters, boats, cars or just went on foot to get a glimpse of the glowing pink canvas islands stretching across Biscayne Bay.