Avalon Hotel Debuts Collection of Mosaic Portraits for Italian-American Heritage Month

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Monica Bellucci mosaic
Monica Bellucci by Adelaida Sharakhova

The Avalon Hotel (700 Ocean Drive) has a stunning new exhibition on view now through November 6th.

The iconic hotel was built in 1941 and designed by Albert Anis. It is one of Miami Beach’s most adored Art Deco landmarks.

Now, the Avalon is home to 14 award-winning mosaic portraits as part of its latest exhibition in honor of Italian-American Heritage Month.

You’ll find these stunning portraits of famed Italian-Americans adorning the walls of its signature restaurant, A Fish Called Avalon.

Many of the icons, like Gianni Versace, Frank Sinatra, and Al Pacino, have special ties to Miami Beach – like Pacino, who shot scenes for Scarface nearby.

Diners and visitors alike can marvel at these detailed multi-medium works of art.

From left to right: Gianni Versace by Stefano Marroffino, Al Pacino by Enzo Subiaz, Luciano Pavarotti by Debora Franco, Sophia Loren by Vanessa D’Andrea

The exhibit is the brainchild of curator, architect, and designer Guglielmo Zanette.

Zanette directs Mosaic Young Talent, a creative project nurturing students of the Scuola Mosaicisti del Friuli. The program helps young artists from all around the globe earn recognition for their craft throughout Italy and abroad. 

The project introduces students to ancient techniques in mosaic cutwork and adds new life to the classical art form, taking inspiration from ordinary materials and pop culture. 

Each mosaic takes about 3-4 months to complete. The mosaics are first sketched and then 5000 colors are used for the marble, glass, and smalti, which are then shattered and segmented.

Different materials were used for different elements and facial features. Marble, which is more matte, is often used for the complexion, while the eyes, which Zanette calls the “centerpiece” of the mosaic, are brought to life with glass. 

Other materials included enamel, wood bark shavings, stones, zippers, silk, paper, marbles, limestone, gold leaf, and even a vinyl record, which was used for the glossy tie detail on the mosaic of Frank Sinatra.

Frank Sinatra mosaic
Frank Sinatra, by Stefano Marroffino – Made with Venetian smalti, marbles, stoneware, vinyl, paper, and jute

“The mosaics are best observed up-close, where the eye quickly captures the many small details, like the gold leaf [from Lady Gaga’s pendant], the bonnet [atop Alicia Keys’ head], the ripped paper, and the vinyl record [from Sinatra’s tie],” says Zanette.

For centuries, the mosaic has been an elevated art form with a rich history. These modern portraits add new life and depth to the legacy of these contemporary icons.  

“These icons of the modern world have been imbued with a past historical dimension,” says Paolo Di Buono, director of the Studio del Mosaico Vaticano in Rome, adding: “it’s as though the marble and the smalti have crystallized the faces, granting them an importance and authority that only mosaics can give,”

Zanette says he has found inspiration in Miami, where he’s relocated and established the Mosaic Young Talent Corp., alongside business partner Viktoria Somogyi, in hopes to preserve the ancient art form.

Guglielmo Zanette, Viktoria Somogyi
Zanette and Viktoria Somogyi at A Fish Called Avalon.

Inspired by the mosaic factories and restoration projects they saw in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, they hope to establish a similar artistic environment here in Miami and help beautify the city.

A fan of the historic Art Deco district, Zanette says he finds inspiration in its vibrant nature and soft pastels. 

“Our intention is similar, to preserve and present an ancient art form in a 21st-century style,” says Somogyi.

Until then, Zanette invites Miami residents and visitors to come and marvel at these works of art in person.

Private tours of the exhibition are available at A Fish Called Avalon.

If making a dinner reservation, parties of four or more are invited to ask for Zanette to provide details about the artistic process behind the mosaics.

BTS of Luciano Pavarotti mosaic portrait

The Italian-American icons exhibit is on display from Oct 1-Nov 6 at A Fish Called Avalon – 700 Ocean Drive.

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