An item at this week’s City Commission meeting seeks to allocate funding in the upcoming fiscal year to restore the monumental Enzo Gallo murals, which were saved from the wrecking ball as part of a new hotel development. The proposal is sponsored by Miami Beach Commissioner Alex Fernandez and calls for allocating approximately $2MM for the restoration and eventual relocation/reinstallation of the murals.
The series, “The Glory of Old Glory,” was created in 1971 by Italian artist and sculptor Enzo Gallo. Gallo was an immigrant who fled Italy for Cuba and later emigrated to South Florida.
Bank owner Shepard Broad, a developer of the Bay Harbor Islands, commissioned the murals when they were originally installed at the former American Savings and Loan Association building at 1200 Lincoln Road, at the corner of Alton Road.
“The Glory of Old Glory” includes four historical depictions of approximately 15′ x 15′ comprised of irregularly-cut glass mosaic tiles of various colors set in mortar:
The murals showcase the resiliency of the American Flag and its citizens across history – depicting the flag alongside Betsy Ross, Abraham Lincoln, the brave soldiers at Iwo Jima, and the astronauts landing on the moon. Another mural on the Alton Road side of the building, called “The Government … Three Pillars of the People,” depicts the White House, the Capitol, and the Supreme Court with the quote from Lincoln’s Gettysburg address of 1863: “A government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” A final mural on the south side depicts the state of Florida and the flag of Florida.
The original murals were installed directly onto the non-historic building, which was slated for demolition in 2022 to make way for a new hotel project owned and operated by Citizen M. With demolition around the corner, members of the community reached out to urge the preservation of the artwork.
MDPL worked closely with the new property owners as well as the artist’s son Julio Gallo MD, neighbors Emilio Romero MD and David Heit LCAM, and the contractors Americaribe. They also took advice from conservation experts Rosa Lowinger Associates on methods to disassemble the murals in order to allow for their eventual reassembly.
Together, a plan was developed to remove the murals before the building was demolished. Because of the size of the murals and their original installation directly onto the building’s concrete block exterior wall, the murals had to be cut into smaller pieces of approximately 3’x3′ in order to be safely removed. The murals are currently being stored at a nearby location thanks to the support of Michael Shvo and BH Alton LLC. The murals were donated by Citizen M to MDPL, and MDPL is, in turn, donating the murals to the City of Miami Beach.
Subsequently, the City Commission resolved to identify funding to restore the murals and reinstall them in a public place. The upcoming Commission discussion is a critical part of the effort, with up to $2MM requested for the restoration process based on a proposal by Rosa Lowinger and Associates.
MDPL executive director Daniel Ciraldo says: “We are grateful to the City for accepting the donation of the murals from MDPL, and we support the funding allocation for their restoration. We look forward to the process and the murals’ eventual return to public view to be experienced and admired by future generations. We encourage the Commission to expeditiously approve the allocation of funds for the upcoming fiscal year – whether from resort tax reserves or convention center-related funding.”
Previously, MDPL helped spearhead the preservation of the Apollo Murals by Jack Stewart, which had been installed on the now-demolished addition to the Versailles Hotel. These murals are currently being restored at the Bakehouse Art Complex by Rosa Lowinger and Associates, after the owners of the Aman resort offered to fund the approximately $700,000 restoration costs for the murals.