Order of Importance, the monumental temporary art installation on the beach depicting a surreal traffic jam, is coming to the end of its run. The exhibit includes 66 life-sized sand sculptures of cars and trucks that were left to naturally degrade over a 15-day period. It is the City’s first temporary art exhibit and the largest work produced to date by Argentinian conceptual artist Leandro Erlich.
By any standards, it’s been a huge hit. Miami Beach Director of Tourism and Culture, Matt Kenny, told City Commissioners this week that as of Wednesday morning, Order of Importance had received 376,953,000 media impressions. He said the City would have to spend $1.8 million to generate equivalent visibility.
“This kind of blew everything out of the water,” Kenny said. Brittany Spears showed up to video the exhibit and an “A-list Hollywood celebrity” is considering buying the installation.
“The curator of MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art, messaged us saying they’d never seen something so cool done by a municipality,” he added.
The short-term timeline was the artist’s intention. At the opening, Erlich said he wanted to raise awareness of climate change and the environment. “I really believe that to create awareness is the beginning first step for a potential change,” he said.
“The cars, in a way, for me is a metaphor or a symbol of our ambitions in terms of construction of, in terms of buildings, human ambitions,” Erlich said. While progress can be great, “in relation to the natural order, there’s a need of a balance.”
In kicking off the exhibit, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said, “One of the things we want to do is raise awareness, not just in a museum where somebody has to get dressed up and maybe pay an admission fee, but public art where somebody just walking down the beach can look at it and say ‘Wow, I want to think about that’ or ‘That’s amazing’ or ‘What does that mean to me?’”
“What does it mean about urbanization? What does it mean about our environment? What does it mean about our future?" Gelber added. "I think that’s what the artist is trying to create is for the viewer to look at it and start to ask questions because that’s really what art is supposed to do. It’s supposed to evoke a response that’s specific to the person who’s looking at it.”
The City’s Cultural Arts Committee put up the $300,000 to fund the exhibit though Kenny noted the actual cost was $1.2 million. “A lot of people worked for free on this to make it happen,” he said.
Commissioner Ricky Arriola sponsored the initiative to fund temporary art exhibits following the successful Umbrella Sky exhibit in Coral Gables. While noting the international acclaim for Order of Importance, Arriola said he would like to see future temporary exhibits last longer and be in areas that are closer to local businesses that need pedestrian traffic. He noted the Botero exhibit funded by the Lincoln Road BID to bring people to Lincoln Road. “That’s the goal here,” he said.
Kenny agreed longer exhibits are the ideal but said, in this case, the artist wanted the installation to degrade quickly to get people talking about climate change “to speak directly to what’s going to happen to our earth if we don’t take action quickly.”
He emphasized the benefit of international publications like the New York Times and Financial Times mentioning the exhibit along with the total 376 million impressions from all sources which he said “could potentially drive people here six months from now looking to take vacations.”
City Manager Jimmy Morales said the Administration “can work with the Cultural Arts Committee to locate future exhibits more in commercial corridors.”
The exhibit comes to a close on Sunday but one of the cars will stay in Miami Beach for the Super Bowl. Kenny said it “will be refurbished to original” state and sit in a “little sandbox” on Ocean Drive for “instagrammable” moments.
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