Artétorial by David Arthur Walters
It appears that all systems are go for the completion of the $100 million Artécity condominium project in Miami's South Beach. In case you live up north and have not heard the buzz yet, Artécity is becoming real estate's latest symbolic epicenter for the Art Deco renaissance now picking up steam in South Beach's Art District around historic Collins Park.
The Artécity development, encompasses nearly a whole city block, appears in some of its publicity as an enormous pink, prison-like compound, perhaps to reflect the neoconservative trend intentionally widening the gap between rich and poor, as well as the subconscious fortress-mentality of many affluent Americans. However that may be, Artécity is far more attractive to the discerning mind than the modern neurosis reflected in its advertising. Designed by Miami's famed Arquitectonica, the complex comprises two new buildings and three older buildings - including the historic Governor Hotel, Henry Hohauser's 1939 streamlined masterpiece at 435 21st Street. Viewed from Collins Park, the New Wave Artécity buildings present a wavy appearance by virtue of their curved balcony railing; an allusion, perhaps, to Art Deco's original Art Nouveau or 'natural' influence.
Collins Park, across the street from Artécity, is named after John S. Collins. He arrived in Miami in 1906. He detected the presence of water in Miami Beach and started farming avocados, fruits, and vegetables, commuting by boat between Miami and the beach. His land holdings eventually included the area between 14th and 67th streets. He deeded Collins Park, the nine acres from the beach front to Park Avenue, between 21st and 22nd Streets, to the city in 1913. Two structures presently sit in Collins Park: Bass Museum of Art and Miami Beach Public Library.
Just as American Art Deco served as a synthesis of art and industry so that art might be saved from the ravages of the industrial revolution and at the same time be decoratively employed to sell products to the masses, Artécity triumvirate Alessandro Ferretti, Piero Salussolia, and Maurizio Cavelleri hope to revitalize the real estate business and turn a handsome profit for all capitalists concerned by associating their real estate project with Miami Beach's traditional artistic institutions, targeting the affluent market instead of the masses
Said cultural institutions are frequently in need of financial rejuvenation. Attendance of the affluent at ballets, symphonies and art museums has been wanting in urban areas that became "blighted" by virtue of the flight of the affluent to suburbs and gated communities, and by the neoconservative curtailment of public services. Admission fees rose to make up for the shortfall and are relatively high in order to cover costs. For instance, admission to the Bass Museum of Art directly started out at fifty cents in the late 60s. John Bass even dropped the fee for awhile when the institution was scandalized by northern art historians who adjudged most of the masterpieces therein to be flagrant fakes. Despite and even because of the scandal, the museum was very popular with the public, who could care less about the authenticity issue. An admission fee was reinstituted, and amounted to $2 in 1990, but it now stands at $12.
Miami Beach is not unique. Many cities are working overtime to revitalize their blighted areas with relatively expensive condominium projects, expensive hotels, convention centers, multiple sports arenas and entertainment centers for the middle class, and performing arts centers for the affluent. Miami Beach's Artécity is ideally located to that end. It is within walking distance from several cultural centers, not to mention Miami's famed beach and some of the most celebrity-frequented and popular dining and entertainment establishments in the Miami's newly sanded and repainted Art Deco world. Artécity residents will have an artécitycard, proof of membership in such outstanding organizations as Miami City Ballet, New World Symphony, Miami Light Project, Wolfsonian-FIU, ArtCenter/South Florida, and the Bass Museum of Art.
Artécity is actively supporting various art institutions to promote its real estate virtues. Artécity recently awarded prizes for an art contest held among the art colony members at ArtCenter/South Florida - an artécitycard participating institution. ArtCenter is located within walking distance of Artécity, on South Beach's chic Lincoln Road Mall. The winning works will be housed at Artécity. To further the Artécity cause, a free neighborhood Block Party hosted by Artécity will be held on January 15, 2005. By virtue of simulcast, the Block Party will simultaneously celebrate a National Foundation for Advance in the Arts gala being held directly across the street behind the Bass Museum. The NFAA advances the careers of future young artists.
Tickets for the NFAA gala itself, An Affair of the Arts, will be sold for $500 to $1,000 per person, or from $5,000 to $50,000 for tables of ten - a small price for the affluent to pay for an excellent cause. About 1,100 are expected to attend. Their generosity is deeply appreciated by all. 125 High School seniors, winners of the ARTS program, will perform. The Arison Award will be presented, honoring Mikhail Baryshnikov - the funds will go to the charity of his choice. The gala is supported by the Miami City Ballet, New World Symphony, and Bass Museum of Art. their relationship with
The neighborhood is certainly grateful to Artécity for the free party for those who might not otherwise be able to afford to attend the actual gala - a large number of houseless persons live in the neighborhood. It is this author's opinion that, ever since the Caesars purchased high office, the Italians have remained by their good example the most generous bread-and-circus providers in the world - in my personal experience, Italian women are the most gracious of hostesses. The entire neighborhood has been invited, on an RSVP basis. to partake of the food, drink, and entertainment. That is, everyone is welcome but this creative author: I have just been informed that I am a persona non gratis because of my construction criticism of the quality of the Artécity advertisements, despite my praise of the acumen of the managing developer and his architect.
No, not all residents are equally enthusiastic about the possibilities of the Artécity project as advertised. Not to mention the vagrant crowd sleeping in doorways and hanging out at the library, one inspired intellectual and two creative artists whom I know have voiced concern with the "Artistic Urbanism" ideology of the project, fearing that it might, like other ideologies, tend to exclude authentic creative art. Such art in many historical cases has been a form of dissent, expressing inspirational dissatisfaction with the taste of the ruling powers, a taste often said to be debased by commercial interests. Needless to say, members of the underclasses have supplied the lion's share of the world's finest innovative art. Furthermore, a number of South Florida artists have complained privately about the exclusive taste of several prominent persons associated with the Artécity development, whom they say are members of the "art-industrial complex" presently corrupting creative artists with money.
I certainly would not mind having some of that money for my artful essays. Yet my greed did not hinder me from expressing my own concern with the Artistic Urbanism ideology and the impact that it might have, not on the physical plant, but on the morale of the community. My concern was dismissed by the developer's spokesperson because the overwhelming expression of interest by qualified buyers had already rendered my concern irrelevant.
"We respect your right to express yourself and your opinion," the Artécity spokesperson said. "Everyone has a different one and that’s what makes the world go round…. We have had quite a positive response to our materials and our program from people in the position to purchase the units and that’s what we are aiming for."
Controversy and criticism is essential to the development of art. There would be no enduring art absent art criticism. The difference between fine art and the rest is not due to an arbitrary or subjective difference intuitively drawn, but is rather the result of the discriminating judgment of the masters and their critics who congregate in bona fide cultural centers. Nor is the most enduring art created for material gain, and for that reason it appreciates over the long term while the rest passes away in a few years. In any event, creative art redefines art, reaches back and rewrites its history while it forges ahead. Such is the art of living, the Way of the artful life. That is the Way wanted for Artécity Life.
Down with Artistic Urbanism! Up with the Art of Living!