Don’t fret, Miami. It’s only a 230-foot alligator swimming in Biscayne Bay.
Nearly 30 years after Christo’s Surrounded Islands, a project team is drawing inspiration from nature to create a massive floating gator for Art Basel Miami Beach in December. The project, titled Gator in the Bay, is a multi-step piece that is to begin on the west coast of Florida, cross Alligator Alley and pass through Fort Lauderdale and into Miami.
And that’s only the gator’s head.
Cesar Becerra, who has written three books on the Everglades and has been called its “evangelist,” is coordinator of the project. He says his goal is to draw attention to restoration efforts with a unique work that will be free to view.
“I hope our gator lovingly mauls Floridians and the world over,” he said. “I hope they get bit.”
The gator is to float on the bay between the Julia Tuttle and Venetian causeways for four days. The structure will be constructed from junkyard metal and recycled steel. The head will be built on a barge, and onboard cranes will enable the head to move.
Lead artist Lloyd Goradesky will use floating art tiles to transform the bare frame into what he’s calling the world’s largest photograph. Goradesky has collected 30 years worth of photographs from the Everglades that will be loaded onto four- by eight-foot panels. They will be on display for the first three days of Art Basel, which runs Dec. 6-9. Then kayakers will transport each panel and hook it onto the gator.
“One of the challenges I have is not just 6,528 images but having each collage looking very unique and beautiful as a piece of art,” Goradesky said. “When we put them in the water, people will be able to see that there’s a theme. It’s not just a few images printed on boards; each step of the process is done with reason. It’s going to be symbolic of pixels assembling to create an image.”
Sea creatures will have nothing to fear from the temporary predator. The gator was designed to leave about 10 inches of space between panels so that the sun can hit the seafloor and sustain the ecosystem. In addition, the self-propelled gator meets small-vessel requirements and has a special anchoring system that won’t drag and damage the depths.
At night, the animal will light up from snout to tail. Goradesky, a native Miamian, said he wants the piece to evolve through time.
“Art for public viewing is thought-provoking,” Goradesky said. “This project fits all those parameters.”
Becerra said the gator should ignite a conversation about environmental protection. The alligator was chosen as a misunderstood and often-threatened species.
About 130 volunteers are committed to work on the reptile. The project aligned with Fronte Cranes and Poseidon Barge to help with logistics. Becerra said everyone is ready to move.
Project coordinators are asking for donations and have started an online fundraiser. With “all the bells and whistles,” Becerra said, the project should cost $120,000. The price tag includes educational promotion of the project, for which students will take field trips to examine the gator and learn about conservation efforts.
Following Art Basel, each panel of photographs will be auctioned off, starting at $5,000, Goradesky said. A portion of these funds will be donated to Treemendous Miami, a tree preservation advocacy group that has planted more than 23,000 trees across Miami since 1999.
If the project doesn’t raise enough money by December, only the head will showcase at Art Basel. Becerra said he expects to receive the funding in time but he has a backup unveiling date for the full gator: May 7, 2013, the 30th anniversary of Christo’s work.
“Every time I sat in the rain trying to get the shot, freezing cold, sweating myself to death, up to this year it didn’t make sense,” Goradesky said. “I‘ve been working on this without even knowing I was working on this my whole life. This whole project gives me meaning for every mosquito bite I ever got.”