One of the country’s most popular shopping centers, Aventura Mall is the setting for a dynamic, world-class contemporary art collection, one that’s enjoyed by millions of people each year.
Strolling through the center is like visiting a chic art gallery. It’s a cultural experience – one the New York Times proclaimed “might be the nation’s first contemporary art shopping mall.”
In the Nordstrom wing, shoppers experience two amazing series of pieces. Downstairs, a pair of surrealistic Eye Benches by Louise Bourgeois appear to follow guests with a disembodied gaze. Some stop to take pictures; others sit down to relax with a cappuccino and appreciate their surroundings.
Upstairs, three Moonrise sculptures by Swiss-born mixed-media artist Ugo Rondinone spark curiosity. Each more than six feet tall, the sculptures are heads with finger-stroked surfaces modeled in brown clay then cast in aluminum and brown enamel to match the color of the original material.
“The Moonrise sculptures are captivating and display the unique, personal touches of this influential artist,” says Jackie Soffer, the visionary behind the shopping center’s unique Arts Aventura Mall program. “Most of all, like many of our pieces, they bring a smile to our visitors’ faces.”
Soffer, who is Co-Chairman and CEO of Turnberry Associates, the mall’s parent company, has a deep passion for public art. She selects pieces and commissions installations she feels will engage Aventura Mall shoppers and ignite their imagination.
A personal favorite of Soffer’s and numerous visitors is Donald Baechler’s 12-foot-tall, bronze Walking Figure. Surrounded by Gucci, Givenchy, Cartier and Tiffany & Co. boutiques, the figure has become one of Miami’s most “Instagrammable” objects. Many are inspired to shoot pictures next to the woman, striding forward as if caught in mid-step, the silence of her expression commanding the space.
After visiting the luxury boutiques, shoppers do a double-take when they see Julian Opie’s two double-sided LED monoliths, Suzanne Walking in Skirt and Top and Julian Walking in T-Shirt and Shorts. Drawn with bold, simple lines, the figures in these animated portraits appear to walk continuously. The smartphones come out again, especially from teens and millennials, who record videos mimicking the portraitures’ movements to share with friends on social media.
Approaching Center Court, shoppers are caught up in the excitement. Stop for a gelato…visit Burberry…so many choices. Yet, they also experience a sense of tranquility as they approach Jaume Plensa’s Florida Soul, a giant sculpture made of stainless steel letters. Seated upon a rock inside a koi pond, Plensa’s universal man reflects upon the word around him, inviting visitors to create their own meaning.
Guests also glance up toward Macy’s on the second floor and see something peculiar. The shopping center’s columns don’t connect; they appear to grow and erode simultaneously. Don’t worry, that’s just the work of Miami native Daniel Arsham. His site-specific Columns is an example of how he reworks architectural and natural forms of everyday experiences into malleable and movable models with surreal and uncanny effects.
And, for the youngest shoppers, a day isn’t complete without a visit to the playground. Here, it’s a site-specific art installation by Miami artists Sam Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III, known collectively as “Friends With You.” Children climb through and over Rainbow Valley, a sea of vibrant rainbows, clouds, small mountains and water.
“We see the entire world as our gallery and embrace the opportunity to explore any medium that exists, including architecture installations and virtual worlds,” Borkson says. “Settings like Aventura Mall allow us to expose our process through more than just arts institutions.”
Shoppers often end their art walk by looking skyward to Jorge Pardo’s alluring “Untitled” site-specific work. The Cuban-American artists explores the relationship between functionalism and aesthetics with 96 lamps, taking the form of butterflies, hung from the three-story ceiling at varying heights.
Pardo commented to The New York Times that he hoped the installation would make shoppers stop in their tracks, noting, “A lot of people want to take pictures of themselves in front of the butterflies. In that sense it’s really cool, because it works like a traditional monument.”
Other Arts Aventura Mall highlights include pieces by Lawrence Weiner, Tom Otterness and Barry Flanagan positioned throughout the shopping center. The program will be further enhanced in the shopping center’s new wing debuting in late 2017.
Guests will be awed by the monumental, nearly 93-foot tubular, Aventura Slide Tower by Carsten Höller that can be enjoyed while sliding down the sculpture. Gorillas in the Mist, a whimsical public work by The Haas Brothers, will functionally circulate water and include large-scale bronze monkeys and massive bronze trees. Wendell Castle’s Veiled in a Dream sculpture doubles as a seat, and Mark Handforth’s towering, free-standing Blackbird utilizes the form of a bent clothes hangar as a creative examination of everyday life.
Ever evolving, the collection provides millions of visitors each year with a taste of the region’s thriving art scene. For more information, visit www.artsaventuramall.com