© 2021 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Newly Renovated Miami Beach Convention Center Features International Artists

The Miami Beach Convention Center has completed its three-year, $620-million renovation in time for the start of the annual international Art Basel festival.

Glistening with ocean wave-like glass that weaves along the outside of the center, the renovation is also a symbol of Miami Beach’s focus on resiliency and sustainability. The building is now silver LEED certified, a certification that is globally recognized as a symbol of environmental sustainability. Officials say the center took steps like recycling 96 percent of material waste during construction, installing a rainwater collection system and reducing energy consumption by 20 percent.

Hundreds attended an official ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, which was also a debut of the center’s first public art installation, called ‘About Sand,’ by German artist and abstractionist Franz Ackermann. The convention center is the host site of the 17th edition of Art Basel Miami Beach from Thursday to Sunday.

“We are the center of the art world. But we are not simply going to be the center of the art world for the week,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said. “We want people to know that we aren’t simply a transshipment point for art; we are a place where art is created, where art is installed, and this is one of those pieces that’s going to continue to put us on the map.”

The mural is located at the center’s southeast corner near Washington Avenue and 18th Street.

Credit Lily Oppenheimer / WLRN
German artist Franz Ackermann, who painted the mural, 'About Sand' for the debut of the newly renovated Miami Beach Convention Center, talks about his inspiration with MOCA Executive Director Chana Sheldon on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Hundreds showed up for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony of the newly renovated convention center.

Ackermann said the work encompasses his impressions of Miami’s tourism economy, urbanism and daily ocean life. It is also reminiscent of his travel memories, complete with abstracted forms of sand, hourglasses and roadways.

The remodeled center, which added 253,000 square feet of space, will also feature $7 million in future public art by six other internationally recognized artists. Curated by the the city’s Art in Public Places Program, officials say the initiative represents the largest single commission by a municipal program in the U.S.

Chana Sheldon, the executive director of the North Miami Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), said her committee initially made an open call to internationally renowned artists who could appeal to the culture of Miami Beach.

“The artists were really a part of developing the spaces for the art, as well as the concepts for the art,” Sheldon said. “After a long and deliberating process, Franz was a wonderful, final candidate, and really worked for sensitively approaching the site and the space with this gorgeous new piece.”

The renovation includes a grand ballroom, 4 junior ballrooms, 84 meeting spaces and four exhibition halls that bring the space to 1.4 million square feet -- aimed to boost Miami’s growing tourism and convention industry.

“We really have to be a city of the future, we can’t just sit around and think about how things used to be, we’ve gotta think about how they need to be,” Gelber said.