Four Seasons Hotel Miami is the city's newest emblem of high culture. Reflecting Miami's reputation for fostering contemporary art, the 70-story building has been filled with $3.3 million worth of commissions and acquisitions by local established and emerging artists. The San Francisco-based company Annex Fine Arts and Edsel Williams, owner of the Green Barn gallery in Sag Harbor, acted as consultants on the art purchases, with advice from Bonnie Clearwater, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami.
The project features works by more established artists, notably two typically behemoth-sized bronze nudes by Fernando Botero, as well as fresh and slightly rebellious work by young artists, like Miami-bred Bhakti Baxter, Tao Rey and Daniel Arsham. Two other artists recruited for this project, Brandon Opalko and Emilio Perez, show with Miami's new Rocket Projects gallery. Rocket director Nina Arias describes Edsel Williams as "super cool. . . . He did a lot for these young artists."
For the commissions, the Four Seasons had specific requirements as to size, color and subject matter -- for instance, Opalko was sent swatches from the lobby carpet. Despite the fact that his works match their settings rather well, in the end Opalko's floral paintings stand on their own.
On the wall behind the front desk is Glexis Novoa's triptych Four Season's Island. Novoa's imaginary cityscapes, done in graphite on marble tablets, are a welcoming and apt image for the hotel. Martin Oppel's painting Four Views, installed by one of the elevator banks, is wryly self-referential. His oils reproduce the views out of the windows of apartments on the hotel's upper floors.
Annie Wharton was commissioned to mass-produce a small, delicate abstraction for the spaces above bathtubs in over 200 bathrooms. Composed of a poetic arrangement of circular shapes and lines, the image perhaps recalls a snowflake. Similarly, Bruce Tolman was commissioned to make works for the bedrooms and living areas.
A hotel commission may not be quite the same as a museum show, but the artists do get a kind of stamp of approval by their selection. The Four Seasons is following, in fact, a well-established Miami art-hotel esthetic. The lustrous Sagamore Hotel on Collins Avenue premiered its own collection two years ago, and the famous Fountain Bleu is now in the process of assembling a new collection. As it did in the Miami Vice 1980s, the city is once again embracing super-hip contemporary art.
NICOLE DAVIS is a writer and filmmaker living in Miami.