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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In 1983, a Bulgarian artist named Christo and his wife Jeanne Claude changed Miami’s landscape culturally and literally when they created the installation known as Surrounded Islands.

Eleven uninhabited man-made islands in Biscayne Bay were covered with 6.5 million square feet of floating, pink, woven polypropylene fabric that would stay in place for 14 days.

The original plan, Christo said, was a different shade of pink.

“The color was something that happened much later. The first sketches were a whitish pink. The pink fabric in the first 24 hours became white by the UV [rays] and the salt in the water. It was a big story to arrive at that pink, and to stay that pink for 14 days,” Christo told CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo in an exclusive interview.



At the time Christo was invited to create a project by Miami’s Center for Fine Arts.

Thirty-five years later, The Perez Art Museum Miami presents Christo and Jeanne Claude Surrounded Islands.

Christo (his wife Jeanne Claude is now passed) gave a personal tour Tuesday morning of the exhibit pointing out their very difficult beginnings.

Artist Christo during a tour of his Perez Art Museum Miami exhibit on his famous ‘Surrounded Islands’ art installation (CBS4)

The exhibit features 50 drawings and collages, blue prints, photos and a large-scale model of the bay and its islands, all the way to its inspirational finish.

Through the years, Christo kept the materials from the close at hand.

“When the project was finished we collected all the components of the project; archives, materials, photographs, film,” he said. “Each of our big projects have exhibitions like that.”

As seen from archival video, thousands came from everywhere by float, boat, and air to see the pristine pink islands. It was no easy task.

Contrary to critics who were concerned about environmental issues, the project actually cleaned up the islands. Workers, who were paid $28 dollars a day, hauled away 40 tons of garbage.

“About 800 people worked on the project. The hardest part was after it was installed to make sure it kept looking good, despite the elements and everything else that happens in nature,” he said

This exhibit will bring visitors to a time and place here in South Florida that will not be forgotten.

“I like the water. I like the air and the people here. I like the space. Miami is like a part of my body. My life is here,” he said.

The Surrounded Islands Exhibit is open through the middle of February.

Lisa Petrillo


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