Public Art in the Shopping Mall

The Aventura Mall, 10 miles north of Miami Beach, is building a contemporary public art collection. Jorge Pardo and Lawrence Weiner made unique installation and Julian Opie set-up his LED walking man and woman.
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Higher rent shopping arcades, centers and malls have been commissioning artworks since they were invented in the 18th century. (New urbanist shopping villages in the USA have NOT utilized artworks. Another essay.) Generally these shopping areas have commissioned artworks to attract high-income clients. Unlike other public artworks, the artworks are prominently located in the central space or the main façade. Spending money for a back corner, as is seen in many government buildings or parks, would seem foolish to the operators of the shopping place.
My highest praise Jacqueline Fletcher, the director of the art program at the Mall. The works are not “designed” into the building, but rather installed. The works appear in locations that the artist might have discovered on site. I felt like this very expensive mall was being used like the old warehouse shows. Artists found their spaces.
Lawrence Weiner
Weiner’s work is the best for prominence, readability and site relatedness. The rough, yet controlled character of the stenciled “Admired, Desired, Required, Acquired” in English and Spanish matches the simple signage of the mall “Boss, Macy’s, Penny’s”, but inappropriate in materials. Somehow you feel the texture of the paint and the stucco. The work jumps out in the “common space” of the skylight and holds its prominence from many views. (My Argentine wife tells me the mall is very popular with South Americans.)
Jorge Pardo
Pardo’s “paper cut out” butterflies have very little impact on the space. Remove them and the space is the same. Perhaps at night the work is successful. But I would recommend a visit to the thousands of golden butterflies hanging in a cubic volume filling and sparkling the skylight space of Neiman Marcus in Boca Raton’s Town Center Mall (I cannot find the artist or an online source to the in store art collections).
Julian Opie (Excellent website)
Opie’s work is appropriate in the pedestrian zone on the mall’s floor. But the work is much better in video. The contrast between the stylized, slinky, fluid movement of the LED woman and real walkers in the mall become dramatic in video and was unnoticed in the actual space. The video flattens the movement of people into the same realm as the LED woman. In real time, the people are too 3-D.
Rainbow Valley by Friends with You
Unfortunately, Friends with You created the children’s play area called Rainbow Valley. I must admit that I thought the smiling snow covered mountaintops were mediocre commercial constructions. I did not think it was by talented artists until I discovered it via the Internet. (In 2002, the Mall PR praised the new artwork, but today the work is not on the Mall artwork’s brochure).
My ignorance shows two things. One: I am out of it. Another proof of the pre-conceptions and limitations of the second wave public art club. (First: 1970s & 80s. Second: 80s and 90s. Third: Today.) The second wave is not even looking for the new. Two: Sometimes utilizing the language of something in the correct space causes it to disappear. The simplistic imagery of “Friends with You” fails to spark adult thought when in a kid’s space. The same thing can happen with artists making architectural elements. This is danger for the public art curator.
Traditional Mall Public Art in Aventura Food Court
Banksy book for sale with other street artist books at Urban Outfitters.
As my time in shopping malls is infrequent, I discovered Banksy at Urban Outfitters along with other Street Art and Graffiti books. More signals of crossover between the creative industries of fashion, graphics and public art. But it is not the official art, but the unofficial. How can capture the spirit without killing the spirit as happened in the East Village by the 1990s?
I just liked this store.
Very nice changing rooms at Miss Sixty. (Great hotel project with 30 rooms by 30 artists in Italy. The Miss Sixty Hotel. )
Click on More for More Works by Wiener, Opie and Friends with You.

Lawrence Weiner at the Whitney, Jan 2008
Julian Opie Public Art Fund Installation in New York, 2004
Friends with You in ArtBasel Miami 2006 Parade

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