A Farewell to Art

Frank Stella created a sculptural masterpiece for Miami's waterfront, but you'll probably never see it here

But creating the actual structure proved to be extremely complicated. According to APP's Ivan Rodriguez, Stella took his design to a foundry in Rhode Island, where he spent $670,000, only to be so dissatisfied with the craftsmanship there he rejected the work. Stella then turned to a foundry in Cherbourg, France, that met his exacting standards. In addition to the false start at the Rhode Island foundry, the design plans changed when a structural engineer advised Stella that, in order to withstand hurricane-force winds, the amount of steel in the structure needed to be increased from 30 tons to 40 tons. As a result the cost of the project soared to more than three million dollars. "Since June of 1999 he knew about the increase of steel," Rodriguez says. "But he didn't get in touch with us until December 2000."

Rodriguez sighs: "The trust is very upset. They think he's in default of his contract."

To date APP has paid Stella $1.1 million. "We don't know what course of action we will be taking," offers Rodriguez. "He had indicated he would buy the piece from us. But for that to happen, he needs to sell it first. He also indicated he would build a half-scale structure for the money in the contract. But the Art in Public Places trust was not sympathetic to that idea." As for securing the extra money through fundraisers, Rodriguez says the trust quickly scrapped that notion. "We're a public entity," he says, "we're not a private fundraising organization."

Stella's scale-model design for the bayfront bandshell
courtesy museum of contemporary art
Stella's scale-model design for the bayfront bandshell

Rodriguez continues: "[Stella's] position is he cannot set a precedent that when a work of art costs more than originally intended, he has to eat it. But our position is we cannot set a precedent where we contract a piece and then agree to pay more than double just because the artist asks us to. But right now it's not an adversarial relationship whatsoever. We want to try and resolve it amicably."

So does Stella's attorney Neale Albert, who holds out hope that a wealthy patron could rescue the artwork. "If somebody steps forward, it's still possible," he says.

The bandshell, meanwhile, is completed and sits at the Cherbourg foundry. Rodriguez visited it recently. "It's magnificent," he swoons. "It really takes your breath away. It's huge, and the way the steel bends and flows, it gives a very airy feeling. You don't realize the strength. It truly would have been a signature piece for Miami."

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