Alumnus organizes Art Basel’s largest art exhibit


Forty tons. Three stories high and 275 feet long. Three-foot teeth. One eyeball alone weighs 300 pounds. And the best part: it’s made entirely of recycled material.

The largest exhibit in the history of Art Basel, the Gator in the Bay is the creation of FIU alumnus Cesar Becerra ’95 and artist Lloyd Goradesky. The head is made primarily of storm damaged shade cloth hardened with resin and epoxy paint. The teeth were constructed from a storm damaged tin roof.

Starting Dec. 5, the 100-foot long, 30,000-pound head of the gator will float on a barge from Fort Lauderdale River to Biscayne Bay as part of Art Basel, where it will be on exhibit at the Miami Yacht Club on Watson Island until Sunday. Public viewings of the gator will be Thursday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 8, at 5 p.m. at Miami Yacht Club on Watson Island.

Following Art Basel, the gator will take part in the International Boat Parade in Fort Lauderdale Dec. 15.

This spring, the entire gator will be assembled and floated on a barge in the bay as a public installation. The body, which stretches almost the length of a football field, will be made from 102, four-by-eight closed cell foam tiles.

Becerra drew inspiration for the project from several influences. First, he wanted to pay tribute to Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the environmental artists who wrapped 11 islands in Biscayne Bay with pink floating fabric. Assembly of the Gator in the Bay in May 2013 will coincide with the 30-year anniversary of that iconic Christo exhibit. Becerra was also influenced by the spectacle of Burning Man, the annual art and social action event that draws 50,000 people a year to Black Rocks Desert in Nevada.

Most importantly, Becerra, who serves as a consultant for FIU’s Everglades Digital Library collection, wanted to bring awareness to the importance of the Everglades.

“We take the Everglades for granted,” Becerra said. “The alligator is a barometer species. If they are doing well, everything else is doing well. We hope this piece will keep the Everglades dialogue going.”

To make the project happen, Becerra connected with Goradesky along with some heavy machinery from V & M Erectors and Fronte Crane/Poseidon Plus Barge.

On Nov. 28, the Gator in the Bay made a stop at FIU on the back of a flatbed truck. Much of the planning for this massive project took place on campus. Becerra and his team needed a huge space for the initial mockup and they found it on the Recreation Field.

The first stop on the gator’s campus visit was the Children’s Creative Learning Center where students oooh’d and aahh’d over the big white teeth. Then, they parked it in front of the Wertheim, where passersby stood and stared. Vicky Silvera,  head of special collections at the FIU Library, joked, “This is not coming to the archives.”

–Deborah O’Neil MA ’09