Striking Beach Installation Art


The beach is a stunning transformative space that has inspired many artists. Katharina Grosse’s installation Rockaway! opens at the beach in Queens today. The work transforms “Ft. Tilden’s decaying aquatics building into a sublimely exhilarating exterior painting with her unique spray painting technique.” Inspired by Grosse’s striking use of the natural landscape, here are 10 other art installations on the beach where the organic, inorganic, and conceptual converge in fascinating ways.

Rachely Rotem and Phu Hoang’s Exhale, an open-air installation designed for the oceanfront pavilion at Art Basel Design Miami in 2010, was composed of seven miles of reflective and phosphorescent ropes and interacted with visitors and the environment (the ropes glowed in response to wind speeds).

Christo and Jeanne-ClaudeSurrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-83Photo: Wolfgang Volz© 1983 Christo

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Surrounded Islands — installed in Biscayne Bay, between the city of Miami, North Miami, the Village of Miami Shores, and Miami Beach — surrounded 11 of the islands with 6.5 million square feet of floating pink polypropylene fabric that covered the water and followed the contours of each island. The fabric even covered the surface of the beach.

Dutch artist Theo Jansen uses wind power to bring his skeletal kinetic sculptures to life. He calls them Strandbeests, which translates to “Beach Beasts.”

Gregor Schneider’s Bondi Beach installation 21 Beach Cells explores the uncomfortable parallels “between comfort and isolation, safety and imprisonment.” The transparent cells — some with locked doors, which forced participants to find new exits — contained amenities for visitors, like an air mattress, beach umbrella, and black plastic garbage bag.

From the Washington Post about the disturbing facts behind a protest that took place on a beach in Rio, which was part of a photographic art installation:

This week, an NGO called Rio de Paz, or ‘Peaceful Rio,’ a nod to Rio de Janeiro, the city where the crime took place, staged an eye-catching protest on one of the world’s most famous beaches, Copacabana. Scattered among large stylized photographs of women with the mark of a bloody handprint covering their mouths were 420 pairs of underwear. That is the number of women raped every three days in Brazil, the organizers said. The photos, taken by Marco Freitas, are part of an exhibit titled I will never be silenced.

In the Belly of a Bear was a 15-ft diameter wood sculpture designed by Lane Shordee, Caitlind r.c. Brown, and Wayne Garrett, installed on the beach of Lake Ontario during the winter of 2015. The massive sphere made from charred cedar invited viewers to climb a wooden ladder where they found a fur-lined sitting space that offered a view of the sky. The work was part of a series that asked artists to reimagine the lifeguard station.

The award-winning House of Mirrors was made from stacked gabon cages and a cluster of mirrored steel panels that created a kaleidoscopic view of the surrounding environment.

A Sign in Space, by Gunilla Klingberg and installed on Spain’s Laga Beach, was meant to wash away during high tide. The artist used a truck tire star pattern to emboss a design on the sand.

Olaf Breuning’s explosive smoke bomb installation created a rainbow-hued environment that confronted viewers with shocking and disorienting colors and smoke. The work was ignited during the public opening night in Collins Park for the 12th Art Basel in Miami.

From MYD Studio on Jim Denevan’s illuminating land art:

Jim Denevan’s monumental sand art has transformed beaches around the world into beautiful context-driven landscapes, incorporating geometry, pattern and the natural environment in a temporal celebration of place, process and form. This past weekend, a beautiful installation in Laguna Beach added the dimension of light, with the massive sand patterns lit by the glow of hundreds of solar lanterns stretching from the bluffs to the water. When viewed from above, the illuminated sand drawings seem to float in space, anchored by the city lights beyond, the sound of the ocean below and faint reflection of the moonlight in the water beyond.