Miami Art Week 2014: Theo Jansen’s Dream Machines

Whimsical, moving sculptures at the oceanfront Strandbeest pop-up exhibition


For anyone attending Miami Art Week, the pop-up exhibition, Strandbeest, blends the best elements of the week—sun, sand and powerful, innovative art—into one one. Presented by luxury watch brand Audemars Piguet and the Peabody Essex Museum, Strandbeest is a collection of large-scale sculptural works by Dutch artist Theo Jansen. They are mesmerizing, moving creations that smoothly step forward when the wind blows from their oceanfront position at Sandlot, an outdoor park between 21st and 22nd streets. These magnificent pieces invoke both beast and machine, and while the mechanisms are visible, it’s still a mysterious sight.


The presentation previews Jansen’s forthcoming US Strandbeest tour, organized by the Peabody Essex Museum across 2015 and 2016. The artist’s six latest works, including the debut of the 42-foot-long “Animaris Suspendisse,” function as the show’s centerpiece. The exhibition also incorporates developmental sketches of Strandbeests, fossil-like remnants of earlier creations, process imagery, and a replication of the artist’s studio. The venue also plays videos of the Strandbeests walking the beaches of Scheveningen in The Hague.

Jansen describes each piece as having its own DNA; a structural integrity that allows these inanimate artworks to come alive through the power of nature. The genome for each beast was developed over nearly 30 years of experimentation on the Dutch seacoast, where Jansen (and his Strandbeests) resides, as ideas and sketches turned into highly complex machines. Not only do the pieces move, they can store wind power and even sense water and change direction, or hold fast. For something so mechanical and meticulous, there’s a touch of magic in the way they move, especially in the Miami sunlight.

While the exhibition will run through Sunday, 7 December 2014, the Strandbeests remain in place most of the day, with walks along the shore twice daily at 10:30AM and 4:30PM.

Images by David Graver