Spencer Tunick on the Miami Strip

Spencer Tunick on the Miami Strip
The artist Spencer Tunick, known for creating and photographing large-scale installations of nudes all over the world, last made news when he helped Greenpeace spotlight global warming by gathering hundreds of naked volunteers on a melting glacier in Switzerland. Now he’s back in the headlines with the announcement of his next project, an installation commissioned for Miami Beach’s Sagamore Art Hotel on October 8. ARTINFO caught up with the Brooklyn-based artist to “uncover” some facts.

Spencer, what are you most excited about for your upcoming Miami project?

This year I’ve worked on three large-scale pieces. In Mexico City we had more than 18,000 people, for Greenpeace there were 600, and in Amsterdam, for the Dream Amsterdam Foundation, we had over 2,000 people. The Sagamore piece, which is inside the hotel, is a great opportunity to work on a smaller scale. It will be like a cross between an installation by Nancy Rubins and Robert Smithson, with the quirky quality of a Diane Arbus piece.

I read that you are choosing 800 applicants. Is that correct?

No. The press always gets some strange number and just runs with it. I need between 300 and 600 to make this work successful.

And how many hopefuls are there?

Eight hundred so far.

So it’s competitive. How will you choose?

 

I usually choose everyone, but in this case, since there are capacity limitations, people are sending me photographs of themselves. I’ll choose based on their enthusiasm in the pictures. I have a few criteria. I’m looking for pictures of Miami nightlife, Miami Beach, and the Miami art scene.

What’s the biggest turnout you’ve ever had?

In Mexico City we had more than 18,000 people.

You recently said you’ve probably seen more naked people in your life than Hugh Hefner. How many do you think that is?

I was having a little fun when I said that. I’ve never really counted, but I’m sure it’s close to 75,000.

And 600 of them were for your recent collaboration with Greenpeace, photographed on a shrinking Swiss glacier to spotlight global warming?

Right. It was the Aletsch Glacier, which supports most of Switzerland’s hydroelectric power. Glaciers are also the source of most drinking water for Switzerland and Europe as a whole. But it’s melting at an alarming rate. It could be gone in 80 years.

Wow, that’s scary. I also heard you were worried about people getting injured.

We worked with mountaineers who marked off the crevices so people wouldn’t fall into them. I was more nervous than the participants were—they were pretty brave.

Weren’t they cold?

No. It was summer, so it was warm, unseasonably warm. We wanted to make a point that the weather is changing, and people can actually be naked on a glacier.

Will you be doing anything a bit closer to home—say, in New York—anytime soon?

No. It’s very difficult to do installations in New York City. A lot of people are afraid of dealing with body issues on the streets, and I need collaborators for my work. I’m not afraid, but other people are.