It’s 6 am in Miami Beach and while most of the city’s revelers are fast asleep (or are just hitting the hay), the PEM team is up and at ‘em. The sun has yet to rise and we are prepping Theo Jansen’s many-legged, larger-than-life kinetic sculptures for their morning march along the beach. It’s Wednesday, December 3, which means today we open STRANDBEEST: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen, a seaside exhibition at Art Basel Miami Beach presented by PEM and Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet.
This event marks the Strandbeests’ first major U.S. debut and the kickoff of their first national tour (opening at PEM in fall 2015). All of these FIRSTS deserve a special celebration, so we’ve planned to begin the day with an early dawn Instameet (Instagram meet-up) that draws dozens of professional and amateur photographers to the beach, en mass. Strandbeest creator, Dutch artist Jansen, is full of indomitable energy and clear focus as he raises the sails of Animarus Ordis. The conditions are perfect: the weather is mild and clear, the sun is just inching up in the sky and the ocean breezes are consistent and just to the Strandbeests’ liking (hovering at about 7 mph).
Jansen aligns the Strandbeest just so, let’s go and it begins its walk upon the wind while the cameras and iPhones start clicking …
Through TED talk appearances, BMW commercials and countless YouTube videos, the Strandbeests have become a major international Internet phenomenon.
For many of the Instagram photographers on the beach this morning, meeting the Strandbeests is the equivalent of seeing a band play live after listening to them for years. Among the photographers is user @newteam who has been tapped by Instagram headquarters to cover the event and take the definitive image for Instagram’s blog and official account. A few hours later the @newteam’s photo is posted to Instagram’s 43.5 million followers. Half a million likes and comments later, the exotic Strandbeests are really gaining traction, even becoming a household name.
See more photos of the event at PEM’s instagram account: @peabodyessex
Below is a fantastic 3-minute video of Strandbeests moving along Miami Beach, produced by avant-garde filmmaker Bill Morrison for The New York Times.