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Miami Beach preservationists fight to save unique art on buildings

Preservationists look to save murals approved to be torn down

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Preservationists on Miami Beach are fighting another battle: Saving unique art on buildings slated for demolition.

"We are in an unfortunate pattern right now where we are losing things that people, even if they're not specialists, they see right away that Miami Beach does not look like the rest of the country," said preservationist Clotilde Luce.

Along Alton Road, several buildings, including the Wells Fargo bank, were approved to be torn down and replaced with brand-new modern structures. But embedded into the exterior walls of the bank building are mosaic murals depicting scenes of Americana by artist Enzo Gallo.

"He's an Italian artist that lived in Italy and also Havana, Cuba," said Daniel Ciraldo, with the Miami Design Preservation League.

As it turns out, preservationists and developers agree that the mural should be saved.

Developers at Crescent Heights said the murals will be donated to the city of Miami Beach, "at the behest of Mayor Levine and Commissioner Joy Malakoff," said retail manager Marisa Galbut.

Malakoff told Local 10 in an email that the placement of the mural still had not been determined,

Another building expected to be demolished is the south building of the Versailles Hotel at 3425 Collins Ave.

American artist Jack Stewart, whose work is recognized by the Smithsonian, installed a mosaic mural on the exterior walls in 1958.
"It's a mid-century modern glass mosaic mural," said preservationist Mitch Novick.

Novick has helped spearhead the effort to save the murals while Argentinian development group Faena is revitalizing the midsection of the beach.

Former Miami Beach mayor and attorney for the Faena Group, Neisen Kasdin, said the mural would be saved.

"The Faena Group will be restoring the original 1940 Versailles Hotel tower in Miami Beach, designed by noted architect Roy France. The restoration process, fully vetted and approved by the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board, includes the demolition of a 1955 addition to the Versailles Hotel tower that marred the original structure, but included a mosaic mural designed by Jack Stewart depicting, in part, 'Apollo Driving His Sun Chariot Across the Sky.' Noting the importance of the artwork, The Faena Group has carefully deinstalled Jack Stewart's mosaic mural and is preserving and storing it," Kasdin wrote in part to Local 10.