Save Menice Beach

by Gus Donohoo


A Primer on the Above Water Board and a Sinking Art World


Cities are a trickier beast to save. As the wet gets wetter, and the earth gets hotter, the coast with the most might be the highest and the driest. But if the past fifty years have proven anything on this earth, it’s that there’s no problem that can’t be fixed with a fancy charity gala.


It is said that when Atilla—that meatiest of Huns—invaded Italy in 452 AD, forcing the progenitor Venetians to flee into the lagoons and islands upon which their great city would be founded, the general looked out upon the Venetian’s ramshackle fortifications and—as the Roman historian Priscus recorded it—said: “That looks like a great place for art.”

And lo, through myriad seasons of time and change, through periods Byzantine, medieval, renaissance, baroque, Ottoman, Napoleonic, Austrian, and Instagrammed, Venice has glimmered as perhaps the highest jewel in the art world’s crown, inspiring legions with its romantic canals, gothic architecture, and Murano glass, and giving birth to geniuses like Titian, Paolo Veronese, Giovanni Bellini, and Andrea Palladio. Indeed Ruskin called Venice the “Paradise of cities.”

Now consider the upstart—young, brash, proud, in white linen pants, and pastel art deco finery, with a Koons in the lobby, and a Hadid on the rise—Miami. A city of humidity, white rum, and hot nights. When the Spanish explorer, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, claimed the land for Spain in 1566 (diligently ignoring the Tequestas who had lived there for a millennia), he wrote to his king: “This looks like a great place for art.”

And lo, in 2001 Art Basel Miami Beach was formed, bringing in the superyachts and helicopters, the Abramovichs and Kardashians. And art too. Great fistfuls of art. Contemporary art, street art, modern art, Miami art…


In the 20th century Venice began a downwards drift, sliding into the Mediterranean Sea, with each year now sinking the city 2mm deeper into the brine.1 It was always an audacious venture to build a city atop a chain of 117 small islands, but ironically it was the sinking of wells for industry last century, and the pumping of groundwater that began Venice’s descent. The wells were stopped, but the damage was done (plus plate tectonics aren’t helping), and now as the city gets lower, the Adriatic gets higher.

600 years ago the Venetians had a crack at reducing their flood risk by diverting nearby rivers into a lagoon, and now the locals are floating hollow gates to combat the overly-enthusiastic tides. But by its design Venice was built for the water—the entire city, on average, sits a mere 3.3 feet above the lapping seas, and transport is by foot or by boat along 160 different canals.2


Miami on the other hand sits less than ten feet above sea level, yet by 2040 the Atlantic seaboard is expected to rise by between 7.9 inches and 1.3 feet, while by 2100, these estimates increase to between 3.6 and 7.3 feet.3 This will leave some very valuable property awfully wet on a high tide. In terms of vulnerability to climate change, Miami is the most asset-exposed city in the world, with an expected $3.5 trillion of property and possessions in “deep” trouble by 2070.4 This presents a serious quandary for the residents—six million or more people living in Florida are expected to be displaced by rising sea levels this century.5 That’s quite a lot, and while $1.5 billion is to be invested in projects aimed at stopping the tide like King Canute, “[f]ew scientists believe the works will have a long-term effect.”6 Because unfortunately Miami is built onto a porous limestone that fills with seawater, so dikes, seawalls, or the mobile gates and barriers that have been floated in Venice to keep it dry, don't translate to Miami due to both the rock and the prodigious influx of water from the Everglades.7 


In 1971 a brave collection of intrepid Americans founded the Save Venice organization in the hope of ensuring the survival and artistic integrity of that great city, and soon a local office flourished in Venice itself. Together they have raised more than $25 million for the city’s protection. Now, in 2016, a brave collection of intrepid Venetians have banded together with a worthy clique of Miami’s finest to SAVE MENICE BEACH.

For Art Basel Miami Beach, Flaunt has assembled the Executive Board of the Miami Chapter—a collection of the city’s best and brightest philanthropists and cultural stalwarts.



The colorful billionaire property developer and owner of the NHL team The Miami Starfish. Aguilar is renowned for his generosity to the people of Miami and for his compassionate purchase of the local Museum for the Fine Arts which was renamed to the Felix K. Art Dome (FKDome) after his courteous donation that kept the museum afloat until the sea shall claim it.


The renowned billionaire philanthropist and businesswoman who, after a highly successful legal career, became the CEO of Florida Swampy bank, and of the Miami Pastel Paint Co. In 2006 the Miami Ballet Centre was renamed the Prolé Ballet Rink (PBR) after a generous donation, and on the stipulation that she be allowed to dance with the Miami Ballet each year on her birthday, until her hips or the break-wall collapse.


The famed, acclaimed, and aesthetically unrestrained plastic surgeon to the stars is best known for inventing a revolutionary technique in breast augmentation—the Bistouri bulge—and for being kicked out of the exclusive Boohoo House, after a few too many shandys. Bistouri is acclaimed for raising awareness that the Miami sand—known for some of the purest silicon in the world—might all be washed away.


The Director of the COD (Contemporary Original Design) Museum—which notoriously remains unopened after extensive renovations over several years—Gator is known for her strong leadership in purchasing the Arizona Dangling Marbles artwork—a monumental collection of incandescent stones, that some have claimed are one sea level rise short of a masterpiece.


A successful businesswoman who ran the lucrative Chia Pet Corporation, Gray is married to the famous lawyer Teddy Gray, whom she met as a juror on the trial of pop star Justine Beaver who faced drag racing charges along Oak Tree Drive. Gray is also famed for her role in Housewives Got Talent, a show that the Miami Day critic Ramone Ebert described as “like watching cats in a bathtub adrift at sea.”


The President of MBU (Miami Beach University), and the rumored lover of former Defense Secretary Diana Inchenes, Gorgon brings academic clout and passion to raising awareness of a cause that many MBU scientists have labeled “hopeless.”

1Aguilero, M. (2012). ”Venice hasn’t stopped sinking after all.” Scripps Institution of Oceonography. March 20.

2Webb, B. (2010). Venice: Rising Water, Sinking Land. Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the University of Massachusetts.

3Jevrejeva, S. (2016). “Coastal sea level rise with warming above 2 °C.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. November 7.

4Nicholls, R. J. et al. (2008). “Ranking Port Cities with High Exposure and Vulnerability to Climate Extremes: Exposure Estimates”, OECD Environment Working Papers, No. 1, OECD Publishing.

5Hauer, M. E. et al. (2016). “Millions projected to be at risk from sea-level rise in the continental United States.” Nature Climate Change 6, 691–695.

6McKie, R. (2014). “Miami, the great world city, is drowning while the powers that be look away.” The Guardian. July 11.

7Goodell, J. (2013). “Goodbye Miami.” Rolling Stone. June 20.

Illustration by Chris Friend
Written by Gus Donohoo