Wednesday October 17, 2007

Britto-designed uniforms proposed for MIA

Britto uniform

OK, so this design was pretty seriously proposed for all employees of Miami International Airport. The article doesn’t exactly say what the status is, but some of the Miami-Dade Commissioners didn’t like it much. Natacha Seijas actually said, “my maid wears better clothes than this t-shirt,” which really deserves it’s own article, but whatever. My impression is that they want the design changed, but are not averse to having Britto uniforms for the airport. Yes, the shirts are fugly. But there is a larger issue underlying, and we’re way overdue for a serious conversation about this, people.

Now look, I don’t have anything against Britto. A couple of months ago I was working on an overview of everything he’s got going in Miami, and it was going to have a pretty positive spin. He’s a great guy, he makes colorful decorative stuff that makes people smile, and he’s been very generous to lots of positive causes. But in terms of actual art, his stuff is bullshit. Even the people who like it admit that. They’ll say things like, “I know it’s not really good art, but I just like it.” And that’s great — there’s certainly room in the world for a little inane eye candy ((of which talking, you may to enjoy theze superdope screen savers)).

I’m just concerned that it’s getting a little out of hand here. I now pass at least three different Britto sculptures on my commute to work, at least two of which are on public property. Now look here: public art is serious business. It’s based on tax money (which, as P.J. O’Rourke jokes, we’ll kill your grandmother if she doesn’t pay it), and it’s meant to enrich our lives. And trust me, Britto’s stuff may make you smile, but it is not enriching jack shit. We have an Art in Public Places program, and we should not be circumventing that process for public art selection. (The catastrophe of maintaining that art is a somewhat separate issue, btw.)

Fine, public money to my knowledge hasn’t directly funded any of the pieces in question, they’re either on private land or were donated. Private citizens can buy whatever they want. But private citizens should put the breaks on. We don’t let pop stars rewrite the national anthem,* and we shouldn’t let Britto’s formulaic pop-art rehashing become a de-facto flag for the city of Miami just because it’s loud, colorful, and mindless vocabulary ties in with the most easily marketable aspects of our city. Sooner or later, everyone’s going to wake up and recognize this stuff for the bubblegum twaddle it is, and it’ll be too late — the whole city’s going to be covered in it.

* This point is somewhat undermined by this, but still.


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  1. Duran    Wed Oct 17, 09:57 AM #  

    I lost count on how much Britto’s stuff I see each day. One is more than enough in my book. But too late Alesh on warning everyone Britto’s the de-facto flag of Miami – I think it safe to say Miami is Britto country. Miami’s become that office lady that somebody gives her a Precious Moments figurine as gift and then everyone thinks she loves Precious Moments, so then everyone in the office starts giving them to her during like inter-office Secret Santa or her birthday. Yep, except Miami’s getting Brittos, so we just smile politely and try to find another empty place in our city to put yet ANOTHER adorable smiley sculpture that just warms our hearts – oh joy.

  2. Biscayne Bystander    Wed Oct 17, 01:32 PM #  

    The Commissioner’s outburst was childish and lacked any real constructive criticism. Romero Britto is an accomplished artist and business man. I am happy he’s helping reform the image of Miami in a manner that is upbeat, fun and positive. Which the air and sea ports could use!

    Alesh, consider your comment acknowledging Britto’s work as a defacto flag for our city. As the international hub and gateway for Miami, Airport personnel can sometime be difficult to locate and identify by a tourist seeking some information. The “loud, colorful, mindless vocabulary” that you speak of, would be instantly identifiable by these tourists. By coordinating this attire with the workers at the seaport, the city is finally giving a unified face to the tourists that keep our local economy thriving.

    Face it, the recent Real Estate bust will lead to a recession in Miami. With the dollar as weak as it currently is, coupled with sending these same employees to train with Disney, our city is now positioned to cushion the looming financial fallout. By the looks of this user rating on the quality of service experienced at MIA – it is clear that change is badly needed.

  3. alesh    Wed Oct 17, 05:23 PM #  


    I agree that Seijas’ remarks were innane, and that the airport has some serious issues, but not with much else.

    Firstly, the shirts look like colorful hawaiian shirts that lots of tourists arriving at MIA are wearing. If you want to make employees recognizable, you need a uniform that LOOKS like a uniform. Make it electric blue if you want to be all Miami-goofy, but some idiotic design is just, well, idiotic.

    I also don’t think there’s much to be gained from coordinating uniforms between airport and seaport employees (though the britto shirts make marginally more sense at the seaport) in any case.

    I also don’t see how the condo bust will have a negative effect on the overall Miami economy. We’ll loose some construction jobs (or not — the market for office buildings is showing signs of a boom), but the tradeoff is going to be affordable housing for all.

    MIA clearly has a lot of work to do, if the survey you cite has any validity. But dressing the employees up in these uniforms is like trying to fix a smashed-up car by applying a candy-apple metallic fade paint job.

  4. Robert    Wed Oct 17, 07:09 PM #  

    My initial reaction was that the shirts would look pretty ridiculous, and reinforce the stereotype of Miami as a place where image trumps everything else.

    Then again, perhaps the shirts would help to improve morale and present a unified face for a moribund staff at the airport. I still don’t think it’s worth it, but Biscayne does make a good point.

  5. Biscayne Bystander    Wed Oct 17, 08:24 PM #  


    The shirt you referenced is known locally as the Aloha Shirt, everwhere else it’s called a Hawaiian shirt. Look at the power of that marketing juggernaut! If you wear this loud, gaudy shirt in Cleveland, everyone know’s it’s a Hawaiian shirt and you are probably in a good, festive move. Imagine if that happend for Miami! There is no price for that kind of marketability.

    Regarding the pending economic recession, I urge you to read this prolific 2006 opinion which was practically a blueprint of why the market was bound to crash. The office bldg boom you speak of is mostly retail space from condo projects, those that aren’t are seeking to capitalize on the dense population that is supposed to move in.

    Follow my logic for a moment: If you bought a condo to use as a primary residence in the last 2 years (the peak of the bubble) you are most likely drowing in payments/debt. You then cut unnecessary expenses such as dining out, clubbing, and retail shopping. Consumerism drives our economy, so any scaling back would certanly have adverse effects. Businesses do less business (and struggle with an increased minimum wage), they lay off employees, and may eventually go out of business. A high unemployment rate is the trademark of a recession and would dissuade businesses from investing in ventures that require local participation. No new jobs are created.

    Since a large portion of condo sales in the last two years were fueled by small time investors, looking to buy and flip the property, they got left holding the bag. With little to no intention on using the condo as a second home and a stand still market preventing them from selling, these owners are forced to rent their units. This explains our current renter’s market, which is offering units below cost because owners choose to lose some money rather than risk the unit being empty for a number of months. Those that can’t rent foreclose.

    Surprisingly, the Herald had a good article on the Real Estate trend. However, you won’t see them talking recession any time soon. That would be like yelling fire in a crowded theatre.

  6. I was there    Wed Oct 17, 08:53 PM #  

    Britto is a hack.
    Pure and simple.
    His work is the dietary equivilent of a marshmallow.
    The shirts are awful, I would commit suicide if I had to wear that shirt everyday.
    The only way he can get his sculpture seen is by giving them to different cities either for free or very cheap.
    His work is an eyesore.

  7. alesh    Wed Oct 17, 11:22 PM #  


    Good points (GP). Let me reply per your paragraphs:

    #1 – Hawaiian shirts are widely recognized (my point), but this took decades to achieve (and it wasn’t done deliberately). But my point is that these shirts LOOK LIKE those shirts, so how can they achieve any unique cachet?!

    #2 – I promise to look into it.

    #3 – But the point is that nobody IS buying those condos! They’re empty! And 80% of the purchased ones were purchased by speculators, of which only a minority are actually local. Foreclosures are a problem nationwide, and the Federal Government is taking measures to soften the blows, which will again help Miami disproportionately (since we have a disproportionate share of the problem). The article about minimum wage you cite already says it’s NOT an issue for Miami, because NOBODY here gets minimum wage, because there is DEMAND for workers, the bottleneck for whom was always housing costs. Lower housing costs = increased availability of warm bodies to the service industry = a warm outlook for Miami!

    #4 – True. We call them the “last suckers in.” The moral is that if you can’t hang, keep your day job and invest in a mutual fund, not in the hot thing du jour. Most condo flippers get what they deserve, a few are pity-worthy suckers who gambled at the wrong time. But the rest of us benefit.

    #5 – Recession is a current looming threat for the whole country. The Fed is taking measures to avoid it, which stand to benefit Miami disproportionately.

  8. whomever    Thu Oct 18, 01:53 AM #  

    I dont know what a real estate debate has to do with Britto but the truth is that most people who purchased homes here in Miami in the past two years did so with fraudulently obtained mortgages. These purchases where meant to be their principal residence and therein lies the problem. With an estimated 60% of these deals going into foreclosure not only is the rental market going to be driven by a higher demand by those who are foreclosured out of their homes, but also the worst effect is that banks have tightened their credit budget to unprecedented levels. This economy is driven by credit. Businesses rely on credit and consumers rely on credit. BTW, although there was speculation that the feds are going to take care of “it” for this to be true there would need to be a measure passed in congress. Believe me you no tax payer wants to have their money used to get other people out of their idiotic gamble.

  9. DJ_Kremlin    Thu Oct 18, 09:54 AM #  

    I’d rather see a bunch of Godard then Britto.

  10. mapache    Thu Oct 18, 11:23 PM #  

    whoever thought of this idea is the stupidest person ever. Britto is not an artist he is a businessman that sels his crap on lincoln road. so whoever thought of this is going to make all airport workers look like some caribbean island waiter. so every tourist will think that just by coming off the plane you get and effing piƱa colada or what?
    if you want to have some sort of prototype of miami, make some uniforms that look more sout beachy……..Versace shirts comes to mind.
    this Britto idea is uber ridiculous.

  11. w.mark coulthard    Fri Oct 19, 12:13 AM #  

    The airport shirts should be the Cuban flag, then
    commissioners would go straight for it. we could even get them made in China. Disney had their politeness police come there the other week to teach these workers how to be less imposing… mouse ears to match the other red ,white and blue. Seriously though Britto is the first person to call himself a “pop” artist. He can paint quite adequately in other styles but its our sheeplike tastes for the samething day in day
    out that styfles expression. Please don’t let the art in public places have a say until we get some really educated people in there. what surprises do they have for us at the new family courthouse? If we do go for these shirts visitors will think they arrived at Dennys.

  12. cohen    Fri Oct 19, 10:54 AM #  

    hey i was there,,,,,,,, please dont say Brito makes work,,,,

  13. Larry    Sat Oct 20, 12:16 PM #  

    How about asking Natasha her maid’s immigration status, and please show us her Social Security tax records. Thank you.