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ART : Monumental Marriage : Miss Liberty and a statue of Christopher Columbus will wed in Las Vegas in a symbolic ceremony laced more with art than politics

February 09, 1992|BARBARA ISENBERG | Barbara Isenberg is a Times staff writer

Is this any way to start a marriage? The groom refuses to leave Barcelona, the bride is wedded to New York, and Valentine's Day nuptials this week in Las Vegas are awash in excess.

Then again, the Statue of Liberty and Barcelona's Christopher Columbus monument have been courting too long to turn back now. The couple's engagement was officially announced back in 1986 by then-New York Mayor Edward Koch--who admitted he "didn't even know they were dating"--and the partying hasn't stopped since.

So what if the bride is more than three times the size of the groom? Who cares that both members of the larger-than-life couple are on the dark side of 100 years old? We're talking the Honeymoon Miralda Project, a six-year-long ceremonial art event that has swept in thousands of volunteers and millions of dollars from all over the world.

Their prenuptial agreement ensures that Miss Liberty will keep her maiden name and, should the couple separate, all the extravagant wedding gifts currently wending their way to Las Vegas. Barcelona-born artist Antoni Miralda--a recognized pied piper of kitsch-- has inspired exhibitions, happenings and processions of those gifts everywhere from Philadelphia and New York to Tokyo and Paris.

All of it leads up to what may be the most bizarre public wedding since Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki tied the knot on "The Tonight Show" some 20 years ago.

The Miralda event obviously capitalizes on and contributes to the international fervor surrounding the 500th anniversary of Columbus' journey to the New World. But its participants clearly consider it more artwork than political statement, and its focus is as much the ritual of marriage as it is the blending of two cultures.

"I was fascinated by monuments," explains the 49-year-old Miralda, "and I (wanted) a piece that relates to what I'm doing and what I believe. I am from Barcelona and live in New York. It is like bringing together two families for me."

This union is definitely monumental. Should all go according to plan, an international procession will wind past 30 identical white Cadillac limousines and two giant pelvis-shaped sculptures situated at the fountains at Caesars Palace. The two-hour ceremony at dusk Friday will feature several enormous images of the bride and groom projected onto the facade of Caesars' three buildings, as well as ceremonial music and a satellite feed to Europe.

Limousine trunks will serve as buffet tables for exotic foods carted in from around the world and prepared by casino kitchens, under Miralda's supervision, for invited guests. The 297-foot-long wedding dress will be on display in the valet parking area, while an oversized necklace from France will be out by the pool.

And that's just the start. Enough jet-setters and outsize wedding gifts are being trucked, shipped or flown to Las Vegas from around the world to fill the Nina, Pinta and the Santa Maria. Liberty's 935-pound polyester wedding gown, gondola-size wedding shoe and other trousseau items built to scale will be exhibited all over the nation's wedding capital. A bridal tea party, replete with a 29-foot-high teapot and 110-pound spoons, is set for McCarran International Airport on Thursday.

"What appeals to me is its giant pageantry," says Adolfo Nodal, general manager of Los Angeles' Cultural Affairs Department and a member of the project's International Committee. "He's one of those artists like Robert Wilson or Christo who thinks big. It's a multinational project, getting cities all over the world involved in this conceptual celebration of a sort of unlikely event."

Miralda is, after all, the man who pulled off Breadline, an event at Houston's Contemporary Arts Museum that included, among other things, a 200-foot-long wall of colored bread. The low-key, soft-spoken artist also created "Mona a Barcelona" in that city's Galeria Joan Prats, which featured a miniature Barcelona sculpted in chocolate.

Miralda's reputation obviously preceded him. Financial or other support for this project has come in from every government office one can think of in Nevada, not to mention the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia and corporate sponsors ranging from Iberia Airlines to Burlington Industries. Honeymoon Miralda Project represented Spain at the 1990 Venice Biennale.

The project kicked off in 1986 at New York's Jacob Javits Convention Center, plugging into that city's festivities for the Statue of Liberty's centennial. Her 100-foot-high engagement dress was on display, as was her large but tacky engagement ring. Columbus' 678-pound gift to Miss Liberty has as its stone a Mitsubishi TV monitor--which plays a video about the bride and groom--and a band of recycled Coca-Cola cans featuring "Liberty Facts."

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