By Shayne Benowitz
Explore street art and culture in the Wynwood Arts District.
Street art is mercurial by nature and the murals of Miami’s Wynwood Arts District, just north of downtown, are in a state of constant, paint-splattered flux. The late visionary developer Tony Goldman first set his sights on the neighborhood in 2004 when he saw an opportunity for this formerly dilapidated warehouse district to become a canvas for world class street art. His magnum opus, the Wynwood Walls, opened in 2009 as an outdoor museum dedicated to street art. Today, Wynwood Walls and the streets surrounding the property are an ever-changing tapestry of murals by renowned local, national and international street artists.
The program at Wynwood Walls changes every year around Art Basel in December with a new theme and a fresh coat of paint by new artists on many of the walls. While there are some murals that have been there since the beginning, Goldman Properties takes care to document their murals through photography, videos and artist interviews before they’re replaced by a new work. “We want to always give people a reason to come back and explore,” says Jessica Goldman, CEO of Goldman Properties and Tony’s daughter. “We want to give opportunities to as many wonderful artists as we can, so we change.”
Wynwood Walls occupies an entire city block on NW 2nd Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets and consists of the Walls, a garden expansion and indoor gallery and studio space, as well as the adjacent Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, also owned by Goldman Properties. Their roster of artists includes some of the most famous and highly acclaimed muralists working today, as well as cutting edge, emerging talent. Below is a sampling of some of the 40 artists whose work is on display at Wynwood Walls.
Los Angeles based artist Shepard Fairey is most well known for his Obey campaign and the Obama Hope poster. He’s also one of Wynwood Wall’s earliest collaborators, creating not only an outdoor mural, but also the logo and interiors for Wynwood Kitchen & Bar. His mural, in warm tones of red, orange and black, utilizes a wheatpaste technique in his signature style, and is a collage of pop culture and social justice figures from Martin Luther King Jr. to David Bowie and Basquiat. It also features prominently a portrait of Wynwood Walls founder Tony Goldman.
A New York street artist during the Golden Age of the 1970s and 80s, Kenny Scharf is known for his spontaneous, spray paint cartoon-like characters. His work is immediately recognizable and he’s been a mainstay at Wynwood Walls from the beginning.
RETNA is an LA based artist, known for his distinctive lettering in an alphabet of his own invention based on both Chicano graffiti and the calligraphy traditions of ancient civilizations like the Egyptians and Mayans. He’s painted walls in Miami since 2006 and joined Wynwood Walls in 2011 with a mural of white lettering on a red background.
Brooklyn-based artist Maya Hayuk has created one of the most photographed new murals at Wynwood Walls with her pastel colored, geometric forms that create overlapping diamond shapes. She’s conjuring everything from views of outer space to nail art and ancient Sanskrit mandalas in her abstract, representational figures.
Chilean artist, Inti’s mural was part of the most recent addition to Wynwood Walls in 2015. Drawing upon Incan traditions, folklore and culture, his mural’s subjects are two larger-than-life children with both celestial and agrarian symbols and motifs inspired by child labor photography of the early 1900s.
The London Police
The British art collective based in Amsterdam brings a sense of playfulness to their work, often utilizing a group of characters known as the LADs, depicted through simple line drawings with round heads and happy faces. They contributed a new mural to Wynwood Walls in 2015 in sky blue featuring the LADs in a factory-like setting. Their work can also be found on the streets of Wynwood.
Local & International Artists in the Neighborhood
The murals throughout the Wynwood neighborhood are just as compelling as those found inside Wynwood Walls and there’s hardly a square-inch of concrete not covered in mural work. This is where you’ll find Miami’s local street artists alongside work by those visiting from across the country and around the world.
Local artist Magnus Sodamin, represented by downtown gallery Primary Projects, exhibited an installation at Wynwood Walls during Art Basel 2015 and his work covers the walls of the Wynwood Block, a new retail development. Painted in vertical streaks in every color of the rainbow, his work is punctuated by flowers inspired by mornings fishing on Biscayne Bay and the ethereal nature of sunrise and sunset.
Paola Delfin is a Mexican street artist who creates large scale portraits of the female from in a variety of styles from realistic to more interpretive. She contributed a monochromatic mural of a female bust during Art Basel 2015.
The MSG Crew is a local art collective whose signature tag is a cartoon-like Florida orange with a big, toothy smile. Heavily influenced by the interventionist graffiti style, their tags can be found throughout the city. In Wynwood at the old RC Cola Factory, they’ve painted an enormous wall in a Star Wars dreamscape style.
Jessy Nite is one of Miami’s rising stars of the art world. Her style and subject matter is brazen and provocative with a true sense of place in Miami culture. She has a number of murals up around Wynwood, including the entire exterior of Redbull’s Wynwood office painted in a geometric, grayscale retinal pattern.
London-born, Berlin-based artist David Walker creates multi-layered, hyper-real portraits in a kaleidoscope of colors using spray paint without the aid of stencils, brushes or projectors. Represented locally by the Robert Fontaine Gallery, he’s had a mural in Wynwood for the last three years that continues to get a lot of attention.
Jose de Diego Middle School Project
In an effort to connect Wynwood’s artistic renaissance to the local community, a grassroots organization called RAW (Reimagining Art in Wynwood) engaged with Jose de Diego Middle School to bring street artists to the campus whose arts funding had recently been cut. Many of the artists mentioned previously, including Magnus Sodamin, Paola Delfin and David Walker, donated their time and talents to working with students and painting murals beautifying the school campus.
On the second Saturday of every month the streets of Wynwood flood with people young and old. The crowd includes longtime art enthusiasts, newcomers to the scene, families and students for Wynwood Art Walk. What began as a way to expose the neighborhood to a new audience has become a giant community event every month. The event attracts both out of town visitors and locals from a wide range of Miami areas. Galleries stay open late, restaurants are packed, artists paint live on the streets and a food truck court takes over a parking lot with dozens of vehicles. If you’re looking for a large dose of the Wynwood scene all at once, brave the crowds and enjoy an Art Walk on a second Saturday.
Art In All Mediums: From Cinema to Radio and Cycling
It’s not all about art with paint in Wynwood. You’ll find art of all kinds here. O Cinema is a non-profit independent cinema screening cutting-edge films. You’ll see high quality films that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in this cozy theater. Other cultural institutions include Wynwood Radio, University of Wynwood, Edge Theater and Critical Mass, a huge monthly biking group.
In Wynwood, private art collectors put their collections on display for the public to learn from. These not-so-private collections are housed in beautiful spaces for any art lover to enjoy. This unique way of sharing art is known as the “Miami Model” by many art insiders.
The Margulies Collection at The WAREhOUSE is a 45,000 square foot converted warehouse. Much like the rest of Wynwood’s hidden gems, inside is an extensive collection of contemporary and vintage photography, video, sculpture and installation from Martin Z. Margulies’ private stash. Rubell Family Collection and Contemporary Arts Foundation is in a building that was once used for housing the Drug Enforcement Administration’s confiscated goods. The collection includes pieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol and others.
Wynwood is one of Miami’s most dynamic neighborhoods. With each return to the ever-evolving neighborhood, visitors are likely to see something that wasn’t there before—and that may not be there the next time they visit. For that reason, it’s a neighborhood of visual discovery that’s always ripe for exploration.
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