Art In Public Places

Wynwood Walls

Art adorns the streets of Wynwood

Miami International Airport Art

Art is a centerpiece of Miami International Airport

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By: Shayne Benowitz

Miami’s Art in Public Places program is one of the most dynamic in the country with more than 700 works in public parks and buildings.

people enjoy murals at Wynwood Walls
The Wynwood Arts District is an impressive spot for public art

Miami's Arts Hotspots

Miami’s reputation as a world-class arts destination is shining brighter than ever. Since 2002, Miami Beach has hosted Art Basel, staging the biggest contemporary art fair in the Americas every December. The Wynwood Arts District has cemented itself as a premier destination for both street art and cutting-edge contemporary galleries, while Little Haiti is emerging as the next big arts neighborhood. The Pérez Art Museum Miami opened in 2013 on the shores of Biscayne Bay inside a landmark building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron providing Miami with an unprecedented platform to showcase contemporary art of the Americas through both its permanent collection and temporary exhibitions.

Besame Mucho artwork in Miami international airport
Exhibitions can be found all over Miami, including at Miami International Airport

History of Public Art in Miami

Even before all of these recent developments, Miami-Dade’s Art in Public Places program has been buoying the destination with art since 1973. Born from an ordinance that requires allocating 1.5 percent of the construction cost of new county buildings for the purchase or commission of art, the collection spans more than 700 works. Established by the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, it’s one of the most impressive and professionally run programs in the country.

Public art is found everywhere across the county from Homestead to Aventura in venues that include Miami International Airport, Metrorail and Metromover stations, PortMiami, Zoo Miami, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, parks, fire stations, libraries, police stations, public housing developments, courthouses and community health centers.

The works are selected by a Professional Advisory Committee that makes recommendations on acquisitions and commissions to the program’s Trust. Additionally, individual municipalities have their own Art in Public Places programs, including Miami Beach, which was established in 1984 and has sited nearly 20 artworks across the beach, ranging from groundbreaking pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s “Mermaid” on the lawn of the Fillmore at The Jackie Gleason Theater to “Urban Deco” manhole covers by local artist-designer Garren Owens.

Early Days of the Program

In the early days of the countywide program, much of the art consisted of two-dimensional acquisitions, while the focus for the last decade has shifted to site-specific, collaborative projects. The artists represented also range from canonical to emerging, as well as local, regional and international. Some of the collection’s blue chip works include Isamu Noguchi’s marble “Slide Mantra” sculpture in Bayfront Park, Keith Haring’s drawings in the Stephen P. Clark Government Center and Ed Ruscha’s word murals inside the Main Library.

Newest Additions

Recent cutting-edge commissions include Miami artist Nicolas Lobo’s “The Brutal Workout” sited on the Underline linear park. The 10’ x 10’ stainless-steel structure resembles monkey bars for exercise. It’s part of the first phase of the Underline, which opened in January 2021. Jim Drain, another Miami-based artist has added a splash of color inspired by maritime flags to PortMiami with his “Bollard Project,” which runs along the sidewalk.

Another fascinating commission is Ivan Toth Depeña’s “Arc” at the Northeast Dade-Aventura Public Library. The stainless-steel sculpture was created using wind data from Hurricane Wilma in 2005, which destroyed the original library. At night, using wind monitors on the roof of the library, the sculpture’s lighting changes depending on the power of the wind.

Love Sculpture by Robert Indiana photo by Leo Diaz
View the “LOVE” sculpture by Robert Indiana at Aventura Mall

Art at the Mall

In Greater Miami, you can even find amazing public works of art at shopping malls. The Arts Aventura Mall collection is available for shoppers and the general public to enjoy throughout the year, right on the grounds of one of the largest shopping malls in the country. The collection includes more than 20 museum-caliber works of art in various mediums, including sculptures and installations by acclaimed artists from around the world such as Ugo Rondinone, Lawrence Weiner and Louise Bourgeois. Local artists have contributed lively murals to the project. One of the most iconic pieces in the collection is Robert Indiana’s “LOVE” sculpture, which is a favorite selfie spot. Other highlights include The Haas Brothers’ “Gorillas in the Mist” and the Aventura Slide Tower by Carsten Höller. It’s important for children to be inspired by art as well. To that end, artist collective FriendsWithYou added the colorful Rainbow Valley Playground to the mix.

colorful artwork on the walls of Miami Beach Convention Center
The Miami Beach Convention Center is home to a large collection of public artwork

Art at the Miami Beach Convention Center

The $615 million renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center presented an incredible opportunity for new commissions, with more than 500 artists responding to the call for proposals. Ultimately, seven artists from Berlin to Brooklyn were recommended for the original site-specific commissions including a sculpture that resembles an arched swimming pool in the outdoor green space, a neon text installation in the main lobby, and interior and exterior murals on the walls. Another call to artists commissioned sound installations at the New World Center’s Soundscape Park.

With so much art spanning the county’s public places, visiting Miami can feel like a joyous scavenger hunt. Don’t forget to take it all in and dig a little deeper as you’re out and about exploring the destination. You may not even realize you’re amid a great work of art.

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