The golden days of Miami Beach in the 1950’s set the stage for the character it’s known for today – candy ice-cream colors, vintage travel motifs and non-stop nightlife. While Miami still has an eccentric mix of minimally dressed and extroverted party people, its vibe has progressed into a more cultured and complex supporter of the arts.
The international art scene in Miami is best known for Art Basel, but Unlimited, Scope and Design Miami follow right behind. The Miami art movement started in the 70’s, when over 400 Art Deco landmarks in South Beach where saved from destruction. The significance of saving historically important Modernist, Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival buildings formalized a new value system based around appreciation of form and feeling, two important codes of design.
The Design District, just north of Downtown, stands as Miami’s emerging design jewel. Originally a pineapple grove a hundred years ago, the neighborhood was later known as Buena Vista, but fell into urban decay in the 80s and 90s. Craig Robbins, a property developer and art collector who initiated the South Beach architecture preservation movement in the 70’s, saw the opportunity and purchased the majority of the area (he still owns over 40% of the properties). He led the massive plant landscape overhaul and structural facelift of warehouses in the early 2000s, leaving behind any sense of a starving artist. The clean architectural structures now play host to high-end showrooms, galleries and museums, and it has the ambitious goal of becoming the intellectual arts capital of the world. The size of this proportionately small 18-square block neighborhood misrepresents the massive influence it has over the world’s art and design field.
The fresh, eclectic eclectic identity of the Design District is unique to Miami. Not to mention that typical urban space allowance will never be an issue here. From galleries to restaurants, its thousand-plus square footage allows for a sense of space for creativity that NY and other major art cities cannot compete with.
This space surplus has allowed Robins to allocate over 40 murals worth of space to free public art in the surrounding areas. Just south of the Design District you find the Wynwood area, where over 50 galleries, artist’s studios, art complexes, private collections and museums are based. Here you can also find Wynwood Walls, where top-notch artists such as John Baldessari and Shepard Fairey have public pieces on display. Formerly a Puerto-Rican working-class area, it now leads the experimental public art movement. Artworks are made not only by traditional street artist like Fairy, but also architects, such as Zaha Hadid with her interactive Elastika installation (in the atrium of the Moore building).
In the spirit of experimental interactive art, Robins was also responsible for bringing to life Buckminser Fuller’s dream home, referred to by Fuller as the “autonomous dwelling machine” (fancy words to denote a space-age home of the future). Officially named the Fly’s Eye Dome (it was inspired by the eye of a fly), Fuller designed the space bubble in the 60s but passed away before seeing it completed. In 2011 3D-design specialists to recreated his patented design using materials and technology that was not available in Bucky’s time. The dome is made of a series of transparent domed windows across a fiberglass half-sphere, creating a geodesic bubble. The dome stands as a symbol for futuristic thinking and consciousness around the green architecture and tech movement.
While you can clearly wander and have your sights filled, make a point to check out the following hotspots.
The Design Districts standout institution for experimental contemporary art.
The end of this year will see the launch of ICA’s permanent home featuring 20,000 square feet of exhibition space and a 15,000 square foot sculpture garden. Free to the public.
This very Miami-feel collection comes from billionaire art lovers opening their private collection to the world. Their enormous art space is as an extension of their home, housing an extensive collection of sculptures, paintings, and installations. The owners not only offer art but also education-led initiatives, such as artist-led workshops, forums, and lectures. Free to the public.
Backed by the Andy Warhol Foundation, this non-profit gallery space is an artists dream, where gallery fees and other industry formalities are eradicated to promote freeform art creation. Local and international artists are invited to create site-specific projects and installations.
Going into more indie artists, curator and artist Adalberto Delgado and his partner Maria Amore opened their gallery inside a building housing a barbershop, a black-box theater, a dance studio, and several artist spaces. 6th Streeet Container is edgy in nature and always experimental, while focusing on every conceivable genre of media.
Theis cutting edge artist-founded, artist-operated program offers ongoing solo and group shows that are often controversial. Take Korean-American artist Miru Kim, who wallowed naked in the mud with live hogs in the gallery’s storefront window during Art Basel.
This groundbreaking Museum partners with the Design District to rpmote forward art-thinking. It promises to stimulate your imagination and inspire new ways of seeing and thinking. Focusing on international art of the 20th and 21st centuries, the gift store is one of a kind and offers truly unique selection of art and handmade items.
The Design District Art Walk takes place the 2nd Saturday of every month. Meet at 40th street just north of the Wynwood Gallery district.
More than just art or food, OTL is a popular hangout rooted in the local community. Offering everything you would expect from a gourmet coffeeshop, OTL encourages clients to use the space as their creative headquarters (highspeed wifi indoors and outdoors!). It offers other services to creative, such as yoga, interactive panel discussions and more.
Every Wednesday features weekly market with more than 40 vendors selling colorful local produce and artisan goods.