I’m confronted by a gargantuan Shepard Fairey mural, graffitied walls by the likes of Kenny Scharf and Ron English surround us – the impressive walls feel like a Louvre of street art’s elite. New York? Los Angeles? Berlin? No. An emerging neighbourhood in Miami, Florida. Disused warehouses and long, expansive streets, Wynwood – located to the north of Dowtown and Overtown – is gentrification turned over to those oft-gentrified, street art is the language through which the Wynwood Arts District is communicating its current renaissance.
Having spent the last few days confined to the white walls of Miami’s galleries and museums, I feel a new found sense of freedom and inspiration on the streets of this up-and-coming neighbourhood – hip outlets are popping up in former industrial spaces now dominated by large-scale works from international artists whilst, at the area’s beating heart, Wynwood Walls is a fully functioning outdoor gallery complex, offering a more familiar format to the many renowned street artists who are increasingly taking their art indoors at major galleries around the world.
Established in 2009 by the late Tony Goldman, along with Jeffery Deitch (who co-curated its first successful year), Wynwood Walls is currently sporting works from calligraphy-inspired LA-based RETNA, stunning stencil work from Japanese artist Aiko, an immersive Kenny Scharf airstream installation and Brooklyn-based FAILE and BÄST, who adorn the walls of the Wynwood Kitchen & Bar…
We enjoy a spot of lunch on the kitchen’s terrace, a ‘gallery café’ that belies the tradition of sterile art eateries. We plough our way through an array of sharing dishes: hummus, chicken skewers, shrimp ceviche, empanadas, tacos and sliders – the beer menu is equally comprehensive but, as the afternoon sun beats down, a Wynwood Inferno is an apt thirst-quencher; tequila, passion fruit, lime juice, jalapeño, cilantro… just perfect.
Surrounding Wynwood Walls’ outdoor gallery is every bit an outdoor gallery in itself, the Wynwood Arts District – with its expanding influx of art spaces, restaurants, bars and shops – is an overwhelming collection of street art in its purest form, from some of the scene’s most prominent scrawlers – Melbournian Dabs Myla one of the recent highlights. Our tour guide from Dragonfly Expeditions talks us through the works, teases us with the prospect of catching an artist in the midst of throwing up a new piece – we’re disappointed on that account, but far from in terms of both quantity and quality. We spend hours touring the area by car, it may take days to view every piece in this ‘gallery’, but it’ll have probably changed by the time you do.
If you reach your limits viewing contemporary art at Art Basel Miami Beach, Wynwood is an intoxicating alternative, a living, breathing art museum on a staggering scale.