Artsy and Ur­ban

Wrap a week­end around a visit to Wyn­wood, Mi­ami’s over-the-top, art-cen­tric hood

RSWLiving - - Department­s - BY PA­TRI­CIA LETAKIS Con­trib­u­tor Pa­tri­cia Letakis has writ­ten ex­ten­sively about Florida for the past 20 years.

Welcome to the world of Shep­ard Fairey, Kenny Scharf, Retna and Miss Van. These are artists who don’t need a gallery or a frame to dis­play their art when the ex­te­rior wall of a ware­house or the door of a garage will do. They are all in­ter­na­tional heavy­weights in the graf­fiti genre, and their sig­na­ture street art is what makes Mi­ami’s Wyn­wood Arts Dis­trict one of the most ex­cit­ing ur­ban art scenes in the world.

A visit to this ec­cen­tric neigh­bor­hood, where high-end gal­leries meet un­der­ground-style bars, is an in­tro­duc­tion into another world where think­ing out­side the box is the norm.

Once a thriv­ing ware­house dis­trict, the blighted area north of down­town Mi­ami was re­sus­ci­tated by graf­fiti artists com­mis­sioned in 2009 by the late ur­ban devel­oper Tony Gold­man. (He was a cat­a­lyst in cre­at­ing New York City’s SoHo.) To­day few build­ings are not cov­ered with goo­gly-eyed car­i­ca­tures or oddly shaped letters from an un­fa­mil­iar al­pha­bet or just wild freestyle graf­fiti.

The cen­ter­piece of the area is the Wyn­wood Walls, an art park of sorts on NW 2nd Av­enue, with a lawn and open space for walk­ing and view­ing 24 huge walls and 10 doors be­fore pop­ping into the Peter Tun­ney Ex­pe­ri­ence gallery.

Ash­ley Turchin, who runs the gallery, knows the art here well. “These are the best artists in the world. I’ve watched the evo­lu­tion of the walls and how Tony Gold­man’s daugh­ter Jes­sica brought in women artists,” she says, as she points out the “Poupes,” child­like women equally an­gelic and dev­il­ish, that French artist Miss Van (Vanessa Alice Ben­si­mon) has painted on her wall.

All the artists “own” their walls and come regularly to touch up or change the art­work—some­times just parts of it, some­times the en­tire wall.

When you first en­ter the Wyn­wood Walls, you’re greeted by pop artist Kenny Scharf’s car­toon­like fig­ures with mis­chievous grins and bulging eyes in bright yel­lows, pinks and aquas. Scharf uses spray paint and is known to work at in­cred­i­ble speed, as if he’s back in the ’70s paint­ing the streets of New York City be­fore it was en vogue.

One of the new­est and most de­tailed mu­rals is “Oc­to­phant” by Puerto Ri­can mu­ral­ist Alexis Diaz. He spent days work­ing with tiny brushes, fill­ing his wall with mil­lions of fine lines to cre­ate an ele­phant whose trunk re­sem­bles an oc­to­pus. Then there is Lo­gan Hicks’ sten­ciled New York City street scene. “If you walk past this wall, the street moves with you,” Turchin points out.

Ad­ja­cent to the walls is the Wyn­wood Kitchen & Bar, where Shep­ard Fairey’s pasted mu­rals can be found on the wall fac­ing the pa­tio and in­side be­hind the bar. Dom­i­nated by red and gold, his ma­jor mu­ral pays homage to Tony Gold­man, who is por­trayed with open arms wel­com­ing visi­tors. A lunch of small plates from grilled pork belly on skew­ers and ba­con-wrapped med­jool dates to ropa vieja em­panadas is rea­son enough to stop at the res­tau­rant.

Af­ter lunch ex­plore the gal­leries where Latin artists have a strong pres­ence. At the Alejandra von Hartz Gallery, Cuban artist Ley­den Ro­driguez-Casanova’s in­stal­la­tion of geo­met­ric con­struc­tion uses typ­i­cal do­mes­tic ar­chi­tec­tural ar­range­ments. Ar­gen­tine artist To­mas Espina’s se­ries of war paint­ings are part of the Pan Amer­i­can Art Projects. “He makes holes in the can­vas and cre­ates tex­ture with gun­pow­der,” ex­plains cu­ra­tor Irina Leyva-Perez. A few blocks down, Art Bas­tion fea­tures science art by Darya Warner. The Be­larus artist’s in­stal­la­tion in­cludes light bulbs that house bi­o­lu­mi­nes­cent al­gae.

Ho­tels haven’t sprung up yet in Wyn­wood, so your best bet is to stay at the new Yve Ho­tel in down­town Mi­ami across from Bayfront Park. Its cen­tral lo­ca­tion makes it easy to get to Wyn­wood by hired car, and the concierge can set you up with Uber, the car-for-hire app that al­lows you to ar­range pickup through your smart­phone.

The bou­tique ho­tel with its hip mod­ern dé­cor has a to­tally Mi­ami vibe. Rooms are drenched in white, the thick mat­tresses prom­ise a good night’s sleep, and you’ll wake up with a sunrise view of the Port of Mi­ami and Bis­cayne Bay. You can even grab an Yve yoga mat and join the lo­cals for a free class in the park on Satur­day morn­ing.

The ho­tel’s Bis­cayne Tav­ern adds a nice con­trast to the Yve’s con­tem­po­rary look with warm earthy tones, nat­u­ral wood ta­bles and black­boards with say­ings like “I only drink beer on days that end in Y” that are meant to en­cour­age guests to sam­ple the craft beers on tap, which pair nicely with the chur­rasco steak.

And if you just can’t visit Mi­ami with­out do­ing South Beach, the ho­tel part­ners with Man­sion, the mother of all night­clubs, so get­ting past the vel­vet ropes won’t be a has­sle.

Wyn­wood Kitchen & Bar chef Miguel Aguilar puts a nuevo Latino spin on dishes such as this pan-seared Florida fish. In­side the bar are wall-sized im­ages by famed street artist Shep­ard Fairey, while the art on the res­tau­rant’s pa­tio walls is a...

Clock­wise from left: The Yve Ho­tel in down­town Mi­ami is an easy cab ride to Wyn­wood. The wall of French artist Miss Van. The arts dis­trict has its share of hip restau­rants and bars. The en­trance to Wyn­wood Walls leads to court­yards of painted walls and...

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