(Above) © Art Basel
Fifteen years ago, the Miami Design District was a scruffy, rundown neighborhood. So, too, was Wynwood. But then something happened, transforming these neighborhoods and many more into incubators for today’s eclectic mix of art museums, events, and street eye candy.
Ten years ago, you’d tell a friend that you were traveling to Miami, and chances are, the conversation would turn to the best cocktails in South Beach or the number-one spot for sunbathing by the Atlantic Ocean. But in 2009, something happened that has changed the talk to how to walk among art: Tony Goldman established the Wynwood Walls.
Now the largest outdoor art museum in the world, Wynwood has spawned a city’s worth of dynamic destinations showcasing everything from suspended ships at the Perez Art Museum to mosaic murals in Little Havana. “We have great young talent in the city, and because the weather is so great all year round, artists find that their murals last longer,” says Grace Della, founder of Miami Culinary Tours, which combines food and art in excursions around Wynwood, Little Havana, and the Design District, among others. Here, Della guides us through some of Miami’s most happening art scenes.
Art Basel [Miami Beach]
Imagine more than 250 galleries converging in one place, drawing 70,000 people to peer at paintings, sculptures, photographs, and more by 4,000-plus artists. That’s precisely what happens every December at Miami Beach during what has been called “an unremitting parade of parties, events, and Instagram-ready moments.” And it’s worth every penny of the ticket price (ranging from $50 to $450): 2018 featured an exquisitely sculpted unicorn rocker worth $175,000; first-rate works by familiar artists Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince; and a life-size Siberian tiger made exclusively of gold-colored bullet casings.
Wynwood Walls [Wynwood]
At Art Basel 2009, the late Tony Goldman launched the Wynwood Walls project. What was once a decrepit warehouse district just minutes north of downtown Miami suddenly became a rainbow of stunning street art displayed on nine buildings. See murals by Shepherd Fairey, Aiko, and Lady Pink, among other renowned artists, and bring your thirst and appetite for cocktails and tapas at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar. The neighborhood is especially lively during the Wynwood Art Walk, the second Saturday of each month.
Institute of Contemporary Art [Buena Vista]
Set in the Miami Design District, this museum brings experimentation to a new level. When erecting the building in 2017, architects used a metal facade to act as a “magnet” for visitors, who enter to find three double-height levels of gallery spaces showcasing sculptures made from a pink fur coat and paintings with a pared-down geometric vocabulary, among other surprises. Catch the ICA Speaks series featuring the artists discussing their works.
Miami Design District [Buena Vista]
Home to more than 150 art galleries, architecture firms, boutiques, and restaurants, this 18-square-block neighborhood just north of Wynwood blends high-end pieces with funky approaches and unusual outdoor creations. “I personally love the Design District because of all the street art installations,” says Della, who points to the Fly’s Eye Dome by R. Buckminster Fuller, a bubble-like fiberglass sphere standing 240 feet high, and the Sou Fujimoto building facade, a glass fin facade that covers Miami’s pedestrian Palm Court.
Laundromat Art Space [Little Haiti]
Located north of Wynwood in the Caribbean culture–rich neighborhood of Little Haiti, where murals by local Haitian-born artists like Serge Toussaint cover neighborhood buildings, you’ll find a 4,500-square-foot laundromat. Well, it’s not a laundromat anymore, but rather an arts incubator, housing a gallery and space for 10 resident artists – often alumni from Bakehouse, Lincoln Road’s ArtSpace, and Wynwood – where you can peek in on the photography, sculpture, painting, and mixed media.
Pérez Art Museum Miami [Downtown Miami]
The location and design of Miami’s flagship art museum, also known as PAMM, is almost as spectacular as the 2,000 pieces of international art from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Enjoy fantastic views of Biscayne Bay and stroll beneath vertical hanging gardens while taking in such exhibitions as Hew Locke’s For Those In Peril on the Sea and A Mordida by Pedro Neves Marques. Verde, a waterfront restaurant and bar on-site, offers refreshing beverages and fine food.