Highly rated for upper-class vacations, beautiful women, expensive property and damn good Cuban food, but ridiculed for tacky fashion, poor transportation and bad manners, it seems that most people who are “just visiting” Miami, tend to have a love/hate relationship with it. Art Basel is the one time of the year, aside from Ultra Music Festival, that brings in heaps of strange visitors. Having lived here for 5 years, i’ve been able to witness a great change in the kinds of people that come to town during Art Basel week. Originally, Art Basel attracted a wealthy group of art collectors and enthusiasts, but as the small neighborhood of “Wynwood” has developed, accompanied by a variety of art fairs in Midtown Miami, there has been an influx of incredible street artists who visit during the time of Art Basel week. This is my type of party.
Growing up, I indulged myself in the origins of hip-hop. I remember sneaking out to attend b-boy jams, idolizing DJ QBert, and practicing my handstyle all over my homework (I used to write ZESCT), all by the age of 15. I would stay up late learning about the respected DJs and writers, and discovered some of my favorite musicians and artists to date. Dondi White was the first writer who really made me fall in love with graffiti.Looking up to works by Dondi, Zephyr, Futura, Skeme and Saber, it comes as no surprise that i’ve always loved street art.
Wynwood, with the help of Tony Goldman, Jonathon Levine and wealthy gallery owners, has developed from a warehouse district/low income neighborhood to a vibrant town with restaurants, 80 art galleries, bars… and guess what, the walls are plastered with
stuff ART. It’s a “hip” place to be. I know what you are already thinking. Gentrification? Despite the change in the neighborhood and the hype that money and art brings, I believe that there is no place on earth like Wynwood. Although I do believe that street art applies only in context, I like to think of Wynwood as an outdoor art gallery. Most of the international street artists who visit to paint on huge walls are surrounded by other painted walls, among even more painted walls. I guess to a street art afficiando, it sort of loses its excitement when a mural isn’t standing alone in its environment. There is nothing better than walking on dull block, only to turn the corner and see a beautiful mural. You don’t really feel this way in Wynwood, instead, you sort of expect it.
For me, it doesn’t devalue the works that are here in my backyard. What a privilege it is to see such high caliber street art on a normal basis. We are so lucky to have 10 blocks worth of a free museum. I love riding my bike around looking for new pieces, as they come and go so quickly. While on my bike during Art Basel week, I ran into legendary graffiti photographer, Martha Cooper. What an honor to hang out with Martha. I gave her a bicycle tour to downtown, where we hopped on the lift with Shepard Fairey as he finished his collaboration piece with (another graffiti legend), Risk. Thanks to Car2Go for hooking up Martha with a car, we were able to get around even faster the next day. After kicking it with Martha for a little, I continued my rounds hanging out with some of my favorite artists as they painted. I bumped into my longtime Flickr friend (and inspiration), Futura, and shared a cup of tea with Kenny Scharf. Not only did I get to document some of my favorite artists and meet new ones, but I also assisted the talented Jose Mertz on a mural completed entirely in marker ( blog post on that soon ;] ) – All in a week’s work!
From countless cafe con leches, flat land bike rides, and my fair share of witnessing thong wearing bums and face eating zombies (kidding)…. Miami is a pretty exciting city. So please keep in mind, the next time you come to Miami, venture away from South Beach. I promise there is more to Miami than Wet Willies and the Versace Mansion.
Just don’t forget to buy your totally tourist “I’m in Miami Bitch,” shirt. Kenny Scharf brought his over to Wynwood ;]
The artists featured in the images above are: Annie Preece, La Pandilla, LNY, Risk, Shepard Fairey, Gaia, Santiago Rubino & Hoxxoh, Maka, Rone, MOMO, Anthony Lister, Pixel Pancho, Never, Ever, How & Nosm, VHILS, Faith 47, DALeast. Feel free to leave me a comment if you are trying to identify an artist.
Check out my tumblr to see more outtakes from “the streets.”These are just a small fraction of the new works that went up during Art Basel, I will continue to photograph and update weekly on tumblr.
Shout out to Living Walls for selecting (as always) the best of the best street artists – such great people. Kief, for always being a great help and positive force. And Car2Go for being the most efficient way (besides a bicycle) to get around urban Miami.
PS- I’m really happy to introduce my new blog with this post. I used to write journal entries on my blog banaboogie.com, which sadly was shutdown last year. I feel I have had a lot of built up writing material and I just can’t wait to share it to an audience. It feels great to actually write again. Thank you for reading, i’ll be posting a lot more……
love and light –