The Miami Murals -- Wynwood Walls & Beyond

190 images Created 25 Sep 2016

In 2003 the editor of the very glossy Ocean Drive magazine commissioned me to make some pictures in a run-down, Miami neighborhood called Wynwood.

Something was happening there, the editor said.

A nascent art movement with pioneering artists, gallerists, and even some rich collectors with their own private museums were moving into Wynwood's funky warehouses.

Exactly who triggered Wynwood's explosion of wild graffiti and fine art murals is unclear, but the walls of hundreds of windowless, one- and two-story warehouses were to many local artists irresistible blank canvases.

And teenage taggers had been bombing the then blighted and crime-ridden neighborhood since the 1980s.

A folk art tradition of ads painted on the exteriors of shops, eateries, and other businesses was also a contributing factor in Wynwood and the nearby Little Havana and Little Haiti neighborhoods.

So you'd see a bar of Queen African Formula Beauty Soap painted on the hot pink wall of a warehouse.

These commercial paintings of everyday products like shoes were Warhol-esque but without irony.

Another element was the elite international art crowd attending the multi-zillion dollar, annual Art Basel Miami Beach art fair, just across Biscayne Bay from Wynwood.

Collectors, gallerists, fashionistas, and international journalists began coming across the bay to see the hip, new galleries, studios, and sophisticated street art then spreading over Wynwood like some kind of Technicolor dream.

Crucial to Wynwood's transformation from a gritty industrial zone to an artsy international hotspot were a handful of visionary real estate developers -- most notably Tony Goldman, who paid international street art stars to come to Miami and paint dozens of his buildings.

Goldman -- who also played a leading role in the revitalization of New York's SoHo and Miami Beach's South Beach -- understood that art can remake a neighborhood.

And graffiti and other street art should be encouraged, not prosecuted.

Wall painting began in prehistoric caves, and early civilizations produced murals on buildings.

In 2004, Goldman, his daughter Jessica, and son Joey, began buying big chunks of Wynwood.

In 2009, they created and curated an open air museum of murals on six buildings in three courtyards. They called the place The Wynwood Walls.

Showcasing murals by Shephard Fairey, Kenny Scharf, and other street art giants, it was a sensation.

Soon artists from around the world were coming at their own expense to paint more and more Wynwood buildings.

I've documented hundreds of murals, other street art, and street life as the neighborhood evolved over the last 17 years, including the mixed blessing of its ongoing gentrification.

To see captions, on a computer click on a big image, then click on the "+" and "i" buttons at lower left.

On a phone, tap extreme lower left of a big image, then swipe up, down, right, left.

All images -- and more in my archives -- are available for licensing.
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