No one really goes to Miami for the art, do they? It's the beaches, the bars, the booze, and the... bikini-ed babes... that draw hordes to South Beach's golden shores. But as I'm always on the lookout for great places to satisfy my culture craving—even when my main objective is to get a tan—I'm happy to report that Miami's actually got an art scene that is alive and flourishing.
One of the coolest places in South Beach—and one of the coolest places I've stumbled upon in a long time—was the ArtCenter/South Florida on the popular Lincoln Road pedestrian mall. We happened upon the unassuming art depot while strolling along the road looking for a place to eat. If you manage to get away from all the hawkers vying for your business at the restaurants, stop in at these collective artists' studios for a break from the crowds.
The ArtCenter doesn't have much signage to explain what the place is about, but all the better—it forces you to ask questions and interact with the artists. I soon found out that the space houses some 40 studios that are provided to artists at a subsidized cost. Artists are awarded residencies at the Center when they have not otherwise had the opportunity to display their work to a wide audience. They use the studios as places to work, develop their careers, interact with other artists and visitors, and exhibit their art.
As the center is free, and has generously long hours (it's open every day until 10 p.m., or as long as there are artists there working), take your time admiring the trove of paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, and videos stashed throughout this veritable art warehouse. You can choose to just view the gallery, which exhibits finished works, or wander through the studio spaces to see what artists are or have been working on. Or, as was my favorite part of the experience, stop and talk with the artists, learn their backgrounds and what inspires them, or talk about yourself—as one artist was more interested in what I did than in talking about his work. Though art is often a spectator activity, ArtCenter is a fascinating intersection between artists and audience and most of the artists there were friendly and open to chatting, either about art or things totally unrelated to it. If something you see especially catches your eye, most of the art is also available for purchase.
Right next door to the ArtCenter/South Florida is a gallery (also free) exhibiting the playful works of neo-pop artist Romero Britto. Originally from Brazil, Britto's art combines elements of cubism, pop art, graffiti, and even comic art. Though in order to take home one of these exuberant pieces of artwork you'd have to spend a good amount of money, they're still fun to look at and the small giftshop in the back sells copies and affordable housewares with his designs.
If you can tear yourself away from the beach, and don't mind paying for the cab ride, the flourishing art scene in the Wynwood Art District downtown, comprised of over 70 art galleries, museums, and collections, is also worth checking out. Just north of Wynwood, the Design District also has a burgeoning art scene featuring contemporary art galleries, design boutiques, and furniture showrooms. On the second Saturday of each month, Wynwood hosts an art walk where galleries open their doors from about 7-11 p.m. and serve drinks and appetizers. Not a bad way to take in the city's art.
And remember when I said no one visits Miami for the art? Well, I lied. Art Basel Miami Beach, one of the most important art shows this side of the Atlantic, features the work of an impressive array of international artists, musicians, architects, designers, and filmmakers. In other words, anyone who's anyone in the world of art and culture makes it a point to be in Miami Beach each December when this event happens.
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