In recent years, Wynwood has gained prominence as one of the best places to see street art in the world. Because of street art’s ephemeral nature, many of the works are changed out regularly — with old murals being painted over to make way for new murals, much like a museum.
Since so many murals are changed throughout the year, no two visits to Wynwood are quite alike. That’s especially true during the street-art heavy Art Wynwood fair, which opens Friday — along with Fine Arts Auction Miami’s Street Art Exhibition and Auction.
Wynwood visitors’ first stop is usually the formally curated display of commissioned street murals by international artists at Wynwood Walls, the brainchild of the late developer Tony Goldman. While many property owners have commissioned street artists to decorate their buildings, the Wynwood Walls initiative was among the first to attract renown names in the field and has done so since its inception in 2009.
Among the highlights this year is Women of the Walls, an exhibition of street art presented by Wynwood Walls dedicated to highlighting the works of female street artists.
According to Goldman Properties CEO Jessica Goldman Srebnick, Goldman’s daugher and co-curater of Women of the Walls, the goal was to highlight women working in a male-dominated field. While male street artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey have become household names, women street artists have enjoyed far less recognition.
“There’s a whole set of really, really gifted female artists in the genre of street art who haven’t had the spotlight shone on them. For me, as a woman, I felt this was a really amazing opportunity to shine a light on incredible artists who happen to be women,” Goldman Srebnick said.
She reached out to prominent New York art dealer Jeffrey Deitch, who was wrapping up a stint as director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, to help co-curate the show. Deitch was a natural fit as he had already worked with the late Tony Goldman, Jessica’s father, on the inaugural exhibition of Wynwood Walls in 2009.
After a lengthy search, they invited 12 women artists to create works on buildings owned by Goldman Properties. The exhibition represents a diverse cross section. Some of the artists are street art pioneers who have practiced for decades; others are just beginning their careers.
One of the veteran artists is Lady Pink, who began her career in 1979 and is one of the most prolific street artists working today. For Wynwood Walls, she painted a surreal mural of a large pink brick home that resembles a woman lying on her side in the grass.
Among the emerging artists is London-based graphic artist Lakwena, who completed her college degree in 2009. She decorated a curved building with a bold mural featuring the phrase “I Remember Paradise” in gold letters on top of a rainbow-colored pattern and bordered with an asymmetrical monochrome print.
One of the highlights in the exhibition is from artist Maya Hayuk, whose work was recently shown in a solo exhibition at the prestigious Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Her mural features a large print resembling vibrant rainbows of color woven together. The symmetry of the design is juxtaposed with imperfect hand-drawn lines and drips of paint cascading down into other contrasting rows of color.
Of the different media in which she has worked, Hayuk says she enjoys working on public murals the most.
“As an artist, it’s one of the best ways to work. You’re working for the reason that you want to make art. You get the accolades, you get the love and you get the ability to paint something on this massive scale but you’re not worried about [things like] how much is it going to sell for, will it sell, will a collector buy it.”
While many of the Women of the Walls works reside within the boundaries of the Wynwood Walls enclave on Northwest Second Avenue, others extend into the surrounding community. For instance, a candy-colored mural on Northwest 26th Street by French street artist Kashink is emblazoned with the words “50 Cakes of Gay” — a pun on the best selling novel 50 Shades of Grey.
While the majority of the works in the Women exhibition are traditional murals, some are riffs on the form. For instance, Parisian street artist Fafi adorned a metal gate with a seemingly innocent arrangement of fake flowers; on careful observation one can read the word “salope” (a French swear word that roughly translates to “slut”) written in dark red flowers. Polish-born street artist Olek crafted a mural from “sweater bombs” — hand-crocheted “wearable sculptures” in camouflage prints that until recently decorated the usually bare boulders in the Wynwood Walls courtyard.
Olek says public art makes art more accessible to peole who might be put off by traditional art spaces.
“Art doesn’t have to be scary ... people are afraid to go to galleries, they feel like they’re not supposed to enter [them]. But when you put them in public spaces, they understand that art doesn't have to be scary. You can enjoy it, you can be close to it, you can touch it.”
While Women of the Walls is the largest current mural display in Wynwood, a number of other new murals have appeared as well. Among them is Caleidoscoop, a collection of works created by prominent Dutch street artists for an empty lot at 250 NW 24th St. One of the artists featured is Haas & Hahn, whose geometric works have been used to beautify favelas in Rio de Janeiro.
Rodrigo Londono, creative director of Caleidoscoop, says they chose Wynwood for the exhibit because of the neighborhood’s standing as a street art nexus.
“Wynwood is a living canvas for muralists and graffiti artists. It is one of the places with the highest concentration of graffiti in the world. ... It was a no-brainer to have the show in Wynwood,” he said.
The rise of Wynwood as a year-round street art destination also has attracted a number of satellite events that prominently feature street art. Among them is Art Wynwood, now in its third year. A sister fair to December’s Art Miami, Art Wynwood has always included street art components with traditional art offerings.
This year, the fair collaborated with Cash, Cans & Candy, a street art fair in Vienna, to commission works by prominent local and international street artists including Steven Tompkins, Stinkfish and the Stencil Network. All are available for purchase.
In addition, galleries participating in the fair can nominate street artists they represent for the Art Wynwood Street Artist Award, which includes a cash price of $15,000 for the best artist selected by a panel of street art experts.
Art Wynwood director Nick Korniloff said it’s important to highlight street art because of its growing stature in both the local community and the art world at large.
“Street art is becoming so important because it’s the next wave of talented artists who are of investment quality. Their works are sought after by major galleries and art collectors now,” Korniloff said. Prices vary wildly, ranging from works by emerging artists for a few thousand dollars to massive murals priced at six figures.
The Street Art Exhibition and Auction, hosted by Fine Arts Auction Miami, will be staged next week at LMNT. The exhibition will include local street artists who will be painting murals live during the show, along with existing works by world-renown artists like Kenny Scharf, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.
The most notable piece on display is from Banksy, arguably the most famous street artist in the world. The piece, which features two British police officers kissing, was painted on the side of a British pub before being removed. Organizers say they expect it to fetch as much as $750,000 at auction.
Kaz Williams, a street artist who helped coordinate the local art component of the exhibition, says she hopes the exhibition will help educate audiences about the art.
“As a street artist, I hope that people take away that this is not only a current and developing style of artwork but also its a great representation of the current contemporary art scene.”