As a teen, Daniel Fila was tossed out of Miami-Dade’s DASH — Design and Architecture High School — after getting in trouble for tagging a wall with graffiti. By the time he was 21, he’d been arrested three times.
Today he’s making “a solid living” as a Miami-based artist and helping other street artists do the same, thanks in part to the growing appetite for bringing street art inside.
Fila — better known as Krave — organized almost two dozen artists to paint murals in interior hallways and public spaces at CANVAS, a new condo in the Arts & Entertainment District just west of the Arsht Center. CANVAS is just one of a growing number of “conventional” local venues bringing what was once outdoor art inside.
The shift from street art to fine art is nothing new. The late Keith Haring began his career tagging New York subway cars; his canvases are now priced in the millions. So, too, are the works of the secretive London street artist Banksy (whose work can be seen through Feb. 28 at a private exhibit at Magic City Studios in Little Haiti, banksyexhibit.com), Mr. Brainwash and the late Jean-Michel Basquiat.
What is new is Miami’s growing appetite for showcasing graffiti works in commercial spaces that typically lean toward conventional tastes.
For Brightline’s new Miami Central Station, for instance, owners engaged Miami’s TYPOE (Michael Andrew Gran) to create a series of murals for its halls and lounges.
“We want to connect the culture and the community we operate in,” said Ben Porritt, Brightline’s senior vice president of communications. “Miami has an extremely vibrant art scene.”
It took the artist and his team of six assistants a full week, 20 hours a day, to create a multi-colored series of convex and concave geometric shapes. The concept was based on movement, TYPOE said, with optical illusion, colors and elements that resonate with Miami. “While I was creating the concept around movement and travel, I really wanted to take the guest on a journey of their own.”
As a child in a family of artists, TYPOE grew up drawing and making sculptures. Though he always had a studio, he became known for his street art. Almost 15 years ago, he began frequenting the gallery scene. “I was trying to learn where I fit in, where I belong.”
Today he belongs more inside than out. “I don’t feel like jumping fences any more,” he said, referring to the typical graffiti artist’s dash from the authorities to avoid getting caught for tagging. Now in his mid-30s, he says, “It’s not really a good look anymore. “
His work has been shown in gallery and museum shows in Mexico, New York and Los Angeles. In Miami, he is co-founder and creative director of the art collective Primary in the Miami Design District.
For talented street artists, the timing is right, says Jessica Goldman Srebnick, CEO of Goldman Properties. She and her father, the late Tony Goldman, sparked Miami’s street-art reputation with the 2009 creation of Wynwood Walls, the free outdoor museum at 25th Street and Northwest Second Avenue. The ongoing project has brought global fame to the developing neighborhood, which welcomes millions of visitors each year.
Each December, Wynwood Walls commissions new murals by noted street artists. This month, Goldman unveiled nine new works centered on the theme “Beyond Words.” The murals, on display through November 2019, include works by AShop Crew of Canada, DEIH of Spain, Brazil’s KOBRA, Martin Whatson of Norway, Japan’s Tomokazu Matsuyama, Portugal’s VHILS and U.S. artists Queen Andrea, Ron English and JohnOne.
“The wonderful thing about public art is that it allows everyone to experience the thrill of public expression,” she said. “Wynwood Walls has brought that idea to the forefront. Others are understanding the benefits and joy of including something that is incredibly creative and colorful and hopeful into their projects. It differentiates projects.”
In 2016, Srebnick launched a consultancy to help other developers and firms incorporate graffiti works into their projects, including the renovated Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium and projects in Doral, Daytona Beach and Texas. Brands — including Rag & Bone, Swell water, CitiBikes and FPL — have also brought mural art into their brands.
For its CANVAS condo in the Arts & Entertainment District just west of the Arsht Center, developers NR Investments commissioned 22 street artists to create murals in its inner hallways, just outside residents’ doors.
The idea started with The Filling Station, a 10-story rental building at Northeast 16th Street and North Miami Avenue. When that project launched in 2012, artists were already being pushed out of Wynwood, said Nir Shoshani, one of the principals.
For the A&E district in a then-gritty corner of downtown, local music and street art were a natural tie-in with the developers’ vision of an urban village. For his partner, Ron Gottesmann, and himself, “nothing was more interesting than street art,” said Shoshani.
First, they commissioned Fila to create a work for the lobby of Filling Station. Then, “when we stepped into CANVAS, we decided to go bolder,” said Shoshani.
With Fila acting as curator, they commissioned nearly two dozen street artists to create 83 massive, 170-foot murals in the residential hallways throughout the 37-story condo. Among them are artists from Europe, Asia and the Pacific coast. South Floridians include Adam Atomik Vargas, Brian Butler, Claudio Picasso, David Lavernia, Didi Contreras, Hec One Love, Judd Patterson, Kazilla, Marcos Javier Garcia, Mario Aldecoa, Olga Hayon, Raymond “Gems” Adrian, the Yumi Collective and Fila himself.
The move, admittedly, was a risk.
“This is a residential building. Anything you do will always be scrutinized. You can’t go too crazy,” said Shoshani. “You have to try to find the right combination that will fit most of your tenants and buyers.”
Still the developers refrained from engaging in any of the artistic decisions, leaving those to the artists. “The artists did an incredible job,” he said. Only when the murals were complete did the developers request one alteration: a bit more clothing for an overtly nude figure.
After the units are sold, the developers will turn the building over to the condominium association. It will have the right to whitewash the walls if it wishes, but it will not be able to modify the art.
“This is our present to the condominium,’’ he said.
The bet has paid off: About 70 percent of the total 513 units are sold, according to the developers. Prices range from $386,200 to $630,000.
For financial adviser Miguel Sosa, street art is a form of a welcome sign.
When he created new offices for his firm, Premia Global Advisors, in Coral Gables’ Douglas Entrance complex, Sosa asked designer Robert Bilbao for a style that would appeal to both his current baby boomer clients and the next generation. “We wanted an office a 30-year-old would walk in and say ‘this isn’t just my old man’s adviser, this is a guy I can identify with.’”
A column set in the middle of his loft-like space provided the opportunity for something “very Miami” — a graffiti artwork. Sosa and Bilbao looked at work by artists in New York and Miami and settled on Alan Ket, who had recently relocated to South Florida.
Ket spent nearly five weeks spray painting, peeling and layering a collage featuring a nonlinear time line from 1912 to the present. It incorporates issues of the Wall Street Journal and other publications from the 1900s, moves into advertisements of the ‘50s and ‘60s, and then morphs into what Sosa terms “very hip graffiti work. It’s very cool and modern.”
Ket, who has lectured on street art for the past two decades, has worked on and viewed street art in many unconventional venues — casinos, luxury hotels, mansions. “A wealth manager’s office? Sure, it makes sense,” he says.
For Ket, Miami is the place to call home. “It’s a graffiti mecca,” he said. Wynwood Walls gets the credit, he says, for spearheading the local street-art movement. It plays into other Miami elements essential for urban art. “This is a city in transition. It has an energy that’s intense and exciting.”