Miami’s Mural Magic

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Wynwood district photo by Msk Awr collaborative

I knew what to expect on my visit to Miami, Florida, last week:

Lots of Gold’s Gym-advertisement girls and boys strutting down Ocean Avenue in bikinis and Speedos.

Grand, palm-fringed mansions in Coral Gables, Coconut Grove and manmade Star Island, in Biscayne Bay.

A celebratory parade for the Miami Heat, champions of pro basketball.

Symbols by Los Angeles artist Retna

What I did not expect to see was the way masterful graffiti art has taken over two square miles of the Wynwood Arts District and Miami Design District in north Miami, much to the delight of local merchants.

This area has become, in effect, the world’s largest open-air, street-level museum.

“It’s been legal graffiti since 2006,” explained Marcos Valella, a celebrated local oil painter who supplements his income by working as a tour guide.

Chiseled portraits by Portuguese artist Vhils

“A group called ‘Primary Flight’ positioned itself as the middle man between property owners and graffiti artists during Art Basel,” he said.

A European-born arts celebration, Art Basel has become one of the most prestigious in the Americas since it was established in Miami in 2002.

Each December, more than 250 world-class artists create paintings on walls throughout the city’s old garment district and elsewhere. Arts patrons are able to watch the works in progress, thanks to maps that locate the sites of the murals. These are painted over each year, creating a new “canvas.”

Mural by Greek artist Stelios Faitakis

Northwest 2nd Avenue, especially between 22nd and 29th Streets, is the heart of the district, whose merchants include dozens of permanent galleries, as well as design shops and restaurants.

“Paint manufacturers have even begun making special spray paint specifically for graffiti artists,” Valella said, as he indicated one wall sponsored by the Ironlak company.

Mural by Ryan McGinness

The names of “famous” graffiti artists rolled off the tongue of my artist-guide: Shepard Fairey, Ron English, Kobra, Buff Monster and Ahol Sniffs Glue, to name a few.

These are just a few photographs from the Wynwood district.

American Airlines has begun direct, nonstop service between Seattle and Miami. Flights, which depart at 9:25 p.m. daily and arrive at 6:15 the following morning, take fewer than six hours to travel from the northwesternmost corner of the continental United States to the southeasternmost.

Backbar at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar by artist Shepard Fairey

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