The Wynwood Walls are a sensory overload. The outdoor art exhibition, which spotlights graffiti artists and culture from around the world, is a rugged, technicolour space in Miami’s Art District. It evokes an apocalyptic underpass and a contemporary gallery in equal measure. If the beaches of Miami are the main draw for tourists visiting the city, Wynwood is a hidden gem awaiting explorers willing to trade sun and sea for colour, concrete and coffee.
The space was conceived in 2009 by property legend Tony Goldman, who sadly died in 2011, though development, expansion and rebirth in the space has continued for the 11 years since its gates first opened. In that time, the initial outdoor space has spread to the surrounding warehouse walls and shopfronts in an ever-expanding canvas of urban art.
The pieces on display in the small space at Wynwood evidently could not be contained, and the resulting murals ‘Outside the Walls’ bring a sense of cohesion to the surrounding neighbourhood. Inviting world-renowned artists to ply their trade to the plain walls of the surrounding buildings has completely transformed the neighbourhood, and artwork can be enjoyed from pavement level, right to pieces you need to crane your neck to see. It’s completely immersive
My first visit to the Wynwood Walls was on a Thursday afternoon when the area was abuzz with visitors. As expected the sight of these dozens upon dozens of murals and graffiti pieces is a draw for selfie hunters, and the open space leaves enthusiasts to scurry like ants from one mural to another. It is a true haven for those looking to make an eye-popping addition to their Instagram story – all the content of an exclusive art exhibition without the snobbery around social media expected at a conventional gallery. When it’s busy there is welcome pressure to drink in the Walls as much as possible, with the colour, flow and design of each piece crashing across the space like waves.
My second visit took place on a Saturday morning, and against conventional wisdom all was quiet in Wynwood. It felt like the neighbourhood, still waking up, or groggy from the working week, had been left to its locals for a few still hours. Under these conditions observing the walls become a more introspective experience akin to a visit to an art gallery, opposed to an installation-turned tourist attraction. While people milled in the Wynwood Bar and Restaurant grabbing coffees and breakfast, early visitors like myself had the opportunity to take in the art on a more personal level.
But there is a sombre pigment running across the canvases of the Wynwood Walls, emerging most strikingly in its murals. Given the reputation of creator Tony Goldman and his involvement in rejuvenating Wynwood, there is an element of sadness felt through the pieces made in memoriam to him. Tony’s vision for the Walls, and for Wynwood at large becoming Miami’s cultural hub, can clearly be considered a success in 2020. Artist Shepard Fairey, the mind behind the ‘Obey’ visual language, features heavily in the installation, and his dedication to Tony can be found right at the main entrance to the Walls. His prominent reds, blacks and whites provide an austere, baseline style at the entrance – a moment of order which crumbles by the very next wall as the work of other artists collide and contrast in an enveloping carnage.
In the course of its 11 years, the Wynwood Walls has provided an ever-shifting showcase of more than 50 artists, and at any given time represents the very best in global graffiti art. As a result, the sights on display really are a treat for a visitor with even a passing interest in the form. This timeframe has also meant the area surrounding the Wynwood Walls has developed, too. Everything you need for a convenient day out is a stone’s throw from the gates. One stand-out, 1 800 Lucky, is an indoor foodcourt and bar, serving pan-Asian food and beers from local breweries.
The Wynwood Walls is completely free to visit, though also hosts exclusive exhibitions throughout the year which are ticketed.
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