The story of Shepard Fairey’s monumental mural can’t be told without the back story of Wynwood Walls developer Tony Goldman. When he first saw the Wynwood neighborhood, Goldman saw beyond the blighted warehouses and gritty streets. He saw canvases for huge murals, a stark change from the architecturally historic neighborhoods he had been developing since the 1980s starting with Soho in NYC and then Miami Beach’s Art Deco District in the late 80s and 90s.
Street art had been sweeping the world for years, with artists taking over blank walls in urban areas and filling them with images that spoke to the neighborhood. Goldmans vision was to carve out a group of warehouses, anchor them around a courtyard and fill them with murals, galleries, parks and eateries, a gathering place for creatives.
One of the first artists to be invited to design a mural for the courtyard was Shepard Fairey, whose Obey Giant street art had evolved into a worldwide phenomenon. Fairey’s original mural, a prominent wall facing 2nd Avenue in the Wynwood Walls main courtyard finished in 2010, was initially filled with women and gently politically-charged images about “peace and harmony” Fairey said.
The new mural, created in 2012 is all about “celebration and inspiration.” The key figure is developer Tony Goldman with his welcoming arms stretched wide and a stylish cowboy hat planted firmly on his head. Goldman passed away in 2012 and the mural was unveiled during Art Week in Miami.
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“The crew and I came out to Miami a little ahead of Art Basel to redo my Wynwood Walls mural as a tribute to Wynwwod Walls creator Tony Goldman, who recently passed away,” Fairey said at the time. “ I spoke to Tony’s wife Janet and discussed his inspirations in art, music, and politics. Many of his heroes are my heroes too, so I created a mural to celebrate Tony and our mutual inspirations. The Goldmans have been an incredible support not only to me, but to many artists. The Wynwood Walls have a ton of great murals. The old mural was wheat-pasted, but the new mural is painted, so it should last! The [piece] addresses the idea that we all take these journeys but it also creates a lot of wear and tear on the earth. So there is sort of a yin and yang to these things. Tony’s journey impacted so many people [for the better] that I thought I should incorporate some of those elements in there. There’s an elephant with the globe there that I hope will encourage people to be good stewards of the earth.”
Shepard Fairey Mural at Wynwood Walls took five days to complete and features at its center an image based on a photograph of Tony Goldman taken by Miami photographer Serg Alexander. It also features Jean Michel Basquiat, a pivotal art world figure who emerged in Soho in the 80s at the time Goldman was helping develop the neighborhood. The Dalai Lama, Jimi Hendrix, Martin Luther King, Miles Davis, David Bowie, flowers, targets and the Obey Giant logo roll across the mural as touchstones of thought and inspiration.
Goldman was born to a single mother and was adopted at birth, then raised on the upper east side of NYC. He had a keen interest in art but after school, he worked for his uncle who had a real estate business. By 1968, he started his own real estate company, Goldman Properties. Goldman was the central person in South Beach’s renaissance, realizing the neglected little Art Deco hotels were candy colored diamonds in the rough. He scooped up one a month for 18 months straight and created a flourishing community for design, art and the city.
“He was delighted about the idea,” Tony’s daughter, Jessica Goldman Srebnick, who became CEO of Goldman Properties after her dad’s death in 2012, recalled him always saying, “If you want to get anywhere in life you’ve gotta be the first one in and last one out. Generally, all the neighborhoods he ventured into were hopeless and derelict. That turned him on. Then in a lot of our zones—not all—there was historical architectural significance.”
The Goldman family also puts great emphasis on a neighborhood’s walkability, meaning that the building don’t overwhelm the street.
One big difference in the Wynwood Walls murals is that they are curated and protected on private property. They are accessible to the public, but also visible from the street. Fairey’s street art is usually short-lived, a natural end game for renegade art, but this mural, like the neighborhood, has staying power.
“Tony was really thinking about how art can benefit people’s city experience and how that can be sanctioned by the city rather than it having to be done in opposition to the city. I like that because I see art as a really important part of people’s quality of life,” Fairey said.
In addition, Shepard designed the logo and indoor walls and uniforms for the sprawling Wynwood Restaurant and Bar during the second year of the Wynwood Walls. The restaurant has separate areas for more formal indoor dining, a lively bar area and a large outdoor eating area that sits in the middle of the first courtyard, a prime spot for people and mural watching.
“We’ve known Shepard for a long time, he is an exceptional, vocal artist who brings attention to the issues he cares about,” Jessica says. “His work is dynamic and original, he’s a special being. The mural with my dad welcomes over a million visitors a year to Wynwood now, it expresses his energy and passion. It will mean something different to everyone who sees it, but I like to think the images and inspiration in it is what we try and do with our work in revitalizing neighborhoods – bring hope to the hopeless, hoods out of ashes.”
Due the nature of impermanence of street art, I ask Jessica if she thinks the mural of her father will always be there.
“I can’t imagine it not being there in some way,” she exclaims. “I see my dad as the guardian of the neighborhood.”
Learn about the Shepard Fairey Mural at Wynwood Walls that has provided to many visitors peace and harmony” and it is a source of celebration & inspiration.