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From Graffiti to Infinity Rooms: Three Museums Up the Art Ante in Miami

More museums and more art in Miami make this world-class city even more beautiful. Rubell Museum, Museum of Graffiti, and El Espacio 23 highlight how important the individual artist is and promote artists from Miami and from around the world.


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While the exhaustive fair week in Miami has packed up until next season, three new museums have opened to build Miami’s reputation as a major art city in it for the long haul.

The major collector Rubell family, Mera, Don, and son Jason, have been at the forefront of art collecting and exhibiting since the 1980s in New York. They helped bring Art Basel Miami to town, and were early in the settlement of Wynwood by purchasing a DEA warehouse to show their fantastic, edgy collection.

After 26 solid years, they have taken another big chance to pioneer a gritty area, Allapattah, a Seminole word for alligator. West of I-95 and bordering railroad tracks, the new home for their 7,200-work collection was carved out of several warehouses by Selldorf Architects and is a vast 100,000 square feet. The sleek new space hosted a celebrity-filled Dior show during Art Week.

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The Rubells have also changed the name from the Rubell Collection to the Rubell Museum to key in the public that this is an open to the public space.

Three Museums Up the Art Ante in Miami
Jeff Koons at Rubell Museum (Photo Sandra Schulman)

“We didn’t take the name change lightly,” Mera said. The opening show was a knockout as they highlight the work they have from key artists, moments, and movements in from over the past 50 years in 40 (!) separate gallery rooms. They started early in NYC’s East Village, scooping up pioneering works from Keith Haring, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, and Jeff Koons. They devote several full galleries to these artists works, which manage to look fresh and relevant decades later. Full walls of Haring’s drawings, a fish tank full of three floating basketballs from Koons, an iconic black and white Film Still from Sherman and Prince’s appropriated Marlboro Cowboys feel like seeing old friends.

The Rubells were supporting these artists early, and they all had new work over at the main Basel Fair with several zeros added to the price tags. Cady Noland’s This Piece Has No Title Yet (1989) is a perennial favorite – a whole room lined with beer cans and chain-link fences.

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The Infinity Room craze was started by Yayoi Kusama and had people lining up to see and take photos of the two on display here – Where the Lights in My Heart Go (2016), and INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM – LET’S SURVIVE FOREVER (2017).  Viewers had to stand in a timed line, slipcovers over their shoes and only enter a few at a time to the contained, mirrored, free-standing cubes. In addition to the rooms here, there is one in the Design District filled with her reflecting dotty pumpkins, and there is a whole building filled with Infinity Rooms at Artechouse in South Beach by Refik Anadol who has taken it into the cyber realm with fast-moving art films as opposed to static objects that zoom you through space on all four sides. It’s very retro and futuristic at the same time, catering to the experiential art jones.

The layout of the Rubell Museum is sleek, clean and has plenty of natural light thanks to floor to ceiling windows. A large library has 40,000 of their collected art books, a gift shop sells shirts, jewelry and scarves, a sweet plant and bench filled courtyard has a coffee and pastry shop.

Three Museums Up the Art Ante in Miami
Mural at Graffiti Museum (Photo Sandra Schulman)

A new Museum of Graffiti has opened in Wynwood dedicated to the history of graffiti art. Curator Carlos Mare, who grew up in the Bronx, gives spontaneous tours and hopes it will be a place for people to come and learn about this art form that jumped the tracks from subway trains to gallery and museum walls. They commissioned 11 murals for the front of the building from artists Slick, Shoe, Abstrk, and Entes – one name only please in this world. A permanent exhibition with a timeline charts the movement’s 60-year history, with photos of long-gone murals and actual “vintage” spray cans. Vintage TV’s play reels of TV shows decrying the “vandalism” and NYC Mayor Koch vowing to wipe it all out.

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A revolving exhibit in the back room highlights new work by well-known names, cases of ephemera show the journals, invites, fliers and magazines that sprang up to cover this new fast-moving art form.

“People need to know the roots of this and where it has gone to,” Mare says. “The tags and the styles and the branding have all come a long way.” On a prime block by Wynwood Walls, Zak the Baker and Walt Grace Vintage Cars & Guitars, the Graffiti Museum cements the push west for Wynwood.

Three Museums Up the Art Ante in Miami
Exhibit at El Espacio 23 (Photo Sandra Schulman)

The third museum, El Espacio 23, is a showcase and is bankrolled by developer collector Jorge Peréz, whose name also adorns the Peréz Art Museum Miami. In a “modest” a 28,000-square-foot warehouse on NW 23rd Street, the museum has a curated show from Peréz’s massive private art collection, and three nearby apartments designed for artist residencies he will bankroll. They also promise “activations” by artists in Allapattah “with the intention of establishing long-term relationships with its neighbors.” The first group is Alberto Baraya, Susana Pilar Delahante, Raimond Chaves, and Gilda Mantilla.

The debut exhibition is “Time for Change: Art and Social Unrest in the Jorge M. Peréz Collection.” Headed by Colombian curator Jose Roca, the show, organized into six “nuclei” with names such as “Extraction and Flows” and “State Terror,” presents large scale, complex works. Local artists Gonzalo Fuenmayor and Edouard Duval-Carrié are exhibited alongside international stars William Kentridge, Alfredo Jaar, and Ai Weiwei. Be warned – the show is not for the faint of heart, it is strong stuff, with haunting dark images of persecution and strife. Perez owns the real estate development firm Related Group, his latest project in Miami is Wynwood 25, the massive, black cube of a luxury apartment building on NW 25th Street that boasts the largest murals in the area by El Mac.

More museums and more art in Miami make this world-class city even more beautiful.

Three Museums Up the Art Ante in Miami

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