Curatorial Corner: From Wynwood to the Fairchild Tropical Garden

From the gritty streets of Wynwood to the lush foliage of the Fairchild Tropical Garden.

Having my mom in tow for the past couple of weeks has made it hard for me to focus on work, however it gave me the chance to visit or re-visit a few places in or around Miami that are filled with exciting art located outdoors in fascinating surroundings, experiences that I am happy to now share with you all.

On a beautiful sunny afternoon we drove to Wynwood, the gallery district, to admire hundreds of amazing murals that have transformed a once run-down neighborhood into an incredibly colorful outdoor museum of street art.

As stated on The Wynwood Walls website, the project was conceived by real estate pioneer and visionary Tony Goldman in 2009. “He was looking for something big to transform the warehouse district of Wynwood, and he arrived at a simple idea: ‘Wynwood’s large stock of warehouse buildings, all with no windows, would be my giant canvases to bring to them the greatest street art ever seen in one place.’ Starting with the 25th–26th Street complex of six separate buildings, his goal was to create a center where people could gravitate to and explore, and to develop the area’s pedestrian potential. The Wynwood Walls became a major art statement with Tony’s commitment to graffiti and street art, a genre that he believed is under appreciated and not respected historically.”

In 2009 Goldman partnered with Jeffrey Deitch in co-curating the first successful year of the project. Since then the murals grew exponentially, striving “for a diverse representation of both American and international artists that encompasses everything from the old school graffiti artists to the newest work being created around the world.” Murals have also been commissioned for Outside the Walls, in key locations outside the park itself, and now include works by celebrated artists from the United States, Brazil, Belgium, Mexico, Portugal, Ukraine, Portugal, Greece, Spain, Germany, France, and Japan, including the likes of: Os Gemeos, Invader, Kenny Scharf, FUTURA 2000, Dearraindrop, FAILE, BÄST, Shepard Fairey, Aiko, Sego, Saner, Liqen, Nunca, Ben Jones, HOW & NOSM, Ryan McGinness, Jim Drain, Ara Peterson, Retna, Stelios Faitakis, Clare Rojas, The Date Farmers, avaf, ROA, Ron English, Jeff Soto, Logan Hicks, b., PHASE 2, Joe Grillo, COCO 144, Gaia, Vhils, Interesni Kazki, Neuzz, Swoon, Ben Wolf, David Ellis, Barry McGee, Brandon Opalka, and Friends With You.

The world-class murals and spirit of the project continues to attract thousands of people to the Wynwood Walls each year. Among other things, it is an inspiring model for the revitalization of run-down, abandoned historic communities and a must-see destination for the city.

From this quintessentially gritty urban landscape, the following day we moved on to the most enchanting and lush botanic garden I’ve ever visited, the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, located in Coral Gables.
The Fairchild was founded in 1936 as an institution of science, education and culture for the Miami community. Since then it evolved to become a hub of cultural activity hosting events of world-class art, music and literature. Each year the garden is transformed into a unique natural gallery where extraordinary works of art are intermixed with spectacular tropical foliage. Recent exhibits have included artists such as Dale Chihuly, Fernando Botero, Roy Lichtenstein, Mark di Suvero, Yayoi Kusama, Francois Xavier and Claude Lalann and Will Ryman.

This year, the featured artist is American sculptor John Chamberlain (1927-2011). Chamberlain was born in Rochester, Indiana, grew up in Chicago, and moved to New York in 1956 after attending the much venerated Black Mountain Collage in 1955-’56. Since the mid-1950s Chamberlain has been known for his use of automobile parts in powerful, brightly colored large-scale sculptures, the work that he is most typically associated with. However, the five sculptures presented at the Fairchild are of an entirely different kind. Up to fifteen feet in height, the works on view are constructed from silver, green, or copper-colored industrial aluminum, which has been looped and flexed into whimsical, biomorphic forms. From the mid–1970s, Chamberlain began fashioning miniature sculptures from household aluminum foil. In 2007, he began successfully transposing these miniatures into durable materials on a grand scale, but without sacrificing any of the lightness, directness, and spontaneity of the initial foils. New Yorkers had the pleasure of admiring this same group of whimsical sculptures in the plaza in front of the Seagram Building on Park Avenue from August to November 2012.

Besides the Chamberlain works, there are many other sculptures and site-specific installations, some of which are permanent, other temporary, that are scattered throughout the park for people to discover and enjoy while they’re leisurely strolling through the lush vegetation. Amongst my favorites are the Jorge Pardo lantern installation ‘Hammer Lamps’, Will Ryman oversized roses (a series of which were also featured on Park Avenue a couple of years ago), and a series of benches of a variety of materials by a group of seven artists and designers of the likes of Paris-based Christophe Come, Miami-own Michele Oka Doner, Chilean Sebastian Errazuruiz, and New York-based Gael Appler.

Lastly, the Chapungu Sculpture Park is an area of the park dedicated to the acquisition and safeguard of outstanding examples of stone sculptures carved by the Shona people of Zimbabwe. It is hoped that through these remarkable creations, visitors to Fairchild will gain insight into an ancient African sculpture of great depth and wisdom. The day we visited we stumbled upon an outdoor studio where a couple of artists, while working, were sharing with a curious and engaged audience tips of stone carving techniques and fascinating stories and legends of their African ancestors.

After a full day spent wondering through the park, which also includes a spectacular butterfly pavilion, we headed back to South Beach with our eyes, and hearts, overflowing with the beauty of the natural and man-made wonders we had been exposed to.