By Sandra Schulman
When the news came down in September that Art Basel Miami was canceled, in a domino effect all the other fairs followed suit except one: Design Miami.
The usual bustling energy of Miami Beach has shut down with the pandemic, though one beach installation and some walking tours of public art have sprung up. Some of the art scene shifted over to the Design District and Wynwood, focusing on locals, with Design Miami taking over the historic Moore Building and new murals and shows in Wynwood.
At the Museum of Graffiti in Wynwood, local success story Ahol Sniffs Glue opened Biscayne World, an exhibit, book, memorabilia and mural. The new work is a love letter to Miami and its cast of characters, culled from three years of riding the bus up and down Biscayne Boulevard. His signature heavy lidded eyes dominate the work in everything from portraits to umbrellas.
“From rich people to poor people and all the characters in between, Biscayne Boulevard is a petri dish with the perfect cross section of this awesome city. In the same Biscayne that’s typically underappreciated and taken for granted, I saw as a reservoir of untapped (stuff) that served as unlimited inspiration. I listened to the conversations, the coughs, the cries, the many languages of the bus. I breathed in every smell possible, and I took the happiness along with sadness. We were all trying to get somewhere. That’s Biscayne World,” he says.
Former local Kenny Scharf has the buzziest show – a month-long popup from uber dealer Jeffrey Deitch in the Design District called Moodz. Featuring over 150 round spray-painted faces, the manic fun energy here bounces off the walls.
According to gallery director Lulu Sanchez of Swampspace, Scharf, who has been spray-painting faces since 1981, was given 400 round canvases from a company going out of business. This inspired him to paint just faces on these ready-made shapes, every one of them different. He thinks of his paintings as being like people: no two are alike. The exhibit runs til Dec. 31 at 182 NE 39th St., Miami. In more Scharf news, he has been tapped to be the artist for the Dior menswear designer 2021 fall collection.
Design Miami has tapped 11 regional galleries to fill the three floors of the Moore Building with a generous mix of high-end artist designed furniture, lamps, rugs, clothes, jewelry and even some unexpected finds like real dinosaur skeletons and Hopi kachina dolls from the 1890s.
Located under the atrium’s elastic-like white sculpture by Zaha Hadid, the exhibition features objects from 11 galleries and artists. A strict purple trail on the floor guides visitors through the exhibit and up the stairs, culminating in the breezy rooftop gallery and champagne bar with happy daisy sculptures by Takashi Murakami stuck in the bushes and a monster Scharf totem. A drink and the view are worth the price of admission.
A few blocks west at Locust Projects, local installation goddess Mette Tommerup presents Made by Dusk, a multimedia exhibition that reflects on the golden glow of twilight with gold-leaf paintings, dropcloth canvases, flickering films on the walls and floor, and to top off the mood of warmth and innocence there are multiple swings made of wire and wood hanging from the ceiling. A wooden sunbeam arch beckons at the entry. Tommerup was inspired by the Nordic goddess Freya, as dusk is a time of transition, creation and transformational change to create a timeless, magical, ethereal space made by dusk.
On the beach at Fanea Hotel, a clever artwork sits in a serene circle. Dreaming with Lions is the culmination of Alexandre Arrechea’s yearlong exploration of Ernest Hemingway’s 1952 masterpiece, The Old Man and the Sea.
Arrechea constructed the piece as a 62-foot-diameter rotunda composed of stacked white beach towels, a Miami material to the core, emblazoned with bold red text. Legible from afar, quotes are pulled from the novel: “Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is,” and “But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” On display rain or shine.
The Betsy Hotel on Ocean Drive has emerged, after a full renovation, as a new art hotspot. With photos in the new lobby, a huge orb in the alley, and a new addition hotel facing Collins filled with new edgy exhibits. A breezy opening for new shows in the spacious lobby and gallery rooms had some classy, old-school Miami vibes as Carlos Betancourt exhibited his collages for the first time of club goer photo clippings embellished with drawings and glitter.
Designer Barbara Hulanicki, who invented the youthquake swinging ’60s fashion scene in London with her Biba Boutique and designed multiple nightclubs and hotels in South Beach, is exhibiting her rarely seen fashion and club kid photos from the 1980s featuring Twiggy and Anna Piaggi. One room covers the wall with her floral skull-designed wallpaper.
A grand dame of the international design world, Hulanicki has been awarded the Order of the British Empire, and has lived in Miami Beach since the early ’80s. Catch the show while you can; Miami is lucky to have her.