Miami is home of white beaches, nightclubs, cocktails and art. But times are changing for Florida’s main city.
Move over New York and Los Angeles, Miami might well be undergoing reinvention as the United States’ new art hub. And in a big way: since Art Basel, the influential Swiss exhibition, decided to open a satellite show in Miami in 2002, the number of spin-off art fairs has grown from one to 20; the number of independent galleries in the city has rocketed from six to a staggering 130, and counting. Miami is the city where one canny enthusiast recently bought an entire building in the city for $7m, solely for the graffiti it had on it. He carefully removed the graffiti so that he could install it in his home, and then sold the building, for $12m.
Miami is a cultural melting pot. Now a second summer home to a throng of wealthy Germans and Russians, and now, thanks to one airline’s savvy intuition to operate a direct route from Beijing, Chinese. Drawn to the city’s confluence of construction, cash and
cool, it has also guaranteed a customer base for its art.
Yet, Miami’s new status goes beyond things to hang on your wall. The city has long been a heartland for international Art Deco, but recent years have also seen a number of high-profile architectural projects emerging, and each encouraging the next: Norman Foster’s Faena House, OMA’s Coconut Grove, buildings from the likes of Bjarke Ingels, Richard Meier, Sou Fujimoto and Studio Gang, even Jacques Herzog’s 1111 Lincoln Road parking garage.
Understandably, this is a city that loves its cars. The Miami Supercar Rooms is a restaurant one can even drive into – which is just one reason why Elo, its exotically named owner described Miami as, “pound for pound the hottest investment city in the US”. “It’s the New World global capital,” he explains… “from architecture to design, to the culinary scene.”
Miami’s standing is reflected in the rapid expansion of its cultural offer too. Cue, nationally important institutions like the Pérez Art Museum, New World Symphony and, the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, which opened on 8 May 2017.
“Miami was really ripe for the picking,” suggests Suzie Sponder of the Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I was born and raised here and there was always a kind of void for construction. So, crucially, there was room for it. At some 120 years old, Miami is a relatively young city. And what’s interesting is that a number of key developers have proven visionary within the art community.”
Among these might be counted the likes of Tony Goldman, Ofer Mizrahi, George Pérez or Craig Robins – the man who has shaped the Miami Design District of highbrow retail and restaurants, and who had been revitalising and preserving Art Deco buildings on South Beach since the 1980s. He also happens to be the founder of the city’s Design Miami collectors’ fair.
These men might well be congratulated for imposing restrictions on their architects, insisting that any new build is in keeping with the city’s historic tone. But when the financial crisis hit, they were just as quick to repurpose their developments as residential. And that, perhaps, has had the biggest impact of all: by drawing new, often creative blood to the city, even from New York.
“In fact, Miami’s become a little New York for them,” Sponder says. “Miami has always brought in visitors from the North East, but more have become residents. And they’ve not only invested in Miami’s new businesses and culture, they’ve come with that big city thinking that can quickly transform a place. And that’s certainly what’s happening.”