Painting outside the Basel box: Exploring art in the neighborhoods

Art fans do not have to get sucked into the Art Basel vortex in Miami Beach or the Art Miami rip current in the Omni area.

You can escape far from the madding crowds, parking hassles, ripoff admission fees and grotesque facelifts of the VIP set and explore art at alternative sites. Because the Art Basel and Miami Art Week orbit keeps expanding, you can venture beyond the hub and hubbub of the main and established fairs and discover new artists while also discovering neighborhoods with their own distinctive personalities and histories.

Take a look at what’s happening in such Art Basel outposts as Doral, Overtown, Little Haiti, Little River, Pinecrest, Surfside and downtown Flagler Street. Doral, Miami’s booming “Little Venezuela” near the airport, may not come to mind as an artists’ enclave, but the founders of the “Against Gravity” exhibition are trying to change that perception.

“We named it ‘Against Gravity’ because we’re going against the traditional forces of Art Basel,” said Jorge Luis Gutierrez, curator of the show, which is displayed in 36 luxury warehouses. “Everyone goes to Miami Beach or Wynwood and no one comes to Doral. You will have to move contrary to the same old pattern of viewing Art Basel to come out here.”

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Art aficionados at the “Against Gravity” show in Doral, one of the satellite shows during Art Basel Miami Beach, Dec. 5-9, 2018.

Jorge Luis Gutierrez

It’s a chance to be creative and try something different, mellow and perhaps a little more authentic. It’s a chance for cities and neighborhoods to get on the art map, using the Art Basel brand as a springboard to cultivate their own art scene, lure visitors, support local artists and attract new ones in search of studio space.

Look what art did for Wynwood, a formerly utilitarian collection of warehouses, auto repair shops and wholesale businesses devoid of beauty and hipness. Look how art helped revive Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, Chelsea and SoHo in Manhattan.

An Art Basel ticket costs $60 but “Welcome to the Afrofuture” is free and introduces the public to a wonderful 58,000-square-foot open space in Overtown called The Urban, at 1000 NW Second Ave. The show, which opens at 4 p.m. through Sunday, features 20 visual and performing artists from the African Diaspora, including Miami, New Orleans, New York and London.

There will be live music, New Media projections, interactive installations and mural-painting of Overtown heroes.

“We’re tapping into the energy of Art Basel to bring people to historically black Overtown and tie art to economic development and workforce development,” said curator Gia Hamilton, an author and cultural producer who just completed a two-acre project in New Orleans as part of the reopening of the city’s African-American Museum.

“This community has a rich artistic history, and we want to activate this space with a past and inspire people to think about its future,’’ she said.


Curator Gia Hamilton with artist Courtney “Ceaux” Buckley as he paints a mural. He is one of a group of artists displayed at Afrofuture at The Urban Space in Overtown, one of the many art events and fairs taking place around Miami-Dade County during Art Basel Miami Beach, Dec. 5-9, 2018.


Nearby is the Art Africa Miami Art Fair, at 920 NW Second Ave., an impressive mix of local and African art by organizer Neil Hall. The theme in its eighth year is “Black Art Matters: It’s Not a Choice.” The historic Lyric Theater is the venue for an eight-man show, “Art of Black Miami: Icons.”

In the heart of downtown Miami inside the Alfred I. DuPont building, 169 E. Flagler St., the sixth annual PRIZM Art Fair showcases 63 artists of color from 15 countries.

Hang around Flagler and check out Mana Contemporary gallery’s three locations at the Juxtapoz Clubhouse at 200 E. Flagler and 32 SW First St., and the 777 International Mall at 145 E. Flagler St., featuring rousing works and installations from two dozen artists and an all-Mexico City group exhibition.

Little Haiti and Little River are rapidly evolving into art hotspots as Wynwood artists and galleries migrate to less expensive real estate. Many are clustered within walking distance of each other and between Haitian eateries and general stores.

At the Laundromat Art Space, which is, yes, a former laundromat, Swiss-born and Miami-based artist Leza One is featured during Art Week. The artist-run building has 10 active studios where you can peek in on the painting, sculpting and sewing. New live/work spaces are being added upstairs. The artists are alumni from the Bakehouse, Lincoln Road’s ArtSpace and Wynwood who sought a new home in working-class Little Haiti.

“Our rents got too crazy or our buildings got sold,” said Laundromat director and mixed media artist Ronald Sanchez, who moved from Wynwood. “This neighborhood is facing gentrification but we hope to help preserve its rich culture. We’re not a commercial gallery. We’re free, open to the public and offering educational programs to the community.”


Olga Filpo, operator of industrial and office cleaning company, preps the space for the opening of Atchugarry Art Center in Little Haiti. Sculptor and gallerist Pablo Atchugarry along with his son, Piero, has opened the gallery featuring some of his sculptures.

Carl Juste

Travel north to Surfside after dark to see the video work “Ritual” by Sophia Hanover light up the night until 11 p.m. through Sunday as it is projected onto the façade and beachfront sides of the 12-story Arte by Antonio Citterio condominium building at 8955 Collins Ave.

Luminous marine scenes will play out as waves lap the shore in Hanover’s “meditation on place, purpose and the omnipresent and mystical nature of time.” Sounds dreamy.

For more themes on water and time, go south to Pinecrest to view environmental artist Xavier Cortada’s ingenious “Underwater HOA” installation. The Pinecrest Gardens artist-in-residence traveled to Antarctica in 2006 as a National Science Foundation fellow and created works on paper with melting ice samples.

In Miami, he wants to warn people about sea rise. Painted “Underwater Markers” have been placed in yards and at intersections showing how many feet of melting glacial water needs to rise before the property is under water.


Painted numbers show how many feet melting glacial water needs to rise before the property is under water. Pinecrest Gardens artist-in-residence Xavier Cortada created this participatory art project he calls “Underwater HOA.”

Village of Pinecrest

Back in Doral, Gutierrez and partner Marcelo Llobell have converted high-end warehouses — where wealthy people store their collections of cars or art or fashion — into temporary galleries.

They want to apply the same concept to their plans for the future Doral Contemporary Art Museum, which the city approved last year.

“We don’t need to build a costly new facility,” Llobell said. “We’ll keep the Doral industrial space character and be more of a movement like the Bauhaus bringing together — artists, designers, philosophers. It will be like MOMA’s P.S. 1 in Queens or Mass MOCA [in North Adams, Mass.]. And the Pompidou is opening up an old car factory in Brussels. Doral’s museum will be, as the young people say, cool.”

Gutierrez, former director of the Venezuela’s Museum of Visual Arts and the museum at the Freedom Tower, wants Doral’s museum to be more of a lab than an exhibition space.

“Just like ‘Against Gravity,’ we want to be innovative, open up the discussion of art in the 21st century,” he said. “We want Miami to build its own brand and and look without copying New York or London.”