Long before Miami became a sunny winter escape for ice-bound northerners and a mecca for partying college kids on their Spring Break, it was known for its large Jewish population, singular art deco architecture and impressive private art collections. That legacy is reflected in instutions such as The Wolfsonian and the Bass Museum of Art (closed until late 2016), but today Miami supports a thriving contemporary and multi-faceted arts scene, with many public museums, private collections and eccentric gems such as the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.
Art Deco Walking Tour
For those with eyes to see, much of South Beach is a living art gallery, sporting some of the finest examples of early 20th Century art deco architecture to be found anywhere in the world. This walking tour is organized by the Miami Preservation League, led by passionate volunteer guides and departs daily from the Art Deco Welcome Centre on Ocean Drive.
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
Hop on the Metrorail to Vizcaya Station and you’ll be transported into a fantasy world of fountains, sunken gardens, Renaissance tapestries, Rococco furniture and faded grandeur. This sprawling waterfront property was the brainchild of industrialist James Deering. The Mediterranean Revival villa dates from 1910 and still manages to enchant the visitor; the immaculate gardens and equally impressive.
The Wolfsonian FIU
Miami’s best-known museum is also the most accessible being just a short walk from Ocean Drive. The Stalinist style building contains some 180,000 objects, including glass, ceramics, rare books, periodicals, textiles, medals, paintings and ephemera – all of which tell the story of America’s rise to greatness from the Industrial Revolution to the end of the Second World War. Funny, eccentric and often irreverent this collection is a delight.
Rubell Family Collection
Established by Donald and Mera Rubell in 1964, this is today one of the largest private collections of modern art in the world. Housed in a former Drug Enforcement Agency Building, the collection includes works by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Kara Walker and Andy Warhol. The building includes a library and art bookstore.
What began life as a street museum in 2009 has mushroomed into America’s most famous collection of urban murals. The works here are by artists from the US, England, Spain, Brazil, Ukraine, Greece, France, Japan, and Germany. Wynwood Walls are located at 2520 NW 2nd Avenue, Miami – between Joey's Italian Café and the Wynwood Kitchen & Bar. Access to the murals is free.
If you like your art weird and disturbing then this artist-operated gallery in Downtown Miami is your type of thing. As its mission statement says PRIMARY “explores and promotes multiple forms of aesthetic expression from both established and emerging artists”. The gallery offers a constantly changing roster of exhibitions – found objects to conceptual art. Open on Saturday afternoons or by appointment only.