FriendsWithYou and Other Top Miami Artists Flee to Los Angeles Over Flagging Sales

In 2006, hundreds of Miami Beach sunbathers stared in awe as a bizarre procession paraded down the South Beach sand. Eighteen giant helium balloons — shaped like vampire rabbits, volcanoes, and eerily smiling black spheres — floated along while the Hialeah Senior High School marching band blasted a jazz tune.

It was a breakout Art Basel moment for a tag team that has since become one of Miami's most hailed artistic teams: Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III, better known as FriendsWithYou. Since that fair, the team has repped the Magic City around the globe, from the High Line in New York City to Scope Art Fair's featured platform.

No longer. The artists known for their line of plush and wooden toys, magical installations, bounce houses, and rainbow-hued environments are now taking their talents out West. And they're not alone.

A balloon flies during FriendsWithYou's 2006 "Skywalker" parade.
A balloon flies during FriendsWithYou's 2006 "Skywalker" parade.

"We love Miami, but collectors here just don't support our work," Borkson says. "The truth is that most collectors who purchase our work are located elsewhere."

Borkson says fellow local A-list artists Jen Stark — a New Times MasterMind Award winner in 2010 known for her paper cutouts — Alvaro Ilizarbe, Pres Rodriguez, and Raul Sanchez will also relocate to Los Angeles this summer. L.A. promises better access to collectors and more room to grow than Miami, he says.

"A lot of our work is being collected out there," Borkson says. "We are going to move to a place called Silver Lake near downtown with Jen and Alvaro and just rented a huge studio space near the L.A. MOCA downtown."

Borkson says FWY's new digs will be called "the Gem" and boast 4,600 square feet in a two-story building he says is the perfect playground for their plans. The move should concern anyone worried about Miami's art scene — which already suffers from the perception that it's a once-a-year affair revolving around Basel.

As much as FriendsWithYou supported and helped fuel the 305's artistic explosion, his group had to follow the financial support West.

"Our main goal is to keep our vision pure and not just about the money," he says. "As much as we love Miami, the move is about being in a place where we can be part of a movement, where more money is invested in culture, and we will be more nurtured by people to continue making art that impacts others' lives."

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Juan  Navarro
Juan Navarro

Too fucking true. I know part sof LA we call little Hialeah because as writers, artist, filmmakers , etc we get ignored ehre. it's not even that artist get shitted on her,e people just don't fucking care, the apathy in Miami is just toxic. Even Broward has some real excitement to it than Miami Dade, where people care more about being seen in the scene, than seeing art. God Bless and go forward Friends with You.


wow you guys changed the title after public complaints


another reality of the miami art scene where collector or the city support local artist beyond art basel. It not a surprise to anyone who follows this scene to see all artist, painters,designers to musicians leave miami for cities that provides the grounds for them to grow such as new york city or los angeles.

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