When the Miami Dolphins make their home debut this Sunday, there will be at least one other thing in the newly refurbished and rechristened Hard Rock Stadium to distract fans from the team's disappointing play: Wynwood-style art. Team owner Stephen Ross, inspired by the murals that adorn the Wynwood Arts District, commissioned 18 artists, muralists, and graffiti artists to festoon his renovated stadium with murals that echo those found throughout Miami's artsiest neighborhood.
The Dolphins held an unveiling of the art this past Thursday, showcasing work from artists such as Felipe Pantone, Dasic Fernández, Fintan Magee, and Jen Stark, as well as a special mural designed by the Portuguese artist Vhils.
Ross teamed up with Goldman Global Arts for the project after he visited Wynwood Walls. “Mr. Ross saw the art out in Wynwood and immediately wanted to bring that vision into the stadium,” Dolphins President and CEO Tom Garfinkel said during Thursday’s media event.
It’s an ambitious project — most of the designs are abstract and have nothing to do with football or sports at all. Instead, the collection is designed to embody the art and culture that is Miami. In other words, the stadium isn't just the home of the Dolphins and Hurricanes — it's also a place where concerts and major events will be held.
“Miami is a truly aspirational city and a leader culturally in this country and in some ways the rest of the world,” Ross said in a statement Thursday. “This stadium is a global entertainment destination that reflects Miami’s cultural significance in music, sports, entertainment, and now the arts.”
This isn’t the first time Ross has plastered Miami-inspired art throughout his football team’s stadium. When he became majority owner of the team in 2008, Ross commissioned Romero Britto to paint his signature triangular murals throughout the stadium. It too was part of a renovation project to make the stadium seem more modern and Miami-like. The art, however, was met with backlash from fans and critics who saw Britto’s bold colors as an eyesore in a place where the football team plays its games. Ross ordered the murals to be painted over last year.
The major difference with the art this time around is that the murals have been painted throughout the stadium’s concourse, unlike Britto’s work, which was done throughout the stands and walls near the field of play.
The work is bright and colorful and definitely carries some Wynwood vibes. Each piece is unique and captures everything Ross and Goldman Global had envisioned. A piece by local artist Jen Stark features an array of colors dripping down throughout a section of white wall that gives the illusion of the wall melting (an unintended metaphor, perhaps, for the team). Another piece by twin brothers How & Nosm takes up almost three walls in a bold abstract adorned with details that are like Easter eggs for art admirers to find. The one football-related piece, by Chilean graffiti artist Dasic Fernández, depicts a football player wearing a gold helmet and holding up his hands, which are splashed in surreal tropical colors that drip skyward. Goldman Global Arts CEO Jessica Goldman Srebnick described the work as “No one specific player, but the universal football player and athlete in all of us.” (To this writer, the player vaguely resembles Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.)
The most profound, and likely to be most visited, piece, however, came at the end, when the team unveiled a mural of legendary Dolphins coach Don Shula. Vhils was commissioned for the piece, and it’s an impressive and breathtaking tribute to the winningest coach in NFL history. The work depicts Shula’s face, displaying the intense gaze that has made him a South Florida icon.
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How Average Joe Six-Pack Dolphins Fan will react to the art is anyone’s guess — probably somewhere between mild indifference and unbridled rage. The fact remains that the product on the field is a mess and has been mired in mediocrity under Ross’ watch. Another attempt at mixing art and football will probably be met with resentment from a fed-up fan base.
But the rare person who loves both art and football (we exist, we promise) will appreciate what Ross and Goldman have done here. They’ve brought Wynwood and the Dolphins together, and it’s a funky combo.
Anything to distract us from the crap sandwich served up on the field every Sunday.