The Ten Best Art Galleries in Miami

Guests ponder El Sexto's work during his opening night at Market Gallery.EXPAND
Guests ponder El Sexto's work during his opening night at Market Gallery.
Photo by Alexandra Martinez

I grew up going to Second Saturday Art Walk in the mid-to-late-2000s, when Gallery Diet and David Castillo Gallery had just opened in Wynwood. Elite art aficionados and kids looking for free wine lurked inside while the local community remained outside. It was a quiet gentrification at first. Since then, neither the Puerto Rican community nor the two original galleries exist along NW Second Avenue. Meanwhile, Wynwood has exploded, leaving a trail of galleries relocating to cheaper neighboring areas. But galleries that remain are still showcasing interesting works.

I learned during those early days of wandering that art galleries can be pretentious and inaccessible, shrouded in silence or self-conscious conversations. But the gallery world has more to offer. Some of Miami's best spaces are warm and invite critical dialogue — fostering community among local artists while opening the doors for outsiders to share their work.

In the age of Miami's cultural renaissance, here are the city's ten best contemporary art galleries. 

10. Butter Gallery
2930 NW Seventh Ave., Miami
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's exhibit at Butter last month was enigmatic and intimate. The Forbes "30 Under 30" recipient is known for work addressing conflict in public spaces, such as police violence against blacks, the Arab Spring uprisings, and sexual violence against women. This is characteristic of the shows Butter Gallery's Francisco De La Torre invites into his space. The Puerto Rico-born, Miami-based director also curates the adjacent Projektraum, a multidisciplinary space designed to provide an outlet for emerging talent. 

Glenn Espinosa, by Glenn Espinosa of G. Holmes Braddock Senior High
Glenn Espinosa, by Glenn Espinosa of G. Holmes Braddock Senior High
Courtesy of YoungArts Foundation

9. YoungArts Gallery
2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
The youth is our future. A quick visit to the National YoungArts Foundation gallery space will prove that cliché true. The gallery exhibits the work of 15-to-18-year-old aspiring visual artists from South Florida, selected from a competitive pool of 12,000 entries. Each year, the exhibition space rotates visual art, photography, and design from talented high-school students. Works cover a broad range of mediums. Hannah Ali, a student at Design & Architecture Senior High, painted Eternal, an oil-on-canvas portrait interlacing images of her classmate's face with those of mountains. Zoe Elakman, a student at W. Dreyfood School of the Arts, designed Vol, a functioning jacket made of a mosaic of parrot feathers. The two-story exhibition space is filled with unique, refreshing, and sometimes unsettling pieces from young voices that should be heard. 

To New York With Love (2009), four-color offset lithographs
To New York With Love (2009), four-color offset lithographs
Courtesy of Gallery Diet

8. Gallery Diet
6315 NW Second Ave., Miami
Gallery Diet, owned by former president of the Wynwood Arts District Association, Nina Johnson-Milewski, was one of the first galleries in Wynwood when it opened in 2007. Last year, however, she joined the mass exodus of galleries to Little Haiti and bought a 1940s-era complex. The space is exhibiting Jonas Mekas' "Let Me Introduce Myself," the Miami debut of the seminal artist, filmmaker, and poet. It features three series of photographs from Mekas' body of work and a four-channel video installation. Guests are invited to sit on specially designed chairs as they watch The Destruction Quartet, which features New York disasters, including 9/11.

Sistema, by Franky CruzEXPAND
Sistema, by Franky Cruz
Photo by Alexandra Martinez

7. Spinello Projects
7221 NW Second Ave., Miami
Spinello Projects has been showcasing Miami-based work since 2005. The gallery supports and promotes using unorthodox and experimental practices. Its mission: to initiate fundamental changes in Miami’s visual landscape. As you enter through the back door, you're greeted by darkness. It is quiet inside. A spotlight casts a shadow on an obscure sculpture set on the floor. Being surrounded by Cara Despain's Slow Burn is atmospheric and meditative. Walk a little farther, and you'll find Franky Cruz's Sistema, a slug and caterpillar performance piece tracking their natural growth. Cruz has set up lights against milkweed plants, where caterpillars typically graze. The only piece missing are the butterflies — discarded cocoons mark their ascendance beyond the galleries' walls. 

Guests ponder El Sexto's work during his opening night at Market Gallery.EXPAND
Guests ponder El Sexto's work during his opening night at Market Gallery.
Photo by Alexandra Martinez

6. Market Gallery 
1420 Alton Rd., Miami Beach
Market Gallery has been around only since this past December, when it opened during Art Basel. Nestled in a shopping plaza next to a Cricket Wireless retailer, the South Beach gallery has already hosted one of the most bombastic shows this city has seen. Last week, the gallery closed out "Pork: El Sexto" a show featuring Cuban dissident artist Danilo Maldonado Machado (AKA El Sexto). The opening night included elements of the show he intended to display when he was arrested Christmas Day 2014 in Cuba. Cuban rock band Porno Para Ricardo played psychedelic music as two live pigs painted with the names "Fidel" and "Raúl" were released into a wooden pen at the back of the gallery. Minutes later, Maldonado joined them in the pen. "Most people will die and no one will ever talk about them," Maldonado said mysteriously as he jumped onto the wooden gate. "But if I die today, all of you will remember me." He was later tattooed as part of a performance piece called Resistencia. The goal of the gallery is "to expose enticing pieces, give artists a home to say what they want." Point taken.

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