As Miami's Busiest Art Season Looms, Top Galleries Leave Wynwood For Downtown and Miami Beach

For Fredric Snitzer, the magic has vanished from Miami's hottest cultural district. The pioneering gallery owner has launched the careers of homegrown talent such as Hernan Bas, Naomi Fisher, and Bert Rodriguez from the Wynwood emporium he opened in 2003. But the increasingly raucous art walk now keeps serious art aficionados and collectors away, he says, while the burgeoning bar and restaurant scene has driven up rents beyond most galleries' means.

"Wynwood has become too hectic and lost its vibe," Snitzer says. "Crazy and quality I could have dealt with, but crazy and commercial is what drove me away. A lot of the new restaurants and businesses have been great for the area, but many of the developers don't understand the nature of the art community."

That's why Snitzer recently left the neighborhood he helped make famous, decamping Wynwood's increasingly commercial climes for a new location closer to downtown Miami.

See also: Fredric Snitzer, Michael Jon Galleries Selected for Art Basel Miami Beach 2014

He's far from alone. As Miami gears up for its Art Basel-fueled fall season, the cultural center of gravity is slowly but surely shifting away from Wynwood thanks to gallery owners like Snitzer and fellow pioneer David Castillo, who are just two of the latest to flee. Snitzer doesn't expect that trend to reverse anytime soon.

"Wynwood is changing at a very rapid pace," he says. "You are going to see a lot of the galleries and buildings in the area leveled and condos put up in their place over the next five years."

A big reason Snitzer and others have been pulled closer to Biscayne Bay is the emergence of the Perez Art Museum Miami, which opened its gleaming new home last December to rave reviews. Of course, PAMM also made headlines in February when local artist Maximo Caminero smashed an Ai WeiWei vase to protest what he saw as PAMM's lack of support for Miami artists. In all, more than 200,000 visitors have walked through PAMM's doors since last fall. "We're proud to say that PAMM has truly become Miami's front porch," says Leann Standish, the museum's deputy director for external affairs.

To mark its one-year anniversary, PAMM will boast a raft of new projects, including a blowout party December 4, when it presents a time-based art presentation by Future Brown with Kalela, an underground DJ supergroup. This year's Basel crowd will find PAMM debuting a commissioned work by Mexico City-based artist Mario Garcia Torres.

"[His] project incorporates photography, film, and objects that explore notions of Southern Florida as a site for withdrawal from society for the purpose of artistic creation," Standish says.

Museumgoers will also find "Jardim Botânico," the first major retrospective of Brazilian abstract painter Beatriz Milhazes, on display from September through January. Early next year, PAMM will open "Tàpies: From Within," a survey of more than 50 paintings and sculptures from Antoni Tàpies, a modernist Catalan artist.

Artists Diego Bianchi and Shana Lutker are preparing large-scale installations at the museum that will "collaborate with PAMM's architecture and engage elements referencing the cultural and material landscape of Miami," Standish says.

For Snitzer, PAMM's proximity is one of the reasons he chose to relocate to downtown rather than set up shop in Little Haiti, Little Havana, or other artsy hoods where those priced out of Wynwood have began to create a stir.

"We are two stops on the people-mover away from the museum," Snitzer says. "This area is less congested, and I have a 3,000-square-foot walled-in courtyard in the back where I can have a sculpture garden and organize outdoor events. There's even a flock of chickens running loose in the lot across the street. This feels like a strange little slice of the real Miami."

Inside his space at 1540 NE Miami Court, Miami, Snitzer is showcasing an overview of his program with works by the likes of Jose Bedia, Alice Aycock, and Hernan Bas. Snitzer, who teaches art at the New World School of the Arts, says one of his students, Rafael Domenech, is on the verge of a breakthrough.

"I've had a policy for a while now of not showing my students' work because I want them to go on to graduate school and not become overwhelmed by early success," Snitzer says. "But Rafael is a ... talent with an excellent grasp of drawing, painting, sculpture and video work... [He] is one of the more interesting artists I'm working with now."

During Basel, Snitzer will debut a group show called "Painting," curated by John Connelly, former director of the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation in New York. This exhibit will showcase a diverse group of artists, from Parsons grad Aaron Bobrow -- known for large, monochromatic canvases -- to West Virginia native Sadie Laska, who turns found objects into bright cacophonies of abstract paint. Snitzer is also working on his own solo show, scheduled for December at the New World School of the Arts.

"[I] made all new work for the exhibit using mostly drywall and scrap wood," Snitzer says. "To be honest, I don't give a shit if the stuff ends up in a dumpster after the show. I'm old and am enjoying making the work and not trying to get into the Museum of Modern Art."

While Snitzer followed PAMM's lead and established his new home downtown, Castillo looked across the bay for a new start.

The David Castillo Gallery, which planted its flag in the once-gritty neighborhood on the corner of NW Second Avenue and 23rd Street back in 2005, became one of Wynwood's flagship spaces. Castillo started with a handful of mostly local artists and has grown to represent 18 top-tier talents today. His new space will be front and center on Miami Beach's Lincoln Road, debuting just in time for the fall arts crowd with a group show called "Amerika" that starts September 26.

Unlike Snitzer, Castillo says Wynwood's evolution didn't drive him away. Instead, as his program has grown, so too has the lure of a gallery closer to Art Basel's home base at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

"The reality is that only 10 percent of my collector base is local, and the rest come from elsewhere," Castillo says, adding that his new space is "convenient for my collectors who come to Basel to pop by on their way to dinner or on their way back to their hotels after visiting the fair, which was harder for them to do when I was in Wynwood."

Castillo's inaugural Miami Beach show will include local stalwarts such as Jillian Mayer -- a New Times Mastermind Award winner famed for her mind-bending video pieces and elaborate costumes -- and Adler Guerrier, a Haitian-born artist known for abstract, mixed-media pieces.

In December, Castillo will feature the work of New York-based artist Jose Lerma, whose edgy works typically illustrate the rise and fall of powerful historical figures. "Lerma is working on a project inspired by Ponce de Leon's search for the Fountain of Youth and will be researching Florida history for his site-specific, conceptually oriented show," the dealer says.

Big picture, even as well-established names move away, Wynwood still has plenty of draw for the Basel crowd, and Castillo says he's excited about PAMM's direction.

"So far, PAMM has been great for the community," he says. "Miami needed an anchor museum, and PAMM seems to be setting pretty high standards and taking the right steps to grow the institution."

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Carlos Suarez De Jesus