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Best of Miami 2017: The Best Arts and Artists

Best of Miami 2017: The Best Arts and Artists
Rick/Flickr Creative Commons
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New Times' annual Best of Miami issue is here, guiding you through the peak experiences in the Magic City. So who's leading Miami's cultural movement in 2017? Check out these arts winners below, and see more creative picks in the full issue.

Best of Miami 2017: The Best Arts and Artists
Photo by Monica McGivern

Best Artist: Antonia Wright
First, all you see is darkness. Then, in slow motion, a figure floats into view. It's a woman, naked, her face scrunched as if bracing for impact. Seconds later, you discover why: Her body hits and smashes a pane of glass. Shards fly through the air, gliding across the screen as the woman slowly falls back into the darkness. Until she shattered the glass, you hadn't even known it was there. This is Suddenly We Jumped, Antonia Wright's 2014 short film that screened at the Borscht Film Festival this year. It's just one example of a courageous and often dangerous body of work by an artist known for taking risks — not just in the message of her art, but with her physical well-being. For a Locust Projects exhibit last fall, she submerged her body in an icy lake, reliving a childhood accident. Wright has performed tai chi while covered in bees and rolled naked down a filthy Miami alley. Her series Are You OK? features her crying openly on busy city streets from Paris to New York to Havana. She sacrifices her own comfort, and sometimes her own safety, to make bold statements, created with insidery art theories in mind but resonant with anyone with eyes and a beating heart. Is it hard to watch? Sure. Mesmerizing? Absolutely. But the word that best describes Wright's work is fearless.

Best of Miami 2017: The Best Arts and Artists
Stiann Roenning

Best Street Artist: Tatiana Suarez
Take a stroll through Wynwood Walls, and you can't miss her: Lying in a dreamlike pose, surrounded by grapevines, a nude woman gazes into the distance. But it's not her nudity that's so arresting, nor her vibrant red hair or pointed, clawlike fingertips. It's not even the tiny alligator, with a cheerful, menacing smile, that sits on her elbow. It's her eyes, which artist Tatiana Suarez has rendered in hyperrealism with one fantastical quality: They're entirely white aside from soft red pupils. Striking eyes have long been a hallmark of Suarez's work; her earlier murals and paintings show women with oversized globes for eyeballs, making her subjects look more like thoughtfully created Bratz dolls. But these aren't just pretty portraits. Suarez's paintings have a surreal, dreamlike quality, one that invites viewers to imagine the story behind her captivating female subjects. Unlike so many of the women on display in Miami, these ladies aren't merely ornamental. Suarez gives them a realistic, human quality, even as she places them in dream­scapes and exaggerates their features. In a city full of objectifying billboards, advertisements, and even other murals, Suarez's work is a small, essential rebellion.

Best of Miami 2017: The Best Arts and Artists
Photo by Jill C. Weisberg

Best Mural: Nice 'N Easy
Branch off from the commotion of Young Circle Park in downtown Hollywood onto Tyler Street, and you'll probably stop in your tracks beside a mural of a bird's-eye view of a swimming pool, pink floaties and all. You can't help but note in awe how the artists nailed the sunlight refracting on the water. Five years ago, this wall was bland and boring (as was the rest of these lackluster walls in this neighborhood). But since it became home to a monthly art walk in which folks stroll along the quaint, tree-lined streets from gallery to gallery, this pocket of Hollywood received a face-lift. Launched in August 2012, the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project has brought more than two dozen murals to the now-vibrant hood, which has fared well as an Instagram-worthy backdrop for selfies. Next time you saunter down Tyler Street, be on the lookout for this splashy mural and resist the urge to dive in.

Best Public Art: Miami Mountain
Even if you don't enjoy eating colorful candy marzipan, it's hard to argue with viewing monumental art that looks like it. Built in 2016 by the Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, the 42-foot-tall Miami Mountain consists of five bright boulders that sit atop one another just feet from A1A in Collins Park. The sculpture is like a huge, delicious treat for all of South Beach. Rondinone recently installed seven of these sculptures in the desert outside Las Vegas, but those are planned to be there for only two years, while Miami's stack of stones is part of the Bass museum's permanent collection and will sit in place for the long haul. Also, technically, the piece is called a "cairn," a dandy way of referring to a pile of rocks. Turning a corner and seeing Miami Mountain is still a startling experience. The work, which is held together by an iron spine, immediately causes the viewer to question whether the rocks are real and then walk up and engage. The question of artificiality is one dear to Miami Beach, but like the city, the closer you get to the statue, the more awe-inspiring it becomes. It is joyous to look all the way to the top of the Beach's mountain, which, of course, is rainbow-hued and right by the sand.

Best of Miami 2017: The Best Arts and Artists
Monica McGivern

Best Art Gallery: Primary Projects
The stone building on the corner of NE 39th Street and North Miami Avenue looks just as swanky as any other showroom in the high-end haven of the Design District. But there's one major difference: Inside, instead of handbags and shoes more expensive than your monthly rent, there's art. Really good art, actually. This is the new home of Primary Projects, the space started by the Primary Flight crew shortly after it made waves by bringing a massive installation of murals to Wynwood. (Look how that worked out.) Primary Projects ran a small space on the other side of the Design District for several years and then spent a brief time in downtown Miami before returning to its original neighborhood in a newly luxurious form. Few local artists have the chance to exhibit their work in a gallery with tall, retail-style windows and a prime position among the 1 percenters, but that's exactly what Primary offers. Since it opened at its new address in September 2016, it has shown works by Miami stars such as Autumn Casey, Kelly Breez, and Beatriz Monteavaro. And though the building melds effortlessly into the Design District landscape, Primary's artists and curators aren't trying to blend in. Just imagine high-strung shoppers with Louis Vuitton bags accidentally wandering into a recent exhibit of fake newspaper pages with political headlines reading "Fuck It Will Set You Free." It's a lovely idea.

Best of Miami 2017: The Best Arts and Artists
Courtesy of Superfine!

Best Art Festival: Superfine!
Art Basel and Miami Art Week, at heart, are a rich person's playground, full of white tents housing bajillion-dollar works of art that you need a PhD to really appreciate. But then Superfine! hit the scene. The organizers of the 2-year-old fair devised a business model that reduces costs for exhibitors, allowing a broader and more diverse group of artists to participate. Visitors strolling through Superfine! in midtown Miami last year got to see local artists Jen Clay and Christin Paige Minnotte, among many others, selling pieces at prices far more affordable than those at nearby Art Miami and Scope. And Superfine! pulled it all off without dropping any of the flashy extras of your traditional white tent. An immersive, helium-based sculpture installation by Asser Saint-Val greeted visitors, while Miami collective Nice n' Easy created a psychedelic picnic party and seating lounge for guests. With all the perks of Art Basel but without the excruciating costs, Superfine! is a safe space for your wallet during Miami Art Week.

Best of Miami 2017: The Best Arts and Artists
Rick/Flickr Creative Commons

Best Art Walk: Downtown Hollywood Art Walk
Only a few short years ago, Wynwood's Second Saturday Art Walk was at the heart of a revolution. Up to 40 galleries would open their doors once a month, allowing the public to peruse every expanse of the creative mind. Wynwood, of course, has since leveraged that cachet to become a hipster commercial mecca, and many of the artists have fled for cheaper real estate. So the art faithful have turned their attention north to a burgeoning hot spot for both imagination and inebriation: downtown Hollywood. The area has been revitalized, both aesthetically and with new infrastructure. From 5 to 10 p.m. the third Saturday each month, sidewalks and storefronts welcome casual and hard-core art lovers. Attendees enjoy collections from local, regional, and international artists while classical and jazz bands perform live. Plus, many galleries are walking distance from dozens of bars, restaurants, cigar shops, and coffee bars. Street parking is mostly free and plentiful, and murals decorate the walls of many of the buildings. Downtown Hollywood ArtWalk, for now, is nowhere near the size and scale of its Miami counterpart, but that's a good thing. One day, this gathering's popularity might catch up to Wynwood's, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Best of Miami 2017: The Best Arts and Artists
Angel Valentin

Best Art Mixer: PAMM Third Thursdays
Thursday is so close yet still so far away from the weekend. So a Thursday-evening drink requires the Goldilocks standard of imbibing: enough booze to properly pregame for the weekend, but not so much that you're hung over for what is already the longest workday of the week. PAMM Third Thursdays, hosted by Poplife, are the perfect early transition to that weekend mood. The parties offer a chance to schmooze with other art lovers in a relaxed environment, all while overlooking some of the best views of the Magic City at dusk. Happy-hour drink specials are available from 5 to 7 p.m., and Poplife books world-class DJs such as Arthur Baker to spin on the shores of Biscayne Bay. Each monthly event also spotlights some of Miami's best musical talent, including acts like the Tremends, Native Youth, Psychic Mirrors, and Modernage. Admission is free for PAMM members and $16 for nonmembers.

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