Wynwood's Preview Thursday: Quieter Than Second Saturday Art Walk

Gregg Shienbaum points a thumb toward the rear of his Wynwood gallery, over the tumbleweeds of packing materials and past the still-unhung canvas that had occupied his entire wingspan only moments earlier.

"Late, after last Second Saturday," he recalls, "I locked these doors and went around to shut the roll-down out front. There were four girls sitting against the wall and slobbering over their food."

The streets had long since thinned of the thousands who had flocked for the monthly free drinks, music, food, and possibly even the art. Shienbaum asked the young women to move so he could close up. His wife was parked out back with the engine running.

"Can't you wait until we finish?" he remembers one of them slurring. After they finally left, across the street he spotted "this girl passed out on the sidewalk. Her drunk girlfriends were trying to lift her, and they couldn't do it. Second Saturday is a great time, but... nobody who is buying wants to see that."

Things have gotten tricky in Wynwood during Second Saturday Art Walk, and not only for those attempting to stand. What began eight years ago as a leisurely way to stroll through a few galleries has become overwhelming.

So Isaac Perelman, director of Dot Fiftyone on NW 27th Street, and business partner Alfredo Guzmán are heading an initiative to have more than 30 Wynwood galleries extend their hours until at least 9 p.m. the Thursday before Second Saturday.

They hope to attract collectors and aficionados to see the art without the attendant Saturday chaos. There was a test run last month, and now seven galleries — David Castillo, Alejandra von Hartz, O. Ascanio, Kelley Roy, Oxenberg Fine Art, Tub, and Waltman Ortega Fine Art — will open new shows during this week's first official Preview Thursday. Most of the receptions will begin at 7 p.m.

"We want to come back to the roots, to where people can come to galleries, engage the art in peace, and talk to the artists," Perelman explains. "In the future, we'll have lectures and other events."

Dot Fiftyone will exhibit a mixed-media show by Jose Luis Landet, who has built imaginary landscapes by collaging pieces of found flea market paintings from Mexico, Argentina, and Miami. Landet attended last month's Second Saturday and has noticed similar party scenes overtaking art in other cities where he has shown work, including São Paulo and Berlin.

"It's nice for an artist," he says, "because it's more democratic and you are not leaving the art only for the elites. But there is a certain disappointment when people come in with a drink and they are only concerned with photographing the art rather than observing and interacting with the art."

Another of those who will likely take part is Mindy Solomon, whose gallery is so new it hasn't been open for a Second Saturday yet. "I've heard about mixed feelings from other galleries, that it's a crowd that cares more about the entertainment than the art," she says. "But I definitely want to contribute. I'm making a very significant life change by coming down here, and I'm very committed to both the business and the neighborhood."

Solomon is moving her operation from St. Petersburg because she saw "a real energy — artistically and creatively — in the area. And I knew quite a few of the dealers in Wynwood from exhibiting with them over the past few years in art fairs. I really wanted to have colleagues I could be actively working with."

Last week, her name was still being stenciled in hot pink on the front of her building, and Solomon herself was in South Korea. Inside, the white glossy flooring reflected the empty walls. By Thursday, the space will have been subsumed by a new show by Generic Art Solutions, the mutable guise of artists Matt Vis and Tony Campbell. Their weird and funny staged photographs are probably not as well known as their long-running performance piece, Art Cops, which at last year's Art Basel Miami Beach featured the uniformed pair issuing tickets to artists and dealers whom they believed violated "the rules of art."

One gallery that won't be open Thursday night is Emerson Dorsch, Solomon's neighbor across NW 24th Street. "We'll be open until 5, and we may not even be open late on Second Saturday," says Tara Strickstein, the gallery's director. The lack of involvement from Emerson Dorsch isn't a matter of protest; much of the gallery staff will be away at an art fair. "It's a timing issue," she explains, adding that she generally supports the idea.

The participating galleries are being wrangled by Mali Parkerson, director of m+v ART (which, full disclosure, shares surprisingly well-maintained restrooms with New Times). "No one wants mayonnaise from the food trucks on their sculptures," she says in the fingerprint-free calm of her gallery. "But we've also spent hours in here on Saturdays talking with non-buyers because they're interested in the art, and we are too."

The crowds and recent development of Wynwood, Parkerson adds, "mean it's all working. Art started it all, but it has sort of evolved into something else. The galleries are interested in bringing it back to its core essence."

Shienbaum, with his Wynwood-messy hair and just-tidy-enough-to-hold-a-job beard, adds, "Maybe three years ago, Second Saturday used to be really nice. I had a gallery in Fort Lauderdale, and I'd come with my wife. It wasn't thousands of people. You could check out the art, see some interesting-looking people, and then go to Joey's or Wynwood Kitchen."

Recently, Shienbaum says, cities such as Denver have tried to copy the neighborhood's success. Over the summer, he explains, "I made a wrong turn and wound up in the middle of a Friday-night art walk. It lasted until like 11 instead of 12:30 because it was Denver and this is Miami. But I saw a Shepard Fairey mural."

In Wynwood, Shienbaum conducts business differently from the other galleries. He swaps out his shows every three weeks and configures them especially for the crowds. This Thursday — and then Saturday — he will show work by Miami duo 2ALAS. Their canvases feature what look like enlarged currency engravings of American industrialists, paired with splashily colorized images of their societal contributions.

"Vanderbilt was the biggest son of a bitch who ever lived back in the day," Shienbaum laughs. "He did whatever he had to do to get the money."

As he finishes hanging this latest show, Shienbaum discusses how a more low-key Thursday gallery night is a move toward preserving Wynwood's cultural power, even as the neighborhood evolves. "[Wynwood pioneer] Tony Goldman said if you feed the neighborhood, the neighborhood feeds you. My first gallery was in 1990 in downtown Miami. You had to leave at 5. The gates went down, and the homeless people came out. Now I go with my wife to those same streets and have a great dinner. Who doesn't want to see it work? Piece by piece, we're bridging all of these neighborhoods together, and Miami is becoming a real city."

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B. Caplan