Call Miami the Mural City. From the charming collaborative We're in the Same Boat — created in 2001 by senior citizens of Haitian and Cuban descent, with help from Coral Park Senior High students serving as translators, and from artist Xavier Cortada — in Coconut Grove, to the realistic and powerful Martin Luther King Jr. in Liberty City, to many others, this place lacks not for walls of art. The beauty on an office building on the west side of Biscayne Boulevard at NE 37th Street is lesser known but no less compelling: Adam and Eve shows an Africanized male and female painted in the style of paleolithic fertility figures with large hips, curvey torsos, and small heads. Created by highly regarded local urban artist Daniel Fila, a 26-year-old who's better known as Krave, this work replaced his 2003 Erin, also known as "Booty" or "The Big Butt." Erin featured a rear view and struck a chord during Art Basel 2003. Some criminal painted over it, so Krave came up with the frontal view of a couple in its place. New Times reported last year that the woman whose image inspired both Erin and Adam and Eve was upset by the art, accusing Fila of appropriating her own work and of oversexualizing it. (The two went to art college together in Ohio, where, apparently, no one mentioned that paleolithic fertility figures tend to have a sexual aspect.) The upper left and lower right corners of the wall are adorned with colorful cascading psychedelic abstractions that perfectly center and spotlight the dynamic duo. As with the best of Impressionism, the work is striking both at a distance and up close, the latter view revealing the piece's stunning intricacy and precision. In fact the whole area is artsy — beneath I-195, a wall is painted with black and brown "foliage" (a 2004 rendering by Saá) and even the pillars of the underpass feature large brown and black dots. This is the way to make (fine) art in a public place.
Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami
Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art
Jazz grooves on the lawn; flashing neon lights; donkeys fashioned from recycled shredded cloth; a puppetmaster's beguiling vision of an underwater kingdom; and a historic exhibit showcasing Merce Cunningham's collaborations with contemporary visual artists, celebrating the dance legend's first visit to South Florida. These are among the many reasons people were enticed to join MoCA's rollicking year-long tenth anniversary bash. Christian Holstad's first U.S. museum solo-show at MoCA's Wynwood annex (404 NW 26th St., Miami), featuring donkey sculptures based on nativity scenes and a snazzy jukebox, was a blast. Pablo Cano's City Beneath the Sea, a whimsical theatrical production of marionettes created from found objects and discarded debris, also featured a cast of dancers and live music to tell the tale of a young girl's magical quest to save her undersea world. Cano's holiday favorite brought the curtain down with a bang. "Elusive Signs: Bruce Nauman Works With Light" showcased the neon sign and fluorescent light installations of one of America's most influential living artists and was among the season's big box office draws. "Merce Cunningham: Dancing on the Cutting Edge Part I" presented actual sets and installations created for the avant hoofer's performances by some of the art world's top talent since 1998. The second part of the exhibit is currently on view at MoCA at the Goldman Warehouse in Wynwood, and spotlights the sets and costumes designed by Miami's Daniel Arsham for Cunningham's recent show here. MoCA complemented its season with a series of popular free outdoor jazz concerts on the last Friday of every month, along with provocative outreach programming, combining educational activities geared for kids with art talks and film screenings that consistently drew crowds. A recently announced $18 million expansion will triple the museum's exhibition space, elevating MoCA's already stellar reputation in the years to come.
Plaza Venetia Condo Building
We can all appreciate a balcony that looks out over Miami's stunningly colorful skyline and the aqua-blue waters that surround our great city. But residents of the Venetia condo building located at the western end of the Venetian Causeway have us all beat. Those who reside in upper-level units with a balcony that faces north toward the swanky Biscayne Bay Marriott Hotel settle into their patio chairs once every month or so and let out a sigh of exaltation at the views afforded to them by the group of swingers who routinely rent out the hotel's top floor for a party. They disrobe, en masse, and spend the evening satiating every last one of their debauched desires. Naturally, as any good swinger would, they leave the blinds open. Now that's a view worthy of a postcard.
Kevin Bruk Gallery
Located on a strip arguably housing some of the city's most stellar art spaces, this gallery stands out for the consistent quality of its exhibitions this past year. Kevin Bruk, who may have Tommy Lasorda's eye for spotting major-league talent, has been hitting back-to-back homers during a season in which one almost needed a scorecard to keep track of his stats. Bruk led off the year with Craig Kucia's stunning solo show, featuring a suite of sprawling, oil on canvas works in which the artist created quixotic, otherworldly outdoor scenes. During Art Basel, the dealer made a run with Fabian Marcaccio's richly textured wall-swallowing works riffing on the Iraq War, including an imposing, larger-than-life, gun-toting soldier fashioned from canvas and paint that anchored the show. After the New Year, Su-en Wong cleaned up with a series of skull-swelling shots, in which she painted multiple versions of herself, often nude or in schoolgirl regalia, to pulverize Western stereotypes of Asian women as submissive sex objects. Most recently Bruk brought in the big-swinging natural, Richard Butler, former frontman for the Psychedelic Furs. The painter's lavish oil on canvas portraits were hard to shake off, and depicted his subjects with freakishly distorted bodies and faces obscured with eerie fetish gear. Oh, and if one needs a better excuse to visit Bruk's ballpark, consider that more often than not, the talent he's been fielding lately has rarely, if ever, shown its stuff in Miami before.
Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Courthouse
One of the great things about being from Miami is that we relish our quirky uniqueness. Whatever happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but whatever happens in Miami is proudly announced to the world in English and en español. Even the new federal courthouse triumphantly declares where it's located. From a distance the 578,000-square-foot building's playful geometry is obvious, and it only gets better as you draw closer. There's a subtle, nautical theme in both the architectural and landscaping elements — as if a crystal ship is plowing through the waves at Fourth Street. While some of the interior design recalls Fifties/Sixties government architecture, it is nicely updated to fit into the scheme of the building and essence of the city. An eight-story blue atrium reminiscent of a water spout is the jewel in the crown. At $163 million, the blast-and-hurricane-resistant, environmentally gentle building designed by Arquitectonica did not come cheap or without lengthy construction delays. Indeed federal Judge Wilkie D. Ferguson didn't live to see the beautiful building that bears his name. But the beloved jurist and Liberty City native would likely have been proud to lend his name to what is one of the loveliest courthouses in the United States.
During Art Basel Miami Beach, the competition among local artists to catch the eye of the cognoscenti can seem like the machinations of those early PR hucksters like Jim Moran, who took the publicity stunt to an extreme. Moran's finest hour came when he tried to send three midgets attached to kites, plastered with advertising, airborne over New York's Central Park. For sheer audacity, homeboys Sam Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III, who comprise the FriendsWithYou collective, may be Moran's heirs. The inventive duo, known for their zany line of plush and wood toys, curated the first ever Art Basel parade this past December, featuring fifteen art dirigibles that snapped necks along the stretch of sand from Seventeenth to Fifth streets on Miami Beach. Their kooky, helium-filled cosmic critters included a towering volcano, a fanged twenty-foot rabbit, and assorted unknown entities, some of which looked like funky black beans. (A number of balloons were also designed by other artist pals: Ara Peterson, Misaki Kawai, Paperrad, Mwarble Boy, David Choe, and Devil Robots among them). Nearly 200 volunteer balloon handlers helped carry the brightly colored confections during the raucous 90-minute march down the beach. The Hialeah Senior High School marching band led the procession, playing a tune composed by jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval Jr. especially for the event. Unlike colleagues who may have tried too hard to make a splash, these artists were among the rare locals more interested in putting on a show for the unsuspecting public than getting swept up in the fair hoopla. They focused on having a good time with family and friends, simply recognizing that no art savvy is required to enjoy an old-fashioned parade.
Tarpon Bend Raw Bar & Grill
Drive by Tarpon Bend on a Friday or Saturday night and the place is like a block party. Valet parkers have long thrown up their hands, and the entire sidewalk is covered with booze-happy weekenders trying to flag down a harried bartender. Well, you can only guzzle so many $8 Jack and Cokes ($10 on Fridays) before you gotta go. The ladies' room is located at the end of a long, dim hallway decorated with photos of enormous fish caught a long time ago. A massive doorframe with a bold white W glows from a charcoal gray door. Push it open to reveal a clean, well-lit place with gray-and-white marble tiles and tasteful amber wood finishings. Three amply sized stalls give the ladies some privacy, and the flush function is powerful and decisive — none of that "let's mush your toilet paper into mâché" nonsense here. The real stars of the show are the sinks, which are masterpieces of modern design. These oversize square porcelain basins feature faucets like glorified chrome beer taps, and they take some figuring out for the inebriated. Lift the middle protuberance for a satisfactory gush. Then fix your lip gloss and get the hell out of there — those mojitos aren't going to drink themselves.
Regal Kendall Village Stadium 16 & RPX
The scent of popcorn that embraces you as you enter this cinema might take you back to the old days of moviegoing, but there's nothing old-fashioned about the Regal Kendall Village Stadium 16. Opened in 2004, the theater has every amenity the modern movie watcher craves, from digital surround-sound to stadium-style reclining seats. Tickets can be purchased from the friendly cashiers or from the convenient computerized box office machines inside ($9.50 for adults, $6.50 for kids, $7.50 for a matinee). There's also a large customer service desk in case you want to buy a gift card without standing in the ticket line. The concession stand caters to the latest trends in cinema confections. You can get an iced coffee or a Cinnabon Gooey Cinnamon Roll, a giant pretzel or some El Monterey Southwest Chicken Taquitos. There are also traditional theater foods like nachos, and combos like a large popcorn, two drinks, and a kid's meal for $22.75. If you arrive a tad early for your movie, there are tables where you can sit and pass the time, or — for a little more action —you can visit the video game room, where a dollar buys you a role in The Fast and the Furious.
Metrorail is one of Miami's only mass transit systems, and despite its limitations, every day it transports thousands of people from all walks of life to their homes and jobs. Whether they're lawyers, sandwich-makers, college students, homeless vagabonds, or Brickell Avenue CEOs, they all share the burden of commuting in Miami. At 5:00 p.m., blue-collar, white-collar, and no-collar bodies leave their jobs or posts in the heart of Miami and make their way to the Government Center station. They squeeze into the train cars and try to grab a window seat before they're all taken. Most keep to themselves; a few are belligerent; some panhandle. A mother shushes her two young children. A dust-coated construction worker nods off. High school kids snicker. A twentysomething woman in business attire chats on the phone. Others wait for a seat to open up. A businessman gives up his seat for an elderly bag lady while a young skater nods his head to the blaring music coming from his headphones. Despite the miles and miles of suburbs, the Metrorail and its colorful passengers serve as a reminder that Miami is a big city. As the train reaches each stop, the crowd dwindles as people make their way off. On the Metrorail it doesn't matter where you're from or where you're going, just so long as you get there.
The Women's International Film Festival is an infant compared to the big boy FLIFF, but if this year's lineup was any indication, the new girl in town will be around for years to come. The scope and ambition of this festival is to be admired. This year's four-day extravaganza featured more than 40 films from twelve countries, and included feature-length flicks, shorts, and excellent documentaries. The unifying factor is the celebration of all things female, and there was an inspiring representation of woman directors — admirable when you consider the fact that women only make up five percent of filmmakers overall. Festival founder Yvonne McCormack-Lyons even shone a spotlight on local talent by showing 3GZ's electro-documentary Darkbeat alongside global offerings like the South African Hip Hop Sistaz.Screenings were offered at a variety of locations, from an outdoor opening screening at Coconut Grove's Peacock Park, to the Miami Beach Cinematheque, to the historic Lyric Theater. Besides that, the fest brought some stars to Miami for guest question-and-answer sessions, including the likes of Ruby Dee and Babel star Adriana Barraza, who lost the best supporting actress Academy Award to Jennifer Hudson this year. Not bad for a fledgling film festival. We can't wait to see what's on the marquee next year.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®