The Bass
Photo by Zachary Balber
Last year, the Bass took a radical departure from the musty offerings of baroque paintings and uneven programming that led to the institution's decline. In spring 2009, museum visitors were greeted at the entrance by a local artist who had buried himself in the ground with only his head exposed like an Indian fakir. The neck-craning moment occurred during the opening of "The Best of Bert Rodriguez — Greatest Hits Vol. 1." The occasion loudly telegraphed that new director Silvia Karman Cubiñá was aggressively riding herd on a cutting-edge transformation of the museum. This past December, during Art Basel, Karman Cubiñá further cemented her reputation among the art world cognoscenti by landing "Where Do We Go From Here? Selections from La Colección Jumex," marking the stateside debut of the largest privately held collection in Latin America. Owned by Mexican juice mogul Eugenio Lopez Mendoza, the potent display featured 75 head-turning works in diverse media culled from a legendary collection that numbers some 2,000 pieces. Selections included a giant chicharrón, a decrepit wheelbarrow groaning under a mountain of gaudy Christmas ornaments, and a stainless steel door to nowhere and boasted some of the contemporary art world's top names. It was one of Art Basel's biggest draws, made funkier by a concurrent exhibit showcasing Carlos Rolon, AKA Dzine, whose wacky retrophilia included a tricked out low rider tricycle that looked like it was hijacked from Liberace's garage. With Karman Cubiñá firmly at the helm, the Bass shows steady signs all hands are on deck and sailing full steam ahead.
Wynwood Walls
Courtesy of Wynwood Walls
The concept is simple: Keep the spirit of Wynwood's emerging street art scene, only curate it more tightly. Commission 15 muralists from around the world to cover the outdoor space. Add grass, tables, and a basketball hoop. Open it to the public free of charge. That's what collaborators Tony Goldman and Deitch Projects did on a still-gritty stretch of NW Second Avenue, next door to Joey's Italian restaurant. At the bright, enclosed space, each painter gets his or her own towering wall, which serves as a sort of urban canvas. It's a great place to sit, have a cup of coffee, and talk. One wall displays the face of a Burmese woman; another boasts a cartoon duck; a third shows spacey, graffiti-like patterns. The project began during Art Basel 2009. Now, 15 more walls are on the way, and it still feels like a secret.
Haitian Heritage Museum
So, what is the Haitian-American community to do when trying to connect with its roots while away from the motherland? Build a 60,000-square-foot museum in a neighborhood with the largest Haitian population outside the island. Located on the outskirts of Little Haiti, the Haitian Heritage Museum is a nonprofit organization committed to highlighting and preserving Haiti's rich culture and heritage. View the brightly colored paintings depicting scenes of agricultural workers on ox carts, and lush landscapes filled with colonial-era families frolicking under powder-blue skies, or take in the hand-carved folk art scattered across the cherry wood floors. Listen to local Haitian musicians perform on bongos and guitars, and learn about Haitian literature and Oswald Durand, dubbed the Haitian Shakespeare. Kiddies can soak up the rich culture through Ayiti Exposé, the museum's signature program that provides outreach cultural workshops to Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Visit the only museum in the world outside of Haiti keeping the spirit of this courageous people alive. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
Clevelander South Beach Hotel and Bar
Photo courtesy of Clevelander South Beach
Value — like good looks, wealth, and the quality of Will Ferrell movies — is all relative. A good hotel value along the Champs-Élysées, for instance, won't much resemble a value motel along North Biscayne Boulevard. So, what exactly is the meaning of value on Ocean Drive, the beating heart of South Beach's triple-priced, sidewalk-model-hawking tourist-trap racket? In our book, it's a halfway decent-priced beer or rum-and-Coke poolside, cooled by a soft ocean breeze and surrounded by hundreds of tight-bodied partiers dancing the night away. That's exactly what you'll get during happy hour at the newly refurbished Clevelander Hotel, a posh, over-the-top, über-South Beach party zone in the heart of Ocean Drive. From 4 to 7 p.m. every Monday through Friday, every one of six draft beers, 11 bottled beers, all well liquor, and all house wines are half-price. Did we mention there are nine bars inside, all wrapped around a huge pool right on Ocean Drive? Sounds like value to us.
Brevards Art Gallery
At his freshly squeezed Wynwood space, John Brevard has quickly become the envy of neighborhood artists. His eponymous 4,500-square-foot showroom opened in March 2010 with champagne-soaked splendor that included a red carpet and velvet ropes, $10 valet parking, a jazz saxophone soloist, and a fashion show. Revelers at the inaugural were treated to gift bags and photographed for a spread in a design magazine as they arrived at the swank affair. Brevard has filled his gallery with surreal black-and-white drawings, inspired by a visit to a shaman and his immersion into an altered state following an ayahuasca trip in 2001, and with gleaming, spit-polished sculptures combining steel and petrified wood from his Merging Economy and Ecology series. An eighth-generation Floridian whose ancestors founded Brevard County, the 27-year-old artist had never exhibited with a gallery before. Brevard showcases only his own work in this space.
Say you're a new mayor and you want to make a splash. Say your city is known for malfeasance. And say you just whacked the pain-in-the-butt police chief because he wouldn't do your bidding. What do you do? You arrest a bunch of chumps on corruption charges to show the size of your mighty cojones. Problem is, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado overstretched this past April when he pushed his new top cop, Miguel Exposito, to arrest three cops, one city worker, and four people who work for nonprofits that received taxpayer money. Prosecutors quickly denounced the arrests, which were mostly for penny-ante crimes. Then, a month later, they dropped charges against four of the alleged miscreants. We never thought the day would come when we would miss former Chief John Timoney, but this fiasco convinced us.
OHWOW
Courtesy of O.H.W.O.W.
At this unpredictable, prison stripe-painted bunker west of Wynwood, renegade graffiti rat turned fine artist NeckFace parachuted into town for "Devil's Disciple," one of the most hyped events of the cultural calendar year. The secretive West Coast gremlin didn't disappoint with his wicked little drawings of blood-puking babies and raunchy cast of curb zombies and gore-basted amputees. His nefarious doodles where displayed on Mack truck-size crime scene photos of murder victims plucked from Mexican pulp magazines. The creep factor of the artist's first solo show in the Big Mango was amped up by a garish haunted house where members of NeckFace's family — gathered here from California — donned ghoulish garb to spook spectators. A screeching wooden ramp featuring a motley collection of skateboarders further entertained the crowd, and a DJ added to the frightful sounds. The monster exhibit morphed into a steaming pile of the abject, drawing more than 5,000 people to a sordid spectacle of decay. Tragically, all great undertakings come to an end. NeckFace's only-in-Miami moment went flaccid when cops crashed the party before midnight and prematurely ejaculated chemical-addled revelers from the space.
Say you're in the midst of the worst economic meltdown in decades and face a $360 million shortfall next year. As an elected leader of Miami Dade County, you send a clear message to voters by:A. vowing to take public transportation to work.B. joining a car pool.C. getting a BMW 500i Gran Turismo.The final answer is exactly what Mayor Carlos Alvarez did when he picked out a new set of wheels using $500 a month in taxpayer money. With a car like that, he'll have to fork out some of his own cash to make ends meet. But that got his minions thinking. On March 4, Miami-Dade commissioners agreed by an eight to four vote to ask voters to increase their pay by around 50 percent, from about $60,000 to $92,500. A little later, reality kicked in and they pulled the measure. Chutzpah? These guys are meshuga!
Salvation Army Thrift Store
If you're like us, living paycheck to paycheck, yet suffer from a sweet tooth for the finer things, such as an original oil painting or fine art print to brighten up that dreary futon in your Section 8 walkup, this Wynwood art emporium will warm the cockles of your heart. On any given day, the gritty shop, located in the heart of the city's fine art nabe, boasts an eclectic stock of canvases and limited-edition prints in the $24.99 to $79.99 range created by names ranging from Ferrante to Thomas McKnight. Most of the blue-ticket-priced items come already framed. And you won't encounter a traditional art dealer's high-pressure sales pitch or have to rub elbows with snooty collectors eager to jawbone you to tears. Also, the Salvation Army's collection is rotated daily, you can haggle over the prices, and Wednesdays you can snag a landscape or still life at half-price, typically the cost of a case of beer, and hang it on your wall without feeling plucked clean by an art dealer.
Wonky TV dramas have nothing on the real-life soap opera that is Miami politics. Take Michelle Spence-Jones's acceptance speech upon being re-elected to her city commission seat in November 2009, moments before being led away in handcuffs on grand theft charges. The thing was a work of art that would have made The Wire's indignant-when-indicted Sen. Clay Davis blush with pride. Spence-Jones spoke in third person, quoted the Bible and Don King, and vowed to return like a vanquished villain at the end of a Batman sequel. Of all the choice quotes, though, our favorite was the one where she called herself "nappy-headed," obliquely referencing racist shock jock Don Imus and thus equating prosecutors with the cowboy-hat-wearing schmuck. If race-baiting were an Olympic sport, even the mean German judge would be waving a perfect 10 for this one.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®