Best Public Art 2017 | Miami Mountain | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Courtesy of Art Basel

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.

Photo by Jill C. Weisberg

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.

Photo by Stian Roenning

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.

Photo by Monica McGivern

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.

Hyam Plutzik, a Pulitzer finalist, poet, and University of Rochester English professor, passed away in 1962, but his love of poetry is still bringing working writers to Ocean Drive for a room of their own. That's because his son Jonathan Plutzik owns the Betsy Hotel South Beach and offers plenty of space at this establishment for the arts. The elegant, Georgian-style hotel does a little of everything cultural to enrich the community. Plutzik's generosity presents curated soundscapes, live jazz, fine arts on exhibition, and a variety of salons with experts. The hotel also works closely with the poetry festival O, Miami to stage readings and other events. And the hotel's Writer's Room gives visiting wordsmiths studio space and a desk donated by the Hyam Plutzik Centennial Committee. Jonathan Plutzik's philanthropy has enriched the careers of 400 writers since 2012.

Courtesy of Archival Feedback

Two old friends with a passion for the kitschiness of the Sunshine State have found a way to showcase South Florida's landscape through sound art. Archival Feedback uses a peculiar variation on call-and-response to present the duo's vision: Their field recordings are the "call," while the visual artwork that goes with it is the "response." Conceived and executed by the prolific artist T. Wheeler Castillo of Turn Based Press and drummer Emile Milgrim of Sweat Records, Archival Feedback, their first project, released vinyl editions of audio recordings they collected over two years on Castillo's label, Other Electricities. Those recordings have been widely lauded and partially funded by a Knight grant. The two completed an Artist in Residence in the Everglades (AIRIE); collaborated on an O, Miami project; and are showing their sound art at the Deering Estate at Cutler.

Photo by John Caignet

For those of you in the dark about the rap crew Insane Clown Posse's intense and devoted followers, called juggalos, understand there is a lot you might never understand about this distinctly American and totally weird culture. These folks drink the Detroit soda pop called Faygo, yell "whoop" as an identifying greeting, and get together annually in the middle of nowhere for "the Gathering," a huge, mysterious concert and camp-out. South Florida is fortunate enough to have its own little podcast, Whoop Whoop Juggalo Hour, that offers a peek into this strange and audacious world. DJs Fartghost and Nutsack are actually drummer Anthony Hernandez and comedian Derek Heid, who are not actual juggalos but who feature "anything and everything related to the dark carnival" on their podcasts. Though the whole show is pretty tongue-in-cheek, the two do paint their faces and get dressed up like juggalos to present, in their words, "mad, wicked clown love" the second Wednesday every month on Jolt Radio.

Courtesy of Moon River Cabaret

What separates burlesque performances from straight-up stripping? One word: class. And Moon River Cabaret has class in all the right places. At the troupe's monthly residency at Vagabond Kitchen & Bar, performers and cofounders Rio Chavarro and his wife Sofia Luna get sexy with style, even incorporating a Mad Men theme for a touch of Don Draper suaveness. Moon River shows go beyond the feather fans and tassel twirling you imagine when you think of burlesque; this is a cabaret, after all, so performances also include comedy and singing. But Moon River can get naughty too. Consider its "Den of Vice" show, part of this year's Art Undressed festival, billed as "a dark and dangerously arousing collection of sensual burlesque performances" and featuring Franki Markstone, the "bodacious bisexual"; Miss Marina Elaine, "the sweetheart with a switchblade"; and other titillating talents. Chavarro and Luna are cozy with much of South Florida's burlesque community, so devotees of the troupe get to witness the skills of a wide range of local performers. You'll cheer; you'll gape; you'll get turned on. Just don't call them strippers.

Courtesy of Swire Properties

With each passing year, Brickell's buildings grow taller. And as more skyscrapers fill the horizon, there are fewer and fewer places to step back and see the city without a crane full of hairy construction workers obstructing your view. Luckily, Sugar, a new bar perched on the 40th-floor rooftop of the sparkling East hotel, offers a first-class view of downtown Miami. With a lush and earthy decor, Sugar truly feels like a big-city bar, one that, until recently, people might have associated with Manhattan more than Miami. But Brickell's explosive growth has earned this addition. Sugar's menu offers a selection of Asian-inspired meals, such as boneless Korean chicken wings ($16) and crispy tandoori squid ($14). And of course there are cocktails. The vodka-based lychee blossom ($12) is a staple, and the bar has no shortage of beer, wine, and champagne. But when it comes to Sugar, the appeal is clear: You come for the view, and you stay for the view.

Readers' choice: Ricky's South Beach

Photo by Tony Centeno

If your overcrowded community pool isn't far enough from the stresses of home, head to South Beach. Aqua Club Bar & Lounge inside the National Hotel offers the feel-good, tropical vibes you would expect on a Caribbean vacation. After walking through the hotel lobby, you come across a beautiful infinity pool and a path to a second pool. You also see an outdoor bar and lounge that isn't consumed by tourists. Take your level of laziness up a notch by claiming a hammock that hangs between palm trees just steps from the bar. Try signature cocktails ($15 to $16) such as the Blue Haze, made with vodka and blueberries, and El National, which contains white rum, apricot brandy, pineapple, and lime juice. If you're not feeling adventuresome, order the original Miami Vice or one of many flavors of mojito ($16). There are also delectable appetizers such as chicken wings and nachos, along with fresh salads. And there's a limited selection of seafood-based entrées, including a blackened grouper sandwich, a shrimp quesadilla, and a pricey crab burger. If it's not Miami Music Week, you probably won't find a live DJ here. However, a clever mix of electronic and island music is piped through the numerous speakers, which can make Aqua Club either a relaxing island getaway or just another reason to spend the day getting drunk by the pool. Either way is fine.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®