Best Photographer 2023 | Anastasia Samoylova | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Photo by Anastasia Samoylova

Anastasia Samoylova is captivated by Florida: The state stars in not one but two photography books by the Russia-born, Miami-based artist. In FloodZone, which was published in 2020, Samoylova's brooding images of coastal flooding, toppled plam trees, and construction sites to explore Miami's continued development as the threat of sea-level rise and hurricanes looms. In Floridas, published in 2022, Samoylova explores Florida's idiosyncrasies as a tourist destination, a playground for the wealthy, and a swampland paradise — by juxtaposing contemporary photos of her own against archival photos and paintings by the famed photographer Walker Evans. Samoylova can capture an ordinary construction site, streetcorner, or beachscape, and evoke multiple layers and themes through the portrayal.

Photo by Elliot Jiminez

Founded in 2005 by art dealer and curator Anthony Spinello, Spinello Projects connects local, national, and international art lovers to relevant, cutting-edge artworks, from international art stars to emerging Miami-based painters and conceptualists. The Wynwood-adjacent gallery's programs are ambitious and constantly evolving: It got its start with highly conceptual work but has transitioned to paintings that are more approachable yet still visceral (take the recent exhibition In So Deep by Miami-based artist Ema Ri). Spinello's commitment to artists who were born and reared in Miami extends to helping to expand their careers with art fairs and special presentations around the world. A study-abroad system of sorts, the gallery also forges new paths locally for out-of-town and international artists. The gallery is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday from noon till 5 p.m., by appointment only. Email [email protected] to connect.

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

After Thanksgiving, multiple fairs pitch their tents on the sands of Miami Beach for Miami Art Week. But none is as exciting as Untitled Art. Founded in 2012 by Jeff Lawso, it is among the most highly respected independent art fairs with a reputatio for paying it forward by subsidizing booths for emerging artists, fledgling galleries, and nonprofit organizations. The long list of participating galleries always features local representation. At the 2022 fair, in fact, the Bonnier Gallery provided one of the most impressive works on view: All is well, All is well, All is well, a cylindrical stainless steel piece by artist Amanda Keeley that was inspired by Buddhist prayer wheels and encouraged viewers to spin it around and around.

Photo by Matthew Dillon/Flickr

Miami's contemporary art scene is world-renowned, but no local exhibition has baffled scientists and engineers quite like the Coral Castle Museum in Homestead. The limestone sculpture garden is often referred to as Florida's Stonehenge because no one's quite sure how its eccentric creator, Edward Leedskalnin, singlehandedly carved more than 1,000 tons of coral rock, including a tower, furniture, and a nine-ton gate that moves with the touch of a finger, without modern construction equipment. Cryptically, Leedskalnin, who is said to have stood just over five feet tall and tipped the scales at 100 pounds, would boast that he "knew the secrets of the pyramids," but whatever those were, he took them with him to the grave in 1951. There has been speculation about supernatural powers and reverse magnetism, providing fodder for segments of Ancient Aliens and Leonard Nimoy's series In Search of....

Photo courtesy of Tower Theater

We're not given to bestowing "Best" honors to shuttered establishments, but consider this the exception that proves the rule. Tower Theater opened its doors in 1926. In 2023 those doors were closed after the City of Miami abruptly terminated the theater's contract with Miami Dade College, which had been managing the historic property since 1992. Navigating from the silent era to the streaming age is no easy feat, and it's worth celebrating the variety of films that screened at the now-imperiled Tower during its 97-year history. From its two screens, Spanish subtitling, and topnotch programming in collaboration with the Miami Film Festival, the Tower is special. Its absence leaves a hole in the region's contemporary art-house scene. With Tower Theater dark, the Coral Gables Art Cinema, the Bill Cosford Cinema at the University of Miami, O Cinema South Beach, and Savor Cinema in Fort Lauderdale are the last screens standing.

Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas photo

The CocoWalk multiplex is in its glow-up era. A decade ago, the old CocoWalk movie theater reeked of sweat and was in desperate need of a face-lift. Cinépolis took over the property in 2015 and has since performed so much nipping and tucking that the space is nearly unrecognizable: comfy reclining leather seats, updated screening technology, a sleek new bar and lounge, and a menu of gourmet food and drink that can be delivered to your seat during screenings. As the shopping complex completes its upgrades with some of the best restaurants and cocktail bars in Coconut Grove, the addition of Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas again marks the Grove as the go-to spot for dinner and a movie.

AP Photo/Steve Helber

Miami's homegrown Rakontour crew (Billy Corben, Alfred Spellman, and David Cypkin) is at it again with another wild story that once again confirms that there's always a Florida connection. This time the documentarians behind the Cocaine Cowboys craziness teamed up with Adam McKay and Todd Schulman to create the most-watched documentary on Hulu to date. In the nearly two-hour film, Miami's own Giancarlo Granda, a former pool boy at the Fontainebleau, shares intimate details about his seven-year love affair with Becki Falwell, the wife of prominent Republican evangelist and then-president of Liberty University Jerry Fallwell Jr. If you weren't already shaking your head, you will be by the time Granda reveals that Falwell encouraged his wife's affair. The documentary incorporates interviews, archival footage, text messages, and audio and video recordings to explore the influence of evangelism on U.S. politics and the implications the Falwell affair had on the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump.

Carla Forte photo

In September, filmmaker Carla Forte released Miki Maniaco, a dark, twisted vision of exile, celebrity, and South Florida. The feature film by the Venezuelan-born director is a made-in-Miami nightmare that's hard to watch yet impossible to turn away from. Forte's dark comedy expertly combines dance, theater, and cinema to depict a suffocating, wet, manic world. By the film's end, you'll be relieved it's over but already itching to lose yourself once again in the filmmaker's eagle-eyed vision.

Photograph by Alicia Vera/HBO Max

After finding viral success on YouTube, Issa Rae made the leap to television with her hit HBO series Insecure. Over five seasons, the series explored Black womanhood and friendships and the existential dread that has come to define the millennial experience. After the series wrapped in 2021, the question quickly became: What would Rae do next? The answer arrived the following year with the premiere of Rap Sh!t on HBO Max (now Max), a series that follows two women as they attempt to scale the ladder of success in Miami's rap industry. Rae is a native of Los Angeles, and there's reason to be skeptical of any outsider's ability to portray this town accurately. But Rae and her writing team were more than up to the task. Aida Osman and KaMillion bring their characters of Shawna and Mia to life as their story unfolds over eight episodes as they hustle and scheme their way to the top. Crucially, the series was shot on location, including scenes in Liberty City, Little Haiti, and Miami Beach. We were sad to learn that the second season will see Rap Sh!t's storyline move to California — thanks to a generous tax credit, the likes of which our state is unwilling to offer. But Miami should still thank Rae for the most accurate fictional portrayal of Miami thus far. Seduce and scheme forever!

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Founded by dancer and choreographer Pioneer Winter, the Pioneer Winter Collective is a wholly inclusive dance company. Its mission: to celebrate queerness, humanity, and vulnerability. Winter welcomes everyone, and believes that every body is a dance body. The company's latest work, Birds of Paradise, marked the collective's return to performing after the COVID-19 shutdown. Since its 2021 debut, the 75-minute performance has constantly evolved, undergoing at least iterations, all of which explore the theme of rebirth.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®