Best Public Art 2024 | Ukhamba | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Photo by Isabela Villaneuva, Courtesy of MOAD at MDC

Public art brings culture to everyone, and it brings people together. Germane Barnes' Ukhamba, an installation outside of the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, accomplishes both things. Ukhamba asks Miami not just to look but to sit and stay with each other. The architect and designer worked on the piece as part of a commission by the Museum of Art and Design's (MOAD) second-annual MOAD Pavilions series and was first unveiled ahead of last year's Miami Book Fair International. The 32-foot-wide, ten-foot-tall structure resembles a large woven basket and was inspired by Barnes' time living in Cape Town, South Africa. In a recent Miami New Times interview, Barnes said, "All the work that I do is always about inviting people and always about communal spaces."

Just as street artists have been graffiti-bombing abandoned skyscrapers in Los Angeles, Miami had its own derelict real estate turned into a canvas during Miami Art Week last year. Reportedly led by Atomik, famous for his smiling orange character, dozens of artists drew tags on the soon-to-be-demolished Vitas Healthcare building at One Bayfront Plaza. Unlike in L.A., where police have used helicopters to deter the taggers, stakeholders in Miami have celebrated the artists for turning an eyesore into a monument to the city's street art culture. WLRN's Colette Gaiter called them "major milestones" and the building's owner even offered to sell the tagged artwork to the Museum of Graffiti. Say what you will about this city, but it certainly loves its intentional or unintentional public art.

BFI photo

How would you decorate a skate park in the middle of the Everglades? Probably with a mural featuring incredibly precious, humorous depictions of local animals like Florida panthers and gators on skateboards and roller skates in tropical shades of green, right? Well, that's exactly what poet, artist, and activist Houston R. Cypress, prolific Miami artist Brian Butler, and a group of Miccosukee youths conceived of and created at Trail Skate Park. While the mural is new, the park was launched in 2020 at the Miccosukee government headquarters community center. Cypress, who is from the Otter Clan of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, spearheaded the project with support from artist-run presenting organization Bas Fisher Invitational and nonprofit Love the Everglades Movement. What resulted is a whimsical place for locals to shred and marvel at how creativity is so key to building community. Feel it for yourself. Trail Skate Park is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, sunup to sundown.

Rubell Museum photo

Lush with iridescent, Fauvist color schemes and fluidic technique, Alejandro Piñeiro Bello's paintings practically drip off the canvas. You can almost feel the humidity and pressure as you pick out the surreal, mythical motifs hidden within. The Cuban-born artist had an exceptional 2023, debuting work at NSU Art Museum, KDR Gallery, and the Rubell Museum, where two of his monumental canvases currently hang.

Developers might be dead set on bulldozing Miami's past, but local illustrator Melissa Gutierrez is here to make sure our collective living memories of it remain intact. Her charming "Westofchester" illustration series offers authentic pangs of nostalgia for anyone who grew up with classic Miami spots like El Palacio de Los Jugos, Ñooo Que Barato, and Navarro Discount Pharmacy as psychogeographical landmarks. Gutierrez recently illustrated the cover of one of our issues featuring a joint-toking rooster bro making the scene on Calle Ocho — a perfect example of her finely tuned aesthetic sense of what is uniquely Miamian.

Juan Mejía photo

Graphic designer Juan Mejía is one-third of the Jezebel collective, which aims to promote a sustainable, inclusive, hyper-local dance scene here in Miami. But we're obsessed with his eye-catching, rave-influenced style. His efforts designing posters and artwork for parties and musicians across the country continue to draw in crowds. Now based in New York, where he holds down residencies at Newtown Radio and regular gigs at the city's hottest clubs under the name Liquid J, he frequently visits Miami and continues to serve clients here. We expect his design for the "final" Miami Ass Party (Best of Miami's Best Party 2024 winner) to become a collector's item someday.

Photo by Ian Patrick O'Connor

When it comes to photography, framing is arguably everything. Miami-based photographer Ian O'Connor is a master when it comes to placing his subjects in just the right spot before he captures the moment on film. His subjects are famously inanimate objects like colored paper, bouncing balls, or tree trunks. His works are not only visibly beautiful, but their power goes beyond what you see to make you feel something. Well-respected and well-known, you'll probably run into O'Connor at any given art opening around town supporting his community. One of his photographs from his "Transcend" series is up at Miami International Airport as part of its permanent collection.

Photo by Christian Torres

Not everyone can pull off a Dope Tavio creation, but that's kind of the point. Created by designer Octavio Aguilar, the line juxtaposes the casual ease of streetwear with the complexity of the avant-garde. Filtered through an influential combination of '90s club kid and early hip-hop, Aguilar's genderless garments stun and elate. Worn by stylish divas like Erykah Badu and Janet Jackson and drag and burlesque performers Raja Gemini and Carmen Carrera, Dope Tavio is custom-made and one-of-a-kind. Aguilar earned a stamp of approval from legendary stylist and Sex and the City costume designer Patricia Field, who stocks Dope Tavio in her fashion-art hybrid ARTFashion Gallery in New York City. Featured at New York Fashion Week and in countless editorials for glossy magazines like Vogue and L'Officiel, Aguilar is a master of wearable art.

NADA photo

With the best art out of all the major fairs and the most enjoyable, laid-back atmosphere, NADA Miami was the place to be during Miami Art Week in 2023. The fair, run by the New York-based New Art Dealers Alliance, offers the best balance between high quality and reasonable prices — for those actually buying art — and its support of rising Miami galleries is also notable. This past year, KDR, homework, and PRIMARY all exhibited at the fair, while previous participants, Dále Zine, debuted their mini-truck mobile bookshop two years ago.

Photo by Lauren M. Bouza

Moving her home-hosted gallery to a dedicated space on the growing art corridor of NW 22nd Street in Allapattah has only boosted Katia David Rosenthal's largesse as the most dominant dealer in town. The move made national news, securing her gallery as a "must-see" in Miami. Her slate of artists includes some of the most fun, funky, and buzzed-about in Miami, including Joel Gaitan, Susan Kim Alvarez, and Alejandro Piñeiro Bello, all of whom earned museum showings last year with art that impressed as much as it amused.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®