What comes to your mind when you think about Miami or Miami Beach? Summer, beach, palm trees, party …? All these things are a lot of fun and can be found here in abundance. Boredom does not come up for partygoers, water lovers and sunbathers. But what does Miami has to offer for art and culture lovers? In my post today I am going to show you another side of the Magic City.
MIAMI – AN ART CITY?
Several times I have mentioned on my blog, that I’ve never been to Florida before moving to Miami and knew literally nothing about Miami. Of course I have heard of Ocean Drive and Everglades, but that was pretty much it. It was not until we had slowly established our Miami Beach everyday life, that I was able to deal with my new home city in more detail. The more I explored the city on the ocean by foot, by bike or by car, the more I learned to appreciate the character of this diverse and vibrant city. Now, there is hardly a day passing by, without me discovering something new again.
THE HEART OF ART DECO DISTRICT
The famous Ocean Drive is not only the popular party mile on Miami Beach, but also the flagship of the beautiful Art Deco architecture in the city. Art Deco is an art style, that originally comes from France and stands out through the use of decorative elements. Take a walk along Ocean Drive and check out the 20’s and 30’s astonishing showpieces. Each and every one of these historical buildings is individual and full of history.
With no less than 800 well-preserved buildings, Miami is home to the world’s largest collection of Art Deco architecture.
In the evening, when the neon lights of the hotels and restaurants illuminate the area, Ocean Drive unfolds it’s magical aura. I therefore recommend visiting the famous street during daylight and once at night, thus you are able to experience the strong contrast between day and night.
The most interesting building on Ocean Drive is probably “Villa Casa Casuarina”. Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace used to live here. Tragically he was shot on July 15th 1997 in front of the steps of his Mansion. Today the villa is a luxury hotel and restaurant. I have already dined here deliciously. But I can only afford that during “Miami Spice“ months , where Restaurants have special Menus with fix prices.
Tip: I would rather „just“ look at Ocean Drive and it’s unique Art Deco buildings. All the cafes and restaurants there, are kind of overpriced for what you get. There are much better alternatives in Miami and Miami Beach that I have listed here for you. But the shows at Mango’s Tropical Café are said to be among the best. I myself was not there yet to check it out. 😉
WYNWWOD – STREETART AT ITS FINEST
In Wynwood, art literally swells out of every corner – an absolute must see for all streetart fans and those who want to become one. In addition to countless murals and galleries you will also find individual shops, boutiques, restaurants and Zak the Baker, who I believe bakes the best bread in the city.
At the end of the 90s Wynwwod looked quite different than today. The run-down district was almost completely abandoned due to economic migration. Foresighted business people, especially real estate investor and art visionary Tony Goldman, saw their opportunity to invest. In the early 2000s, they renovated neglected warehouses, abandoned factories, and other unused buildings, transforming them into the innovative businesses that are visible today.
Wynwood is one of the largest open-air street art installations in the world.
But it was only when the “Second Saturday Art Walk” was introduced and “Art Basel” took place in the artists’ district since 2002, that the influence and relevance of the artist scene in Wynwood has become indisputable. Over time, international artists let off creative steam on the windowless facades of the area, giving the neighborhood an impressive street scenery. Every time I visit Wynwood I discover a new piece of art.
Today, Wynwood is known worldwide as the premier venue for the arts, fashion, innovation and creative industries. It is one of the largest and best-known creative communities in the United States.
Attention Donuts lovers! You can not only look at art in Wynwood, but you can also eat it. At least I call it an art craft. “The Salty Donut” makes the most photogenic and appetizing donuts in the city!
In 2009, Tony Goldman founded “Wynwood Walls.” His goal was “to show the greatest street art ever seen in one place.” The Wynwood Walls are designed to serve as a starting point from which visitors can explore the rest of the art district. That’s exactly how I explore Wynwwod every time I am there. The artworks on the walls change at regular intervals, so it remains varied and exciting.
According to Goldman, the potential of street art was extremely underestimated and not taken seriously. In recent years, the crème de la crème of the street art scene put their talent on the Wynwood Walls. Goldman’s vision grows and thrives in full glory, even after his death in 2012, and continues to thrill visitors from all over the world. It’s worth looking online for events, which take place in the Wynwood Walls. There is always a hustle and bustle and you can possibly watch how a new piece of art is created.
By the way, you do not have to pay an admission fee in order to see the fantastic artworks. This has been – and still is – an important factor, as the founder and present operators believe that art should be seen by everyone. So, dare to go to the galleries and get inspired.
Tip: In Wynwood’s innovative shops you will also find unusual souvenirs for friends and family. Bring a lot of time, because every three meters you are going to find a cool motive, which must be looked at and photographed 😉
MUSEUMS IN MIAMI
PÉREZ ART MUSEUM MIAMI (PAMM)
The Pérez Art Museum Miami can easily be visited whithin a few hours without rushing through the building. I think it’s pleasant not to be overwhelmed with too many impressions. The always interesting exhibitions alternate regularly and bring variety into the museum. There is currently an exciting exhibition by Christo and Jeanne-Claude in the PAMM. The artist couple was mainly known for their wrapping and packaging campaigns.
Every now and then you can look at artworks by particularly well-known artists such as Picasso. These rarities even get their own security people, who forbid you to take pictures … so unfortunately there is no photo here. 🙁
The in 2013 completed building, which mainly houses artworks from the 20th and 21st centuries, is also considered as an exhibit itself. The well-known architects from “Herzog & de Meuron’s” have lived up to their reputation. Even if you do not want to go inside the museum, it is worth taking pictures of the building and the hanging gardens.
Tip: Every first Thursday of the month, admission is free.
WORLD EROTIC ART MUSEUM (WEAM)
From the outside, the extremely inconspicuous museum does not even suggest, that the largest collection of erotic artworks in the USA, is hidden behind it’s walls. Right at the beginning of the exhibition you will learn something about the beginnings of sexual research, where the main focus is on the German sexologist Volkmar Sigusch. Afterwards, one can devote oneself to the curiosities and artworks, from every corner of the planet.
More than 4,000 exhibits from antiquity (300 BC) to contemporary art are located on one floor.
The still private collection of founder Naomi Wilzig († 2015) includes sculptures, paintings, drawings and photographs by renowned artists such as: Helmut Newton, Rembrandt, Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Fernando Botero. Quite Impressive I must say. However, I think there is not enough information provided, when it comes to the displayed artworks. But this museum is in fact a constantly growing collection, to be fair.
I guess I spent about three hours in the WEAM, which made me laugh and shake my head as well. From romantic depictions over traditional artifacts to explicit exhibits, everything can be seen here.
Tip: If you have a student ID (no matter from which country) or something similar, you’ll get some discount. At least it worked out for us.
PHILLIP AND PATRICIA FROST MUSEUM OF SCIENCE
Opened in May 2017, the Science Museum now houses the modern planetarium and aquarium. Both attractions are breathtaking, and would have been absent without the generous donations of Dr. Phillip and Patricia Frost. The long-time supporters of South Florida’s art and culture have donated a whopping $45 million for the construction.
The planetarium offers space for 250 visitors. Equipped with a 20-meter-diameter full-dome screen, the show is not appropriate for people with a sensitive stomach. My husband has actually gotten sick. The 8K resolution made everything look all the more realistic. I thought it was awesome and I let myself be completely lulled.
The futuristic-looking aquarium was my personal highlight! The gigantic cone-shaped basin, with a capacity of 1.9 million liters, is divided into three floors. Exotic fish, rays, sharks and jellyfish live here.
The exhibitions also change regularly and are in my opinion super interesting. Yes … I am a little nerdy. On my – until now – one and only visit, I have visited the “Feathers to the Stars” exhibition in which the development of feathered dinosaurs up until to space travel was presented. Displaying 65 million years in one exhibition room is quite a challenge, but they did it so well.
The only downer is the entrance fee of almost $30. Although you get a lot to see and experience on those 23,000 square meters, it is not cheap.
Tip: An approximate 20 minutes drive south, you can see the beautiful shell of the old planetarium, the small side trip is worth it. 3280 South Miami Avenue, Miami, 33129.
FURTHER MUSEUMS IN MAIMI
Of course there are some museums that I have to check myself out. Through my research for this post, I have also discovered museums and events of which I had never heard before. This is always a wonderful side effect when blogging. 😉 Now I do not really know where to start.
- Bakehouse Art Complex
- Bass Museum of Art
- HistoryMiami Museum
- Institute of Contemporary Art Miami
- Jewish Museum of Florida
- Lowe Art Museum
- Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami
- Rubell Family Collection
- The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse
- The Wolfsonian – FIU
This is my personal list that I would like to “work off”. In Miami-Dade and on the Keys there are many more museums worth visiting. If you come to Miami during rain season, you now have many alternatives for rainy weather.
EVENTS IN MAIMI
Miami is a very lively and adventurous city. Hardly a day goes by when nothing is going on. Either a jumping tournament takes place right on the the beach, or the open air book fair is responsible for traffic chaos in Downtown. To keep it clear, I’ll list some interesting events that take place in Miami. Maybe there is an event you can visit during you Miami trip?
- Air & Sea Show
annual aircraft and boat show during Memorial Day from May 25th – 26th 2019
- Art Basel
annual art fair from December 6th – 9th 2018
- Art Deco Weekend
annual event from January 18th – 20th 2019
- Carnaval Miami
annual Carnival in Little Havanna from March 2nd – 10th 2019
- Farmers Markets
weekly Farmers Markets in Miami and Miami Beach
- Longines Global Champions Tour
annual jumping tournament from April 5th – 7th 2018
- Miami Beach Gay Pride
annual event from April 1st – 7th 2019
- Miami Beach Polo World Cup
annual Polo tournament from April 25th – 28th 2019
- Miami Book Fair
annual book fair from November 16th – 18th 2018
- Miami International Boat Show
annual boat show from February 14th – 18th 2019
- Miami Lantern Light Festival
annual lantern parade from November 30th 2018 – January 20th 2019
- Miami Open
annual tennis tournament from March 18th – 31st 2019
- Miami Spa Month
annual wellness attraction from July 1st – August 31st
- Miami Spice
annual gastromy attraction from August 1st – September 30th
- Outshine Film Festival
annual filmfestival from April 18th – 28th 2019
- Second Saturday Art Walk
every second Saturday in Wynwood
- South Florida Seafood Festival
annual food event from October 16th – 20th
- Veteran’s Day Parade
annual parade on November 11th (Veteran’s Day)
These are just a few events taking place here. It seems like new ones pop up every year, as well. Like the “Celebrity Beach Soccer Match” two weeks ago for instance. It hosted its first annual soccer tournament. Bikini Models and other celebrities such as Ryan Phillippe got their hands and feet dirty for a good cause. The proceeds go to the non profit organization “Best Buddies”, which creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN
Sometimes it is easy to pass by artworks or cultural gems without even noticing. Some pieces are well hidden, others are noticeably unremarkable. Following I am going to show you my favorites and I explain the meaning behind them.
The “Gone but not forgotten” statue created by artist Damien Hirst is located in the garden of the Feana Hotel in Miami Beach. The three-meter-high work of art was originally auctioned for eleven million euros at the amfAR Gala in 2014.
What does the artist want to express with this artwork?
“The mammoth comes from a time and place that we cannot ever fully understand. Despite its scientific reality, it has attained an almost mythical status and I wanted to play with these ideas of legend, history and science by gilding the skeleton and placing it within a monolithic gold tank. It’s such an absolute expression of mortality, but I’ve decorated it to the point where it’s become something else, I’ve pitched everything I can against death to create something more hopeful, it is gone but not forgotten.”
– Damien Hirst –
Who would have thought, that the “Obstinate Lighthouse” at South Pointe Park, located by the Port of Miami Beach, was designed by German artist Tobias Rehberger? The 16 meter high sculpture was completed in 2011 and reflects the vitality of Miami.
What does the artist want to express with this artwork?
“The sculpture is a modern and playful interpretation of a beacon. However, rather than guiding ships, the light functions to greet all city visitors and locals with a choreographed light display that references the lively spirit of Miami Beach.”
– Tobias Rehberger –
The Collins Park is located directly in front of the Bass Museum of Art and is home to “Miami Mountain”. With its brightly colored rocks, this 12 meters high sculpture, immediately stands out amongst all the greenery. Many times I passed this colorful giant, which is part of the permanent collection of the Bass Museum. For some reason I always have to grin when I see the fluorescent, stacked rocks. That is the power of art in my opinion, it evokes a reaction. This can be a positive or negative one. The important part is to feel something.
THE MEANING BEHIND THIS ARTWORK
The artist Ugo Rondinone was inspired for his work by the hoodoos in the North American Badlands. These unique rock formations are naturally occurring stacks of rock which form as the silt and sediment at the edge of plateaus washes away over time, leaving only the densest earth behind. “Miami Mountain” symbolizes the considerable forces of time and nature and at the same time evokes the tensions between the immediate present and the inconceivable eventual. In addition, his sculpture reflects the millennia-old tradition of stone stacking, which was practiced in many cultures.
MIAMI CIRCLE (National Historic Landmark)
Attention Archeology friends. When a residential complex was demolished in 401 Brickell Avenue in 1998, construction workers discovered ancient rocks that had been laid out in a perfect circle. Researchers found out that the South Florida-based Tequesta tribe laid the foundations for a “council building“, about 1,000 to 2,000 years ago. The 11.5 meter diameter circle seems to have been aligned in four directions, similar to the British Henges. Archaeologists discovered other artifacts such as a shark skeleton, a sea turtle shell, basaltic axes and human teeth. This prehistoric formation represents the only structure hewn in cliffs in the eastern of the United States. I find such discoveries very exciting, that is where my inner „Indiana Jones“ comes out.
Fun Fact: There are skeptics who claim that the ancient foundation is not much more than the remains of the septic tank, which was in the former residential complex. Well, I like the Native American story 1,000 times better.
The 2.5 acre city park, located right next to the New World Center, captures the character and vitality of the city. In an elaborate interwoven metal construction Bougainvilleas roam along and provide visitors with desired shade. The SoundScape Park serves as an urban oasis and as a meeting place for cultural events, such as the “WALLCAST concerts”.
Live performances of the Symphony Orchestra are projected on a 650 square meter area, on the outer wall of the New World Center. In order for visitors to feel that they are sitting in the concert hall, 13 loudspeakers were installed in the park. Those speakers transmit any sound via internal microphones. Last year at Christmas, we made ourselves comfortable with a blanket in the park and listened to the Christmas concert.
Every Wednesday at 8.00 PM there is a special screening called “SoundScape Cinema Series“, where a variety of films are presented. From black and white movie classics to modern blockbusters, it’s all there.
Tip: Whoever wants to get hold of a good spot, must be there in time for the concert. The WALLCAST concerts are always extremely popular.
I have seen some Holocaust and War memorials during the years, but this particular memorial is arguably the most graphic and detailed one, I have ever seen. It stands in an extreme contrast to the colorful and happy bustle in Miami Beach. This is why the monument initially met with disapproval.
In 1984, a group of Holocaust survivors teamed up to create a memorial for the six million murdered Jews. After four years of construction, the monument was finally inaugurated on February 4th 1990. It is no coincidence that it is located in the block of 1933-1945 Meridian Avenue. But why here was it built in Miami Beach?
The “Holocaust Memorial Committee” saw in Miami Beach a suitable place to build the three-story high memorial. For in the 80s, about 62 percent of Miami residents were Jewish and 20,000 to 25,000 Holocaust survivors settled in South Florida. Thus, South Florida is still home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the United States.
Tip: If you visit the memorial – and you feel really depressed – you can visit the tiny botanical garden, which is located directly behind it. Admission is free and you can reorganize your thoughts.
FLAGLER MEMORIAL ISLAND
The tiny, man-made island is located in Biscayne Bay between Miami Beach and Miami. We can even see it from our pooldeck. The monument for Henry M. Flagler was built in the early 1920s. Flagler is known as “Father of Miami”, as he expanded his rail network to Miami in the 1890s. But only because Julia Tuttle, which in turn is considered “Mother of Miami“, urged him to do so. The rest is history.
Of course there is a memorial for the “Mother of Miami” Julia Tuttle as well. It can be found in Bayfront Park.
The Flagler memorial consists of a 30 meter high obelisk, at the base of which are four figures representing education, industry, prosperity and pioneering spirit. However, the small island – including the monument – has experienced many storms and a few hurricanes over time and is therefore quite weathered. I had to crawl through thick bushes on my last visit in order to have a look at the obelisk up close.
Unfortunately, I can not say what Memorial Island looks like after Hurricane Irma last year. But since a few days, the Flagler Memorial is again illuminated brightly. The chances are good, that the island has been cleaned up a bit.
Tip: Rent a kayak or boat and get to the cute island. There is also a mini beach where you can stay.
VIZCAYA MUSEUM AND GARDENS (National Historic Landmark)
The “Versailles of the Tropics” is probably the most magnificent villa in and around Miami and in its time a popular party location. Built between 1914 and 1922, Vizcaya is one of the oldest buildings in the area. For Americans, this is actually very old, for us Europeans, however, this is pretty normal. For example, my grandma’s house was built in 1904.
Owner James Deering, one of the wealthiest men in Miami at that time, had his 3,000-square-meter winter estate built in French Renaissance style. Including a huge castle garden of course. The villa also has an impressive and varied art collection.
For $22 dollars you get a lot to see in my opinion. The property including garden is quite large and well maintained. You can easily spend half the day here and take thousands of pictures. On the other hand, it is nothing very special for Europeans. We know our historic castles and forts, therefore it is not that easy to impress us. The peculiarity here is that the villa has nothing to do with America at all. A little piece of French Renaissance in the middle of Miami.
Tip: Only 20 kilometers down the Old Cutler Road you can visit the “Deering Estate”, which was built by James Deering’s brother, Charles Deering.
What are you doing when your heart was broken? Eating tons of unhealthy food? Hiding at home? Building a monument out of coral stone? What…? Yes, you read that right. Homestead houses the unique Coral Castle. The Latvian Edward “Ed” Leedskalnin immigrated to the United States in 1887 after his fiancée Agnes left him one day before the wedding ceremony. He lived in various states and eventually moved to Florida City in 1918. Only then did he begin to build his Coral Castle. In 1936 he moved again and transported his already built components of his monument to Homestead.
No one can explain how Ed had transported the tons of heavy chunks 16 kilometers, let alone how he had managed to process the coral and sandstone. Ed’s answer is that he understands a thing or two about weight and leverage.
Although he has needed help here and there to complete his work, he has mostly been working on it alone for 28 years. For this reason, the Coral Castle is also called the “Taj Mahal of Homestead”.
Tip: Take part in the guided tour. Here you are made aware of many interesting details and you learn even more about Ed and his fascinating work.
During the Prohibition era, a smart Key West fisherman named Eddie Walker came up with a brilliant idea. He built a stilted house one mile offshore directly into Biscayne Bay. Gambling was legal one mile offshore. In addition, his special dish “Chilau” gained great popularity and earned him the nickname “Crawfish” Eddie. The ingredients for his famous “crab soup” were “scratched from the bottom of the bay”, as a customer said at the time.
Quickly more houses of this kind were built and the business flourished on the water. In the 50s and 60s prosperous entrepreneurs and celebrities celebrated in the clubs of these inconspicuous wooden huts.
But all the fun eventually came to an end. For legal reasons, the Bikini Club was shut down and Hurricane Betsy caused considerable damage in 1965. So today only seven of the 27 huts are still left, but you can not enter the former party establishments today.
Tip: Take a binoculars with you, or a telephoto lens. The huts are pretty far away. Or rent a kayak or boat and get there directly.
FAIRCHILD TROPICAL BOTANIC GARDEN
This 83-acre botanical garden is truely an oasis for nature and plant friends. Named after scientist Dr. David Fairchild, the garden is one of the world’s leading gardens for nature conservation and education. Dr. Fairchild traveled the world in search of useful plants. These include mangos, alfalfa, nectarines, dates, cotton, soybeans, bamboos and the flowering cherry trees that grace Washington D.C.
In 1938, the green oasis opened its doors and attracts visitors from all over the world ever since. Personally, I was also extremely excited. The area is huge and you can easily spend the whole day in the garden. There is a butterfly house and many shady corners where you can relax. You can even walk across the meadows. As a German I am often hesitant to walk over grass, but here visitors are welcome to cross each and every square meter in order to explore the botanical garden.
With $25 admission, the Fairchild Garden is not necessarily a bargain, but it’s still worth a visit. You do not get to see that kind of biodiversity every day. The guided tours are included and definitely recommended. A small train also drives through the area and brings visitors from point A to point B without sweating, or if you can’t walk longer distances.
Tip: The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden hosts wonderful events on a regular basis. Like the Night Garden Event, or the annual Chocolate Festival at the end of January, which I’ll miss again, as I did last year.
I hope I could show you another side of Miami. The historic city still manages to surprise me even though I live here since 2.5 years. Now I am curious how the Magic City will evolve in the near future.