Miami’s Buoyant Art and Design Scene Proves Culture Can Thrive Amid the Pandemic

Craig Robins, president and CEO of Dacra, the real estate firm behind the Miami Design District, has seen a 30% in District traffic throughout the pandemic, thanks in part to the neighborhood’s art installations. Here, lunch or a shopping excursion involves interactions with works by Zaha Hadid, John Baldessari, and Marc Newson, Virgil Abloh’s mixed-media sculpture Dollar A Gallon III, and fantastically textured alleyways by Daniel Toole. In 2020, on top of debuting interactive playground devices by Chilean studio Great Things to People (gt2P), Robins commissioned three new public artworks: a Black Lives Matter–inspired double billboard on the Moore Building by For Freedoms and artist Adler Guerrier; the digitized Orchids at Sunrise windows by Cristina Lei Rodriguez for the Sweetbird South building; and a series of photographs by Rafael Diaz that speaks to anonymity in the time of COVID.

Virgil Abloh’s Dollar A Gallon III sculpture. Shot by Luis Gomez, courtesy of APP.

Luis Gomez

“I did not set out to create a COVID-safe environment. But the original mission of MDD, to create an open-air museum woven into a world-class shopping and dining neighborhood, has allowed us to thrive. The art is inspiring and a magnet for social media, and people feel comfortable outside,” Robins adds.

The Bass Museum, in partnership with the City of Miami Beach Art in Public Places, invited nine local artists to explore the meaning of identity and domestic life through photography, digital renderings, drawing, and collage. The outdoor show, Work From Home (which runs through April 18), follows the boardwalk pathway of the museum to Lincoln Road.

Illuminate Coral Gables (running through March 14) is all about the transformative power of light. Kiki Smith created Blue Night, a series of plexiglass and mirrored animal constellations that shimmer blue beneath a canopy of palm fronds. Cai Guo-Qiang loaned a scaled-down version of his blockbuster Fireflies, mobile, interactive sculptures featuring illuminated Chinese silk lanterns affixed to pedicabs that roam the area. Artists Carlos Estevez and Jonathan Perez offer up artful light projections, and duo Antonia Wright and Ruben Millares recast the utilitarian barricade as a glittering objet to spotlight racial injustice. Curator Lance Fung describes the show’s celebratory verve like this: “This is a museum-level show designed to elevate people’s spirits,” he says. “Technology (pedestrians and cars trigger David Gumbs’s building-sized projections to explode into a shower of flora, fauna, roses, and diamonds) and interactive elements (artworks become luminescent when the sun sets) offer an element of surprise.”

Angelia S. Rico

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