In 2021 Miami’s mayor Dan Gelber announced plans to transform South Beach – AKA Miami’s party district – into an Art Deco cultural district, swapping cocktails for culture by cracking down on bad behaviour and restricting alcohol sales. His plan hasn’t been plain sailing; in 2022 Miami’s courts overturned a recently introduced ban on alcohol sales after 2am, allowing the city’s beachfront bars to continue to quench the thirst of Miami’s party animals until 5am.
However, after a week in Miami, I’m confident there’s hope on the horizon. Wynwood Walls might well be the city’s most famous spot for an urban art fix, and the average visitor to South Beach is still more likely to pass their time at a champagne-soaked pool party at the Baia Beach Club rather than the nearby Bass Museum of Art, but there’s also a sense that the owners of Miami’s hotels, bars and listed buildings have come to the collective conclusion that a dose of culture isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Art, for example, is now everywhere. Take the W South Beach hotel. Visitors who can’t quite face slogging it over to the Pérez Art Museum Miami, where Yayoi Kusama’s Insta-friendly Love is Calling exhibition will be in place until early 2024, can instead opt to pose next to the bronze Hello Kitty sculpture which was created by American artist Tom Sachs and stands outside the hotel. Inside the foyer, I spot a stack of Andy Warhol’s soup cans. The W South Beach’s art collection, which includes 21 Andy Warhol pieces, is thought to be the most expensive art collection on display at any hotel (it’s valued at £16m).
Art cropping up in unusual places seems to be a theme in South Beach. In the Walgreens pharmacy near my hotel, the windows have been filled with a 93-foot-long art installation by Philip Lique, who’s used a range of items – from cacti to Walgreens products – to explore relationships between materials and production processes. It’s part of the Windows Project, a collaboration between the Bakehouse Art Complex, a Miami-based not-for-profit incubator for artists, and the aforementioned Bass Museum of Art – a museum which is, without a doubt, at the forefront of the much-needed art attack on South Beach. The Walgreens exhibit is a reminder that in South Beach, art…