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DRIFT exhibits largest scale "Meadow" to date, launching the Suspension Program, a series of works intended to 'elicit disbelief and provoke engagement with the ordinary environment, rendered extraordinary'’.
Photo: Courtesy of Superblue

These Are the New Museums and Galleries Heating up Miami’s Cultural Scene

A new arts district and a fresh crop of culinary attractions are adding to the city’s allure

For nearly two decades, collectors have descended on Miami Beach for Art Basel, which makes its post-COVID return this December. Open to visitors year-round, the Margulies, De la Cruz, and Rubell family collections have also offered a glimpse into world-class, private contemporary art holdings unique to the region. But the sweeping transition of one of Miami’s most diverse neighborhoods, Allapattah, the former Fruit Packing District, into an arts corridor solidifies the city’s next era, with unprecedented visual and culinary stops that will make any serious traveler’s bucket list.

Rubell Museum designed by Anabelle Selldorf. Photo: NICHOLAS VENEZIA

Housed in a former food processing complex, the Rubell Museum’s Annabelle Selldorf–designed Allapattah home unfolds over 100,000 square feet and 36 galleries. Exhibitions draw from Mera and Don Rubell’s cache of over 7,000 works by key artists, including two mirrored “Infinity” rooms and Narcissus Garden by Yayoi Kusama on long-term display. “We kept fantasizing about a cultural campus in Miami, and that’s happening now in Allapattah,” says Mera Rubell, adding that not a single family has been dislocated in the process.

Cassi Namoda, To Live Long Is To See Much (Ritual Bathers III), 2020 Photo: COURTESY OF EL ESPACIO 23

Essential to the Rubells’ vision for Allapattah is the museum’s restaurant, Leku, a lush, curated courtyard of native botanicals from the Everglades. “It’s always a miracle to find an art talent for our artist in residence, and it’s always a miracle to find a culinary art talent,” explains Rubell of Leku chef wunderkind Mikel Goikolea, who showcases resplendent dishes from Spain’s Basque country.

DRIFT exhibits largest scale "Meadow" to date, launching the Suspension Program, a series of works intended to 'elicit disbelief and provoke engagement with the ordinary environment, rendered extraordinary'’. Photo: Courtesy of Superblue

Across the street is Superblue Miami, the first venue of a global enterprise that’s all about immersion (with additional locations slated for 2022). The brainchild of Pace Gallery megadealer Marc Glimcher and Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst, Superblue’s CEO and cofounder, the renovated warehouse, transformed into a massive sensory journey, will host rotating high-tech installations that play on perception.

To inaugurate the space, James Turrell’s Ganzfeld room creates the illusion of a whiteout, with its loss of depth perception; Es Devlin delivers a maze of mirrors infused with scent; and artist collective teamLab engulfs visitors in an interconnected suite of interactive installations that include massless cloud bubbles; while the Dutch duo Drift has devised a canopy of mechanical flora. “The art world is designed around the presentation and exchange of objects,” Dent-Brocklehurst says. “Superblue is an entirely new model that is completely dedicated to the presentation of experiential art and supporting artists practicing in these mediums.”

The exterior of El Espacio 23, Jorge M. Perez's space. Photo: Courtesy of El Espacio 23

Nearby, El Espacio 23, the 28,000-square-foot arts center of real estate developer and philanthropist Jorge M. Pérez, rounds out the Allapattah scene. On tap this winter, “Witness: Afro Perspectives from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection” features over a hundred works by influential African and African diaspora artists.

And the neighborhood shows no sign of slowing. Swedish museum and cult favorite Fotografiska, known for ultra-contemporary film-based exhibits, comes to Allapattah early 2023. Joining new outposts in Shanghai and Berlin, Fotografiska’s Miami enlists David Rockwell to transform the blank canvas of a 1946 warehouse adjacent to the Rubell Museum into an indoor-outdoor tapestry of mosaics, dining, planted trellises and reflecting pools.

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Venturing beyond Allapattah, visitors have several exciting new dining destinations to try. Husband and wife Ahmet Erkaya and Anastasia Koutsioukis, who brought Greek Island patina to the Design District with Mandolin Aegean Bistro, have a new venture at the Spanish Revival Esmé hotel in South Beach’s 1920s-era Española Way. “The palette feels very coastal,” says Koutsioukis of the Drexel’s breezy Mediterranean flair. “I used a muted green as the prominent tone for the marble bar top and banquet, which goes well with the bleached millwork and plastered antique walls.” Simplicity was key, she explains, for the Drexel’s food and decor to achieve the taste and feel of endless summer.

Rachel Hovanian's studio. Photo: TROY CAMPBELL

Meanwhile, in nearby Wynwood, restaurant becomes performance sculpture. Artist Rachel Lee Hovnanian debuts Pink Lemonade, an interactive storefront meets artwork. Visitors are transported from a gritty Miami street to a full-scale, old-timey Texas café of Hovnanian’s childhood. People who enter the café are served lemonade made from pink powder and lemon cream pie, handmade by the artist. They will get to enjoy their pie while two other diners—visiting the café virtually—can only look at their servings, placed in front of their screens.

Known for mining the dystopian pitfalls and the alienation of our devices, Hovnanian moved to Miami and set up her Wynwood studio in a former garment warehouse shortly before the pandemic began. “The rhythm seeps into your soul on a daily basis because the work is so good,” Hovnanian says of creating amid Wynwood’s iconic street art. “I’m inspired by anything and all things Miami—music, people, design, architecture, and food.”

Cover: DRIFT exhibits largest scale "Meadow" to date, launching the Suspension Program, a series of works intended to 'elicit disbelief and provoke engagement with the ordinary environment, rendered extraordinary'’.
Photo: Courtesy of Superblue

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