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What’s making South Florida so hot?

As the dust settles on the city’s biggest annual cultural event, meet the creative spaces flying the Florida flag in its wake

Miami is a transient city, one through which people pass but never really stay. It is a nexus for the convergence of outside cultures, the Gateway to the Americas. It is luxurious, hedonistic and for a week in December, Art Basel Miami Beach attracts collectors and patrons the world over. However, for all its interest and financial benefit, the ephemeral nature of ABMB, with its here-today-gone-tomorrow attitude, somehow tends to overshadow what is really happening artistically in Miami.

Local artist and writer Martha Raoli sums up the situation best: “If Miami were punctuation it would be a colon: porous and prophetic.” But, if one bucks the trend and sticks around long enough, what you will find is that Miami is in fact home to a diverse, energetic and experimental art scene that continues to grow into an exciting future, one that is imbued with a host of endless possibilities. Here are our highlights of the most invigorating art spaces the city currently has to offer.


Cannonball – a small, innovative, downtown arts organisation – was originally founded as LegalArt in 2003 by Carolina Jayaram and Lara O’Neil, as a means to provide pro-bono legal and professional development programs to local emerging artists. With locally renowned artist, author and editor Gean Moreno now at the helm, Cannonball operates as a re-granting organisation. Boasting a commissions program for its residency, alongside a free public alternative school, Research.Art.Dialogue, Cannonball has become one of Miami’s premier locales for the confluence of education, art and research.


Founded in 1998 by Miami-based artists Elizabeth Withstandley, Westen Charles, and COOPER, this once-fledgling, non-profit exhibition space in Miami’s Design District, has come to epitomise the development of the local art scene. In addition to their unwavering commitment to the local community through education initiatives like the LAB project, it is their dedication to providing artists like Daniel Arsham, Nicholas Hlobo and Virginia Poundstone with the freedom to realise experimental projects that has seen it develop into an internationally respected organisation. Now in its 17th year, its penchant for innovation continues to make it one of Miami’s most distinct cultural drawing cards.


Situated on the outskirts of Little Haiti, away from the Miami Beach glitz and glam, GUCCIVUITTON is one of Miami’s most invigorating artist run galleries. As the brainchild of local artists Aramis Gutierrez, Loriel Beltran and Domingo Castillo, it was conceived as a way “to reflect the ‘colloquial aesthetics’ of such a diverse, hybrid place”. Committed to being “a space for what is already here”, notable exhibitions include the group show Florida Landscape Paintings and presentations of the work of collective ART404 and artist Chayo Frank. As for the origins of its name, check it out here.


Operating as an offshoot of the renowned Brooklyn Rail, the Miami Rail has developed into an integral platform for critical coverage of art and culture in Miami. Drawing on a combination of local and international writers that include Martha Raoli, Gean Moreno, Rob Goyanes and Hunter Braithwaite, the free publication fervently captures, critiques and disseminates the energy of an ever-developing local art scene. Published quarterly and available online, the Miami Rail presents a wide range of pertinent, thought-provoking articles, all of which make it undoubtedly well worth a read.


Established in 2011 by Kareem Tabsch and Vivian Marthell with a matching grant from the James L Knight Foundation, O Cinema has blossomed into one of Miami’s go-to destinations for first-run independent, foreign and art films. Their previously modest 50-seater Wynwood location has become iconic and they now boast venues in Miami Shores and at Miami Beach’s historic Byron Carlisle Theatre. Add to this two readers' best arthouse cinema awards (2012 and 2013) from the Miami New Times and and a partnership with Indie Film Club Miami helping to develop the local film scene, O Cinema continues to prove it is far more than just a movie house.


Since 2008, 300 artists from all over the world, including Shepard Fairey, Tameka Norris and Rowan Smith, have visited the Fountainhead Residency, founded by local art collectors Dan and Kathryn Mikesell as a way to “introduce visiting artists to Miami’s art community”. The residency provides artists with an opportunity to explore new artistic directions, while simultaneously immersing themselves in the local art scene. Located a stone’s throw from Biscayne Bay, in a 1950s modern house, the residency has found success not only in getting artists to Miami, but also in keeping them here long enough to make a worthwhile contribution to the city.


Conceived by artist Amanda Season Keeley, Exile Books is an experimental, travelling pop-up artists’ bookstore. Keeley, whose last project saw her manage Printed Matter Inc, hopes that Exile will serve as a “platform for the exchange of ideas and projects grounded in the spirit of collaboration”. Staying four to six weeks in specific locations, the mobile bookstore presents a curated selection of works thematically linked to its public programming. With the Miami Herald having already taken notice, Exile Books seems destined to continue to reimagine and influence the way people in Miami view local artist publications.


Gallery Diet is a cutting-edge contemporary art gallery located in Miami’s rapidly gentrifying Wynwood district. The gallery is founded and directed by Nina Johnson-Milewski, one of Miami’s most respected and active creatives. “Eschewing the traditional model for commercial spaces,” Diet complements its exhibitions of international artists with an extensive education and outreach program. Artists represented include Miami native Bhakti Baxter, Christy Gast and Emmett Moore, who exhibited at Design Miami 2014 as part of the fair’s first collaboration with a Miami-based gallery.


Bridge Red Studios call North Miami home. Located two blocks from the Museum of Contemporary Art, this artist complex counts the likes of William Cordova and Yanira Collado as its residents. Owned and run by Robert Thiele, his daughter Kristen and son-in-law Francesco Casale, the venue consists of ten working artist studios and an exhibition/project space. The recipient of a Knight Challenge grant, the studio has been instrumental in providing a platform to those artists whose work is underrepresented and critically underexposed.


This now decade-old, artist-run space was started by Miami art stars Hernan Bas and Naomi Fisher. Programming at the Bas Fisher Invitational oscillates between the edgy and the experimental, with the work of young, emerging artists often taking centre stage. Their signature Weird Miami series offers behind-the-scenes tours of the city by select local artists like Carlos Zaldivar and Ana Mendez, which reflect their unique and personal relationship to Miami. Recent notable projects include Books Fuel Ideas, a collaboration with Exile Books, the group show Shell Reflexive and Naomi Fisher and Jim Drain’s Tropical Watering Hole installation at ABMB 2013.