Miami: Street Art

Theft of an original artwork created by the UK’s anti-establishment political comment artist Banksy, ahead of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, has aroused international interest. The piece depicts a small boy manufacturing a British Union Jack bunting, and is thought to be a commentary on the use of sweat-shop labour.  Its creation on an outside wall of a branch of the UK’s Poundland store chain seems deliberate to make the point (albeit without accusation).

In a continuation of the story, no sooner had the Banksy piece been taken in the well planned theft, the quickly repaired wall on Whymark Avenue had a new piece quickly daubed by another anonymous artist to take its place.

As to the fate of the missing Banksy, it subsequently turned up in Miami, reportedly being offered at one of the city’s auction houses with a guide price of several hundred thousand dollars. For reasons that remain uncertain, the sale was pulled (concerns about ownership, the theft and who had rights to the original no doubt).

Its apparent arrival in Miami, though, was in some ways intriguing. Not because Miami would not be a worthy home for the piece, but because the region already has a thriving street art scene. Such is its abundance that, rather than a small two-metre-square work drawing such attention, the scale and quality of street art here is immense. Welcome, yes, but required? Probably not. Destined to take up local residence, but most likely a simple transit stop before moving on again.

Miami street art happens in the former fashion warehouse district of Wynwood – a vast area that for many years was in decline. The area is being rapidly transformed into new apartments, shops and offices as the new ‘Midtown’ area grows and converges with the former commercial zone. Its location, bordering the newly defined Miami Design District suggests how creativity has found a new location in the city.

Walls, in fact whole buildings, are richly decorated with both planned and spontaneous artworks. Vast in scale, brightly coloured and highly impactful, many make striking and arresting visual statements. Touring a few city blocks reveals a rich seam of imagination and inspiration in a huge variety of creative styles, making comment and creating talking points on the street.

Unlike the mindless graffiti which blights many European cities with anti-social spray painted tags and their threatening and negative undertones, here the work is uplifting, thought provoking and makes a positive addition to improve an otherwise bland and characterless area of the city.

Right now, the work is inspired by the street, and the loves and lives of the locals who make up the area. I have not find any ‘branded commissions’ as yet, but you can be sure this is only a matter of time. As outlets from international names such as Prada and Dior Homme have started to take up residence locally, they no doubt want to make an easy peace with the neighbours. In moving in, they will inevitably move others out and so change the profile and value of the area over time. Brands also like to associate with cool and edgy, so an address here will no doubt impress.

I suggest visiting soon, before all the old buildings are torn down for new malls and offices. As for the missing Banksy, who knows where it will end up? Given its immense weight, being crafted on a section of cut cement wall, wherever it turns up you can be sure its book value will be similarly matched by excess baggage charges.

Click here to see more pictures of Miami’s street art.