Richard Patterson for The New York Times
CALL it the anti-South Beach. As Miami whirls into action for the fifth annual Art Basel Miami Beach next month — the cocktail-fueled offshoot of the venerable art fair in Switzerland — the Wynwood district across Biscayne Bay is heading into the studio.
Recently, this once-desolate industrial area, just south of the Design District, has come alive with galleries and young artists drawn to the neighborhood’s fringe appeal and cheaper real estate. (Try finding a loft apartment in South Beach for $300,000.)
Its artistic roots date back to 1986 with the Bakehouse Art Complex (561 NW 32nd Street, 305-576-2828; www.bakehouseartcomplex.org), a nonprofit collective that offered affordable studio, exhibition and classroom space in a former 1930s bakery. By 2003, there was enough of a critical mass that the area’s galleries and artists formed the Wynwood Art District Association. Second Saturday Gallery Walks were organized, hot-pink association signs were put up and a Web site was created: www.wynwoodartdistrict.com.
“We wanted to draw more attention to the art scene,” said Marina Kessler, the association’s secretary and owner of the Marina Kessler Gallery (2628 NW Second Avenue, 305-527-7029; www.latinarte.com). The gallery, which represents contemporary Latin American artists, moved to Wynwood in 2003. “So we got together with other artists to form the association and put out a neighborhood walking map. There were only about 13 of us then.”
This year, the map has 73 sites.
Unlike many art circuits, Wynwood isn’t exactly pedestrian friendly. Between the artist spaces are vast stretches of urban jungle: vacant, overgrown lots, wholesale clothing warehouses and bungalows — some fixed up, some falling down. There are few cafes or restaurants. During the day, the streets can have a deserted feel.
But an artistic pilgrimage has its rewards. Among the highlights is the Rubell Family Collection (5 NW 29th Street, 305-573-6090; www.rubellfamilycollection.com), a museum that showcases artists like Keith Haring, Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami, with almost all work bought before the artists became world famous.
Another gem is the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse (591 NW 27th Street, 305-576-1051; www.margulieswarehouse.com), which has amassed one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of 20th- and 21st-century photography, with works by Walker Evans and Cindy Sherman.
Wynwood is known for nurturing experimental art often deemed too cutting edge for mainstream galleries. Locust Projects (105 NW 23rd Street, 305-576-8570; www.locustprojects.org), for example, fills its warehouse space with multimedia installations. Past ones include huge stereo-speaker towers, murals made of acrylic felt and a giant flamingo made of pink bubblegum.
Among the newest sites is the MOCA at Goldman Warehouse (404 NW 26th Street, 305-573-5441; www.mocanomi.org), a branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, known for mounting ambitious exhibitions. Although the year-old warehouse space holds some of the museum’s permanent collection, it also showcases pieces by emerging artists, including light sculptures by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla.
Bigger-name museums may be moving into the neighborhood, but the street cred remains firmly in the hands of unpolished places like the Bakehouse Art Complex. Many artists leave their studio doors open, so you can watch while they hammer away.
“We’re still helping artists build and launch careers,” said Doris Meltzer, the director of Bakehouse. “But it’s rewarding to see the rest of the neighborhood catching on.”