“The first time I put art up here was 2004,” said Shepard Fairey on Tuesday night. The artist was in his element surrounded by peers and colorful murals at the opening night dinner for Wynwood Walls, an open-air exhibition of street art in Miami championed in recent years by Goldman Properties.
“The Goldmans pushed it to the next level. I think they’re really important forces in the art scene around here,” Fairey continued, clutching a cocktail. “I’ve watched it progress. What I’ve been saying to people is ‘This is the most impressive outdoor museum that runs for blocks and blocks, that’s constantly changing, in the world.'”
Last month, Fairey opened a show in Los Angeles, his largest ever with 213 pieces. He’s looking forward to having a relatively low-key week in Miami. “I decided to keep art week in Miami lower stress,” he said. “I’m doing a mural on the side of the Art Miami office tomorrow and the following day, but other than that I’m just going to be checking out the fairs and murals. I’m really just looking forward to enjoying what everyone else is doing instead of racing against the clock to finish what I need to be doing.”
Unlike Fairey, the artist RISK has a busier week ahead. “I have so many goals and aspirations here that just getting through it is an accomplishment,” he said. “I like doing it and I spread myself too thin, and I enjoy that I guess.”
Sitting on a couch underneath one of his pieces on display, a neon light installation, the artist described his approach to this year’s Wynwood Walls theme, “HumanKind.” “It’s a round piece and it means a circle of life, and everything [that] comes around goes around,” he said. “And license plates for me are like geographical representations of us all being the same but different. Different colors, shapes, forms, but it’s all the same because we’re all the same humanity, one humankind.”
“The piece that I’ve done here, I call it the ‘Big Trash Animal,'” said Portuguese artist Artur Bordalo during the intimate dinner, glancing toward the large cat sculpture he had created from salvaged trash. “We collected it from the streets, and the plane came from a scrapyard,” he added. It’s part of a series of work he’s been creating all over the world, a commentary on trash, pollution, and contamination and its effect on animals.
“He does big trash animals all over,” said tablemate Martha Cooper. “I went to Lisbon — he just had a show — I went for the opening because he’s so amazing. People were lined up, it took them, like, two hours to get in. The mayor of Lisbon came to the show.”
There was, in fact, another mayor in the dinner crowd. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez stopped by the night’s festivities, which later included a performance by Jermaine Dupri.