Art Basel frontlines: Thursday night in Wynwood

All I did was program in the coordinates of a wall my friend was painting in the midst of Miami’s mega Art Basel weekend and all of a sudden I’m in mural heaven. Going traffic snail-slow down the Wynwood neighborhood’s Second Avenue (at one time a Puerto Rican enclave, now a place where corner restaurants are popping up with floor-length windows that display spindly humanoid statues clad in multi-colored sweater), all I could see were flood light-illuminated muralists in the finishing stages of turning the street into the most painted lane I’ve ever seen.

The art galaxy has descended upon Miami for the week. It’s a big blender-fuck of small dresses, dyed eyebrows, free drinks (hell yes), and mmhmm, ART. You can read a little bit about the general mayhem in Erick Lyle’s twopart story for the Guardian about 2009’s festival — arts writer Matt Sussman and I will be covering the festival for y’all this year.

Wynwood is serving as ground zero for the street art world, which explains why Art Basel established the “Wynwood Walls” courtyard in 2009 in the neighborhood, though since then side streets and new galleries have added their own murals to the week’s list of must-sees. 

This year, Wynwood Walls has been decked out by names that even the most high brow art lover will recognize: Shepard Fairey, the Brazilian whimsy-worlders Os Gemeos. Retna, the early front-runner for the festival’s 2011 street art darling, has a massive wall here, plastered with his recognizable columns of symbols and big block painting. 

Danilo Gonzalez, a Dominican who moved to Miami two years ago to open his gallery at 2722 Second Avenue, says the weekend is a marked difference from the rest of the year when “it’s really quiet.” Though his gallery featured three modern Dominican artist (including his own thicket of wooden abstract shapes, “Forest”) he says a lot of the art scene here was “too fancy” for his tastes.

Wynwood’s residents get in on the action too — kind of. Though signs of neighborhood art are not forthcoming, many of the neighbors themselves have set up informal valet systems and viewing parties. They’re probably hoping that girl in the Gaga heels is going to trip in front of their lawn. I kind of am too…