Miami Street Artists Get Dirty Before the Crowds and the Cocktails Arrive

PHOTO: Street art in Miamis Wynwood district.Romina Puga
Street art in Miami's Wynwood district.

Art Basel Miami is an annual contemporary art fair extravaganza held each December since 2002. Much has been said about how "Basel" has contributed to effectively change the cultural fabric of Miami, starting with its art scene. Areas of the city such as Wynwood and the Design District are a haven for galleries big and small, and especially for street art.

So, before the posers and the gliteratti fly in from all over the world, I hit up Wynwood -- an area formerly full of warehouses and now boutiques, restaurants and galleries -- to see for myself how street artists work on their murals a week leading up to Art Basel.

Shepard Fairey called Miami's Wynwood area "ground zero for street art being validated in Miami."

The Obey Giant creator himself, Shepard Fairey, 42, was painting over a wall at Wynwood Kitchen and Bar to replace the one he had put up three years ago. Although the same color scheme, the new mural is dedicated to real estate and Wynwood visionary Tony Goldman who passed away earlier this year. The wall combines Fairey and Goldman's interests. Famous musicians, artists, and figures like Miles Davis, Salvador Dali, Martin Luther King Jr., and David Bowie are some of the stencils on the new mural.

SEE ALSO: Video of Shepard Fairey at work on the mural

"Tony and a few other ambassadors from the community, have helped to create walls for people and show that this is a legitimate art form," he said, "and for me, to have a showcase and to help inspire is something I wouldn't miss in the world."

Shepard Fairey's assistants at work on his new mural before the crowds and the cocktails arrive.

Where there's a talented artist, there's a giant corporation trying to sponsor them. Heineken hired six street artists (CP1, Chor Boogie, Prime and Estria, Don Rimx, and Trek 6) to paint five murals in Wynwood as part of Art Basel's outdoor galleries for their Open Your World campaign. (Click link for map of Wynwood's mural locations).

One of the Heineken murals by California-native Chor Boogie, who works exclusively with spray paint.

Local street artist Richard Ralph, known by his pseudonym The 305 Kid, admits there is a small rivalry between street artists and gallery artists. "I sell on the street instead of in the galleries so I usually don't get a great response from the galleries." Ralph, like Fairey, is painting over a previous mural he had across the street from Wood Tavern near Wynwood Bar and Kitchen on N.W. 2nd Ave. "The end product is supposed to be an Abbey Road scene. We're morphing the Beatles into street artists instead of just musicians."

The 305 Kid's Abbey Road mural before he adds the four Beatles.

Street art duo, La Pandilla, from Puerto Rico, are also repainting an older mural outside of Wood Tavern. Juan Fernandez and Alexis Diaz make up this extremely talented team that morphs animals and humans together into these crazy creatures you wish were real. Watching them work is incredible. Up close they're drawing black lines with thin paintbrushes over a penciled wall that has 1/100th of the detail they're adding in as they go.

La Pandilla's new mural outside Wood Tavern.

La Pandilla's Juan Fernandez.

La Pandilla's Alexis Diaz above and below.

While I was there, I also ran into Carlos Beck, a tattoo artist from Pensacola who specializes in portraits. Beck was commissioned by Lombardi Properties, Wynwood's second largest developer, to paint as much of a blank wall in Wynwood as he could in the days leading up to Basel.

"Street art isn't a big thing in Pensacola. We got a lot of people who love doing it, but there just aren't any venues to get it out. We've got this one bridge -- I hate to say this -- but it's this one area that it's done in, but a month later the city comes and paints right back over it. I used to do it, but I got tired of my work being covered, so I just stopped doing it. But if you want to see any street art, it's the only bridge you can go to in the city."

The only direction Beck was given was to incorporate the surrealist Spanish artist Salvador Dali.

Last Tuesday, Beck had completed one and a half full Dali heads, the first took nine hours and the second one had just two hours on it.

How long do these murals last? Depends on the commision, Beck says he was just told to complete the mural by Basel. "I'm not sure if he's keeping it or not. It was just an honor to come down here and be asked to do this. He can paint over it if he wants to, I just want to do it and have it complete so people can see it." So if you're going to be in Miami for Art Basel this year, be sure to take some time from the heavy shmoozing and check out Wynwood's outdoor murals, here are more artists in the area:

Miami local artist Trek 6 has roots in Puerto Rico.

Interesni Kazki is a Ukrainian art-duo made up of muralists Aec and WaOne.

DALeast was born in Beijing and began doing street art under the alias DAL in 2004.

Ron English is one of the most recognized artists in the you'll find in Wynwood. He coined the term POPaganda and his "MC Supersized" design was featured in the movie "Supersize Me".