Graffiti artists cover Miami neighborhood, wall-to-wall

Sat Dec 6, 2014 11:19am EST
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By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - The acrid smell of spray paint fills the air in Miami's once-blighted Wynwood neighborhood where graffiti artists from all over the world have descended, covering walls - sometimes invited, sometimes not - with eye-popping murals from traditional graffiti lettering to themed designs.

"This is the place to be relevant, where your work can be in the public eye," said a 35-year-old, New York City-based artist called Mast.

He and others flooded the streets donning gas masks, part of an estimated 70,000 art enthusiasts who have converged on the city during its annual contemporary "Art Week," centered around an event called the Art Basel Miami Beach fair.

Wynwood, located just north of downtown Miami, is filled with hip-looking crowds posing for pictures in front of murals that adorn more than a dozen square blocks, creating a unique outdoor museum.

"This place is amazing, it's where you can come to see all of the artists you see online, in magazines," said Haroldo Paranhos, 27, visiting from Brazil. "You never have so many big walls like this all together."

The week draws globe-trotting street artists like Shepard Fairey, famed for his 2008 blue-and-red portrait of Barack Obama captioned "Hope." Better-known artists like Fairey paint for free but are sponsored with free paint, a wall and a team of assistants to undertake big projects.

One local developer commissioned nearly three dozen artists to cover Wynwood Walls, a free, outdoor complex showcasing the world’s top street art.

Independent artists like Mast pay their way, haggle for a wall and barter for supplies. Some are lucky enough to be given free weatherproof spray paint cans by companies like Germany-based Montana, which sponsors artists around the world, though their murals may not last.   Continued...

Graffitti artist Anthony Arias takes a sip of his drink while working on a mural in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood December 4, 2014.   REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity