A new $5 million public art initiative will bring major commissions by world-class contemporary artists to downtown Miami. First up is a monumental mural by Nina Chanel Abney.
The work is a joyful mashup of graphic figures, bold color planes, and musical notes that was inspired by Overtown, a historic Black neighborhood in Miami. It spans the length of a passageway under a property within the mixed-used development called Worldcenter, a self-described “city within a city.”
“I created pictorial language to tell an imagined narrative that investigates community renewals and removals,” Abney said in a statement. “The mural location, a tunnel formed by the dark passageway under the building, inspired me to consider the legacy of preserving sacred spaces with story. I hope to spark a dialogue around gentrification and encourage a curiosity amongst viewers to engage with and learn about the previous and adjacent neighborhoods.”
To realize the program’s aesthetic vision, art dealer Jeffrey Deitch, who maintains gallery spaces in Los Angeles and New York, worked with the Miami-based curatorial collective Primary, which has spearheaded a mix of public projects and gallery exhibitions across Miami that center the city’s diverse history.
“We believe the most successful public art must be visually engaging and dialogue with the immediate environment,” Books Bischof, founding partner of Primary told ARTnews. “Historic Overtown is a stone’s throw from Nina Chanel Abney’s mural. Allowing this history to inform her art makes for the most significant public work.”
A wave of real estate construction is currently transforming Miami’s downtown, which had suffered for decades from a lack of local investment. The 27-acre, $4 billion Miami Worldcenter is the second largest of such multipurpose urban developments in the U.S., trailing only Manhattan’s slick commercial playground Hudson Yards.
As part of its commitment to the city, Worldcenter has stressed the importance of community involvement. It created an art advisory committee of cultural professionals that includes Franklin Sirmans, director of Pérez Art Museum Miami; Nicholas Baume, director, and chief curator of Public Art Fund; and Cecilia Alemani, director and chief curator of High Line Art in New York, as well as artistic director of the 2022 Venice Biennale.
In addition to Abney’s mural, Worldcenter has also commissioned designer, sculptor, and performance artist Nick Cave, Miami-based painter Viktor El-Saieh, and Texas-based artist Trenton Doyle Hancock to create new work for the site so far. Worldcenter expects to unveil two more large-scale artworks this year, with more details forthcoming.
Bischof added, “It’s magic to see [Abney’s mural] come to fruition; for the program at Miami World Center, this is only the beginning.”