Within galleries and museums hang traditional paintings and sculptures. Objects of permanency, these tangible works of art are visible to those with access to these establishments. Although urban art has gained credibility as fine art, it lacks the permanence that makes these masterpieces immortal.
The murals of today’s most talented artists are painted over on the streets within months of going up. In response to this situation, Miami native Robert William de Los Rios is giving a sort of permanence to the fleeting graffiti art of Wynwood, the capital of countercultural arts in Miami, Florida. About a month ago, Robert launched wynwoodmap.com, an interactive website that documents the ever-changing murals in the Wynwood Arts District. Robert told me, “You can walk into a museum and see the Mona Lisa when you want, but there’s no place to see the street art that’s here one day and gone the next.”
Robert became passionate about shooting the impressive murals in 2006 when he realized something special was happening in Miami. “I thought something was happening here that wasn’t happening anywhere else in the world and that it needed to be documented because I didn’t know of anyone else doing it,” he said. Even though he doesn’t have a background in photography or art, and ironically hated taking pictures as a kid, Robert said he felt compelled to capture the artwork that gave him “visual orgasms.”
Lister's Mural at Panther Coffee; Courtesy Wynwood Maps.
An example of the ephemeral nature of street art is the mural on the building at 24th Street and N.W. 2nd Ave, which can be seen from the courtyard of Panther Coffee, a meeting place for the artistic community in the center of Wynwood. Australian painter Anthony Lister, well-known for his Degas-inspired ballerinas, created a mural at the location, which is also across the street from the Robert Fontaine Gallery, Lister’s Miami art home. Created during Art Basel 2012, the beautiful piece depicted one of his typical black-haired dancers. Originally, the painting replaced Free Humanity’s Audrey Hepburn mural. But just a few months after, Lister’s ballerina was painted over by Chris Riggs, disappointing many of his fans. But such is the nature of street art; there’s a high turnover at high-traffic, coveted spots. Antoine Tavaglione, TAVA, is currently creating a mural of his colorful melting cartoon characters on the same spot.
Free Society Project's Audrey Hepburn Mural at Panther Coffee; Courtesy Wynwood Maps.
Now that city walls are an outlet for some of the most talented artists, permanence for their creativity must be derived from a modern method, an electronic system. In this case, the best protection and documentation of the modern art form of street art is an electronic museum or website, where the art is always visible and accessible.
Chris Riggs Mural at Panther Coffee; Courtesy Wynwood Maps.
Robert de Los Rios first started uploading the pictures he took to his instagram @roberskarn. “When the artists saw my pictures were being uploaded somewhere, I gained the graffiti artists' trust,” Robert said. Little by little, with the help of a friend, the proud native of Hialeah, a predominantly Cuban suburb of Miami, began mapping the murals on an interactive website.
On the website, visitors can look up street art by an artist’s name, through an alphabetical database. With an interactive map of the streets, site navigators can also check the art that’s currently up at any specific location, such as Panther Coffee, by cross-streets. Moreover, the website specifies whether the work is currently or no longer on display. But the specific dates of display are not yet listed. Robert claims, “I want to have dates up eventually, but the site is a work in progress.” With a collection of over 10,000 photos, Robert has some work to do. At the moment, there are about 900 pictures and 300 artists on the site. Just like the street murals of Wynwood, wynwoodmap.com is an ever-evolving, valuable project.
(Image on top: Screen Shot of Wynwoodmap.com)
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