It’s been a full decade since the Wynwood Walls—a painstakingly chosen selection of often-arresting street art murals, some hovering almost daintily behind ropes above a manicured lawn—were unveiled. But if a non-native were to watch the throngs of Instagrammers snapping, say, the ethereal visage of a haloed woman painted by EL MAC, or the ram in Audrey Kawasaki’s mystical pastel moonscape, they might think the free graffiti park had just gone up as the hottest do-it-for-the-gram spot in town.
In reality, more than three million people a year make the pilgrimage to Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood to pay homage. But these walls hold a secret: As fervent social media users capture the murals on Instagram, the curator of the Wynwood Walls is watching them right back. Jessica Goldman Srebnick, the longtime Walls curator, CEO of Goldman Properties, and self-described Mama Bear to her street artists, uses social media herself to research the street art world, scroll through visitors’ Walls posts, follow street art magazines, and search for new artists to work with. Needless to say, her DMs are a crowded, lively, and astonishingly legitimate place for artists to network with her. “It’s both ways: It’s proactive, and it’s reactive,” Srebnick says. She begins to elaborate, then stops, as though she were leaning in to share a juicy bit of gossip.
“I have my own way of searching and editing through,” she adds coyly. “And I have my own eye. I’ve been exposed to art since I was little girl; I studied psychology. I came to the art field—I guess it’s part of my DNA—but I know right away, within seconds, if I see magic in someone’s art form.”
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The Wynwood Walls pushes artists to perform at their highest level.The newest addition to the @wynwoodwallsofficial is nothing short of SPECTACULAR 🌈 by Chilean artist @dasicfernandez A true masterpiece!! Well done my friend. #breathless curated by @goldmanglobalarts #goldmanproperties #wynwoodwalls #dasicfernandez #artbasel2019
And what DNA it is. The eerily prescient notion of melding street artists’ work with hyper-consumability in Wynwood was a proverbial cartoon light bulb that flicked on directly above the noggin of larger-than-life Miami developer and preservationist Tony Goldman, a real estate guy from Manhattan with a knack for spotting and revitalizing down-and-out neighborhoods—including Miami Beach. New York’s SoHo? That was him. Philadelphia’s Center City? Him too.
Srebnick, who happens to be Goldman’s daughter, was by her dad’s side as he developed his “big, big, bold idea.” It was a game changer for the family business—but she’d been learning the business all her life. Even her brief mid-20s stint in fashion direction at Saks Fifth Avenue had prepared her for this moment; her job there was color and trend forecasting. “The neighborhood needed a heartbeat,” Srebnick says. “And so he just felt like: What could be more vibrant, more beautiful, more diverse, more global, than to create something like the Wynwood Walls?”
So, in 2009, six windowless warehouse buildings on 25th and 26th streets were transformed into a free, eye-popping outdoor museum. Eventually, Goldman’s idea morphed into a full-blown, full-color global phenomenon, changing the neighborhood into a hip destination; launching unknown street artists into the stratosphere; and birthing offshoots like the Wynwood Doors, Outside the Walls murals, and Wynwood Walls Garden. What began as 11 walls is now 38 murals and two sculptures.
When Goldman died in 2012, Srebnick took up her dad’s mantle completely. She now steers the 50-plus-year-old real estate company, curates the Wynwood Walls herself, and continues to spirit the Goldman name into the future. “When he passed away, all of a sudden it was like this light had gone on inside of me,” she says. Impassioned, she surrounded herself with artists. “To stand in front of a blank white wall, and to see somebody with spray cans and paint, and all of a sudden they start to do this dance—and it really is like watching someone dance—for me was just thrilling, and I wanted to share more and more of it.”
To celebrate the Walls’ 10th anniversary, 10 new murals were installed live the week before Art Basel’s December 3rd kickoff, and the Goldman Global Arts galleries showed canvas works from Walls artists, plus a Shepard Fairey solo exhibition.
Also marking the occasion is the new book Walls of Change: The Story of the Wynwood Walls ($60; Assouline). The bright hardcover volume tells the tale through vivid street art scenes shot by photojournalist Martha Cooper and intimate commentary from more than 70 street artists—including Fairey, Joe Iurato, and Matzu—who detail what it’s like to get a phone call to be part of the Walls (one artist likens it to the Olympics), and how it feels to be part of a family rather than working alone.
In talking with Srebnick, one word comes up repeatedly: family. Rather than shy away from her father’s legacy, she embraces it, as the entire Wynwood Walls family has. After Tony Goldman died, Fairey made his own pilgrimage to Miami to redo his wall: The beaming man at the center of Fairey’s wall, wearing a cowboy hat, arms open, is Tony. Taking stock of the Walls’ journey, Srebnick says she’s most proud of her family for creating something born out of passion that millions can experience for free.
As for what her father might say: “I think he would wish he were here to give us a nice, big hug. And I think, knowing my dad, it would bring him to tears, tears of joy, to see what we’ve done here.”
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