Culture | May 17, 2022 7:30 am

You Can Now Get a Tattoo in the Coolest Museum in Miami

You’ll want to stop by the airbrush studio, too

Airbrushing at the Museum of Graffiti
Airbrushing at the Museum of Graffiti
Museum of Graffiti

Wynwood is lined with graffiti-inspired murals today, but it wasn’t that long ago that the Puerto Rican artists who tagged the neighborhood’s walls might get arrested for their trouble. Since then, both the neighborhood and the art form have gained a covetable foothold in the art world. Now, Wynwood’s newly expanded Museum of Graffiti is paying homage to those pioneering artists who risked their liberty to express themselves. 

Alan Ket and Allison Freidin are deeply cognizant of the tensions in Wynwood’s history. Ket, a veteran of the graffiti world as an artist, photographer, creative director and curator, and Freidin, a lawyer who would regularly represent graffiti artists, met in 2017 and began discussing what it would look like to build a museum in 2018. The Museum of Graffiti opened officially the following year, in December 2019. The groundbreaking museum considers itself, as Freidin says, a “healthy balance” of an art museum and history museum, both exhibiting and archiving graffiti’s work and history. They opened their new, 5,000 square-foot location, 2,000 square feet bigger than their old space, just this past March. 

Its walls offer insight into the form’s artistic past and present, its criminalization, its creative development, its community roots and its future. Profiles of artists ranging from Lady Pink and Keith Haring to Rammellzee and Doze Green among many others line its walls, along with original artworks on canvas, photographs of ephemeral murals with a historical timeline of artwork on trains, skateboards designed with graffiti-inspired work, and even site-specific installations by legendary graffiti artists commissioned by the museum. The new space features a tattoo studio; an airbrush studio inspired by New York’s Shirt Kings store, known for reimaginings of airbrushed cartoon characters; and a VR experience where visitors can create their own graffiti works of art on a virtual wall.

The new space also features a timeline illustrating Wynwood’s past as a graffiti haven over the last several decades, with images of bulldozers demolishing painted walls. “Wynwood has changed tremendously, some feel for the better, some feel for the worst,” Freidin says. “Unfortunately, at this point, there are no real walls left for artists to paint. I think that it’s interesting as more businesses come in and adopt this culture without really understanding how to preserve it properly.” A recent exhibition, Estilo Boricua, is exclusively dedicated to the work of Puerto Rican graffiti artists as a way to re-center their artwork in the neighborhood, a place where they would regularly be arrested, much like other graffiti artists around the world, for making work that now lines the walls of Wynwood with no issue. 

Even so, there are still artists in the graffiti world who are skeptical of the museum — thinking that graffiti should only be in the streets, that it doesn’t belong in an institution. The museum acknowledges that position, too. Documenting and archiving a cultural form like this is never easy. “The first line that you’ll read when you come into the museum is that we are as much students as we are teachers, because everyone has a story to tell, and we do want to document this,” Freidin says. The Museum of Graffiti also works with living artists to sell their work in their nearby Private Gallery and is working on commissioning artists for an NFT series called Glyphic. “The mission is always at the forefront,” Freidin says. “If it doesn’t elevate artists, if it doesn’t celebrate artists, it doesn’t help artists, then then we’re not definitely not going to get involved in it.” 

If you’re going

Friedin recommends stopping by Walt Grace next door for a glimpse of cool vintage guitars and motorcycles and a cup of coffee she describes as “world class,” featuring beans from La Colombe. She also loves the burrata pizza at nearby Bonci Pizzeria, and recommends rooftop drinks at No. 3 Social.

The Museum of Graffiti’s new exhibition opens May 19 and will feature the work of legendary New York City graffiti artist GHOST.