Street Art Star Shines in Miami

by R. Couri Hay Photographed by Bizzy Amor
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The notorious street artist WhIsBe will place several of his 7-foot-tall Gummy Bear sculptures at the entrance of the SCOPE Miami Beach art fair, which returned to Ocean Drive for its 17th installment last night, and runs through December 10th. This year, SCOPE will feature 140 exhibitors from 25 countries and 60 cities.

“I’d like to have those there because I see the impact that they have as public art installations,” says WhIsBe (shorthand for What Is Beauty?) who is exhibiting new works, too, including his Social Networking sculpture, expanding on his theme of cultural examination and socio-awareness. He was first internationally recognized for his McDictator work, which was a mash up of Ronald McDonald and Adolf Hitler.

The “Vandal Gummy,” a basketball-center-sized Gummy Bear holding a Department of Corrections placard that was recently installed in the lobby of 4 World Trade Center has become an instant hit with locals and tourists alike. “It’s insanely popular. It’s so wild,” says the artist.  “I would have never thought I’d have a sculpture in the lobby of the World Trade Center if you had asked me a few years ago,” he adds.

His moment in the sun started after developer Larry Silverstein invited a group of street artists to work on a mural project on the vacant 69th floor of 4 WTC. “It’s like, I did a mural project on the 69th floor, it’s super dope, I got to paint with my homies and had a great time,” WhIsBe says. Silverstein’s idea proved successful; in addition to giving young artists coveted space, the mural helped sell the property. Spotify, the music streaming service, rented the space after seeing the art installation.

Negotiations for the lobby sculpture followed; WhIsBe acted as his own agent. He is the only artist from the original mural group to have an additional piece in the building.

“The opportunity at the World Trade Center, and what’s come from that just spiked my career in terms of momentum,” says the New York native, who notes that just having the opportunity to paint in the World Trade Center is incredible. WhIsBe grew up painting, studied at the School of Visual arts, and after a hiatus, turned to street art five years ago. He has now exhibited at art fairs including Art Basel, Art New York, and Art Southampton, and had an installation at the New Museum.  His work is in the collection of MOCO Museum Amsterdam. 

This year SCOPE fair sponsors include artnet, the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami and the Perez Art Museum Miami.


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