Visual Art

‘From the Bronx to the Beach’ at The Art of Hip Hop Looks Beyond Music

Written By Jonel Juste
February 21, 2024 at 4:14 PM

Lisa Leone’s photograph of The Fugees’ Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill is on display at The Art of Hip Hop’s inaugural exhibition in Wynwood through Wednesday, Feb. 28. (Photo by Lisa Leone, Fugees. Courtesy of The Art of Hip Hop)

When people think of hip-hop, they often focus on rap music, breakdancing, deejays, and bling.  A new museum in Wynwood, The Art of Hip Hop, seeks to illuminate the lesser-known artistic dimensions of the genre on its 50th anniversary through its inaugural exhibit “From the Bronx to the Beach.” 

The showcase sheds light on the visual artists integral to the cultural movement since its inception in the early 1970s in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City.

“From the Bronx to the Beach” exhibition, which runs through Wednesday, Feb. 28, premiered at Miami Art Week in December. The former Museum of Graffiti building now accommodates The Art of Hip Hop, 299 NW 25th St., Miami. (The Museum of Graffiti relocated to 276 NW 26th St.)

The Art of Hip Hop, a new cultural hub dedicated to showcasing the visual arts of hip hop, located in the former Museum of Graffiti building in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami. (Photo courtesy of The Art of Hip Hop)

Notably, both initiatives share a common thread as they were spearheaded by Alan Ket and Allison Freidin.

Freidin explains that hip-hop encompasses various elements beyond rap music, with graffiti being a significant aspect recognized by the founders of the Museum of Graffiti. “The Art of Hip Hop is a space dedicated to all visual artists of hip-hop culture who create masterpieces but are not receiving mainstream attention and accolades as artists,” says Freidin.

Echoing this sentiment, cofounder Ket emphasizes the importance of celebrating the behind-the-scenes creatives in hip-hop culture, such as photographers and designers, not just those out in front such as rappers and deejays.“These are important cultural contributors that make up the ecosystem and economy of hip-hop. I believe they deserve recognition and to be celebrated.” 

Ket, a graffiti artist, curator, photographer, and author of the book “The Wide World of Graffiti” believes that “The Art of Hip Hop” serves as another personal tribute to this genre, which he says he deeply admires.

A mural by Miami-based artist and illustrator Disem pays tribute to Clive Campbell, renowned by his stage name DJ Kool Herc, credited as one of the pioneers of hip-hop music. (Photo courtesy of The Art of Hip Hop)

“I have been an active member and a fan of hip-hop culture since I first encountered it in New York City in the early 1980s. I’ve always felt that it spoke to me and over the years I’ve sought to contribute,” says Ket. 

That’s why, he launched Stress, a magazine that celebrated hip hop in the 1990s, and in the 2000s, co-founded COMPLEX, a magazine that is still active today. In the 2010s, he went on to launch VIBE Magazine and took on various other projects. “Each was about celebrating street culture and hip-hop culture,” says Ket. 

In the heart of  The Art of Hip Hop are the visual artists themselves who, according to Freidin, former Miami prosecutor turned art businesswoman and co-owner of the new museum, “have shaped the visual identity of an entire global culture of hip hop and deserve a proper gallery space that is researching them, archiving artifacts, and exhibiting their work.”

Freidin believes that the inaugural exhibit accomplishes its  goal by presenting the works of old-school New York flyer designers like Phase 2 (Michael Lawrence Marrow), to local photographer Esdras T. Thelusma “who poses iconic hip hop musicians in a way that juxtaposes humble surroundings with symbols of opulence.”  Thelusma will be speaking about his work at the museum on Friday, Feb. 23 as part of its Black History Month programming. Doors open at 6 p.m. with the discussion starting at 7 p.m.

Visitors to The Art of Hip Hop museum look at the artworks of Miami-based visual artist Esdras  T. Thelusma, left in the background, and Martha Cooper, front right, an American photojournalist renowned for capturing the New York City graffiti scene during the 1970s and 1980s. (Photo courtesy of The Art of Hip Hop)

The new hip-hop space is designed to be both immersive and educational. “Our experience tells us that immersive moments make learning easier and more enjoyable,” says Freidin. Therefore, instead of just putting a bunch of record covers on the wall in frames as any other piece of art might be displayed, we recreated a record store where you can see famous album art, flip through the bins, and even play a record so you can see how the visual art correlates to the music.”

One immersive aspect of the museum is the creation of an old-school movie theater to screen “Wild Style,” a 1983 American hip-hop film directed and produced by Charlie Ahearn. Instead of a projection onto a white wall, visitors can lounge in vintage red theater seats surrounded by original vintage movie posters, creating an environment that transports them back to the time when the film was released. Freidin remarks, “It really sets the environment for taking in the information.”

“From the Bronx to the Beach” emphasizes the cultural impact of visual pioneers within hip-hop, including the works of photographers, album cover artists, graffiti writers, logo designers, painters, authors, and fashion creators.

Among the photographers, Bronx-born Lisa Leone, whose work highlights artists such as The Fugees, Snoop Dogg, Grandmaster Flash, Fable, and Wiggles. Also on display, the work of the British-born photographer Janette Beckman. Titled “The Mashup,” it is a collection of images reinterpreted by graffiti artists such as Lady Pink who remixed Queen Latifa’s picture with a regal pop of color, Mode2 painting a stylistic De La Soul piece or CES giving Big Daddy Kane a special cut. 

Included in the exhibited paintings is “Truck Jewelry,” a joint effort by James Alicea (BlusterOne) and the online hoop earring platform Hoop88Dreams. The showcased artworks depict oversized earrings, rings, medallions, watches, and chains worn by hip-hop artists and hood celebrities. The collection also features pieces by Erni Vales, renowned for his mastery as a muralist, having painted walls across cities from New York to Chicago to Miami. 

The exhibition also features a variety of other mediums, including graphic design, fashion items such as custom-designed t-shirts and sneakers, movies, cassettes, magazines, and books such as “The History of Miami Hip Hop” authored by John Cordero. Cordero notably co-founded, edited, and published “The Cipher: Miami’s Hip Hop Newspaper” from 1998 to 2000. The independent monthly publication documented and chronicled the burgeoning hip-hop scene in South Florida at the time.

Other visual artists included in the exhibit: Eric Haze, Cey Adams, Erin Patrice O’Brien, Robert Michael Provenzano (CES), Martha Cooper, Mike Miller, Henry Chalfant, Matt Doyle, Joe Conzo, and Daniel Hastings.

Allison Freidin and Alan Ket, the co-founders of the Museum of Graffiti & Hip Hop Art. (Photo courtesy of The Art of Hip Hop)

The exhibition also pays tribute to its host city, Miami, where it has found its permanent home after being initially showcased in Austin, Texas, and Seoul, South Korea. “From the Bronx to the Beach,” delves into Miami’s hip-hop history, as captured by local historian and photographer Derick G. and photographer Esdras T. Thelusma. Derick G’s work notably features South Florida hip-hop artists like DJ Khaled, Dieuson Octave (Kodak Black), and Davidson Pierre (Black Dada).

Another standout contribution to the exhibition is the mural by Miami-based artist and illustrator Disem. The artwork pays tribute to Clive Campbell, renowned by his stage name DJ Kool Herc, credited as one of the pioneers of hip-hop music. 

“We wanted the creators from Miami’s own hip-hop scene to feel recognized as while hip-hop started in New York, it has now infiltrated every major metropolitan city in the world, paving a way for thousands of people in different regions to work and create . . . Shining a light on Miami’s own contributions to the bigger story has been very important,” says Freidin.

Freidin has a favorite Miami moment in the exhibition: “The wall with early rare photographs of Poison Clan and 2 Live Crew taken by famed UK photographer Janette Beckman. I really appreciate this because it demonstrates Miami Hip Hop entering the world stage, where these groups were just as important as Jannette’s other subjects like Slick Rick, De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane, Salt-N-Pepa and more.”  

Interactive vinyl wall, left, and works of photographer Janette Beckman, right, at The Art Of Hip Hop museum. (Photo courtesy of The Art of Hip Hop)

Commenting on the importance of a popular musical genre such as  hip-hop to have museums and galleries dedicated to them, Ket says: “Spaces like these can inspire the public to be creative and to recognize the value of this cultural movement.”

Freidin says there is also an element of art education that the spaces provide.

“We are able to get these historic works into important collections while also teaching art history to our daily visitors,” concludes Freidin.  

And, in keeping with that history, The Art of Hip Hop is hosting a panel discussion at 7 p.m., on Friday, March 15 in conjunction with Women’s History Month. The guests, Lucy Lopez, Supa Cindy and Stichiz, will discuss their success in a male-dominated industry and their significant impact on Miami’s music and hip-hop culture.

WHAT: “From the Bronx to the Beach” 

WHERE:  The Art of Hip Hop, 299 NW 25th St., Miami

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday through Wednesday, Feb. 28.

COST:  $12, general admission; $22 combo ticket, The Art of Hip Hop and The Museum of Graffiti, children under 13 admitted free. 

INFORMATION:   786-772-1604 or is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music, and more. Don’t miss a story at

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