Words by Jose D. Duran
This 30-year-old graffiti artist wasn’t called BooksIIII Bischof at birth. And he doesn’t want you to know anything but the pseudonym. “It’s the name I used to write, and it eventually became my nickname,” he says. “It’s become my professional name. It’s just how people know me.”
Name confusion aside, this South Florida native is responsible for one of Art Basel Miami Beach’s most interesting satellite fairs, Primary Flight. It’s unique. There are no white walls and snobby art dealers. It’s highbrow street art.
“During Basel… there was a handful of artists who weren’t necessarily the breadwinners for galleries. We felt like the street was ours and we were just going to put stuff up.”
Primary Flight, in Bischof’s mind, is an artistic movement similar to Robin Hood. “Two thousand seven was the first year we stole the city and gave it back to the people.”
The concept is simple. Invite both local and visiting artists to paint elaborate murals across the city. Concentrate on Wynwood, Overtown, and downtown. All the art is legal, meaning Primary Flight contacts the owners before beginning. The result is art that lasts only as long as the building’s owner or South Florida weather permits.
Traveling through the arts district, you’ll still find works from years past — some in better condition than others. Most have been painted over or sun-bleached. For example, Agustina Woodgate’s Hopscotch from 2009 along NW Second Avenue has seen better days. “Street and graffiti art are impermanent — that’s the nature of the art,” Books explains. “It keeps the neighborhood in flux. The more that it’s changing, the more alive it is. If a mural lasts for three to five years, awesome; three to five months, amazing. It forces people to visit the district.”
Adding further legitimacy: The City of Miami is working with Bischof to create “the world’s first outdoor museum,” which will be called the Wynwood Mural Museum.
“Something that’s in a gallery doesn’t necessarily hold the same power that something on a wall in the street does. [Brazilian graffiti duo] Os Gêmeos may paint one character in a corner in Brazil and then take that exact same character and transfer it over to canvas that somebody can purchase, but it doesn’t hold the same power. It’s not accessible to the people. It’s in a collection. It’s privatized.”