Night life

Miami Sweet: A Candy-Filled Art Pop-Up at Aventura Mall

Jackie Sorkin is sitting at the food hall at Aventura Mall, watching families admire the giant unicorn made of candy. The magical creature beckons all to marvel at it, take a selfie with it, and — perhaps — purchase a ticket to Miami Sweet, where hundreds of its confectionary cousins reside.

The cofounder of Candy Kingdom brought Candytopia, a colorful pop-up experience, to Aventura Mall in 2019. Now she returns with Miami Sweet, what Sorkin calls “a love letter to Miami.” In all, there are 12 different rooms, each with its own theme — from a Lisa Frank unicorn fantasy to a beach scene to an art gallery with masterworks re-created in sugary form.

One might walk into Miami Sweet and see a series of Instagram backdrops or TikTok moments — posing with a giraffe made from jellybeans or falling into a pool of pineapple-shaped plushies is certainly social media fodder. 

But look slightly closer and you’ll discover that each piece took hours to complete by hand. A life-size llama, for instance, is made from 8,700 pieces of candy and took 158 man-hours to complete, while a re-creation of Frida Kahlo’s famous self-portrait required just over 3,000 pieces of candy and took 255 hours to finish.

And, in keeping with the trend, you’ll find a Van Gogh recreated lovingly in treats.

Make no mistake: These sculptures are not meant to be eaten (especially the Versace Medusa, which is made with gold jellybeans). To sate your sweet tooth, each room offers candy you can consume — from licorice whips to gummy bears to ring pops.

click to enlarge The gallery of masters at Miami Sweet - PHOTO COURTESY OF MIAMI SWEET

The gallery of masters at Miami Sweet

Photo courtesy of Miami Sweet

Sorkin considers Miami Sweet an art installation as opposed to a pop-up event.

“This is candy art and this is an art gallery,” she says, adding that a team of technicians repairs the installations each evening. “If the unicorn is missing a gummy bear, we fix it.”

Sorkin began making whimsical characters from candy over a decade ago out of her garage in Los Angeles. At the time, she was a young mom scraping by; making beautiful things from candy was a way to make her days a little more colorful. Using sweets as an artistic medium came naturally to Sorkin, who was obsessed with fictional candy man Willy Wonka as a child.

click to enlarge A Michelangelo in candy form - PHOTO COURTESY OF MIAMI SWEET

A Michelangelo in candy form

Photo courtesy of Miami Sweet

What started as a hobby became a career when Sorkin was tapped to film a reality-TV series called Candy Queen in 2011. She presented her first pop-up exhibition of her pieces, called Hollywood Kingdom, in Taiwan in 2012, but it wasn’t until 2017 that she was able to showcase her work in the United States. Now, after 14 years of working with candy, Sorkin says she’s at the place she wants to be — for now.

“One day, I’m going to have my own candy-themed theme park, like Walt Disney or Dolly Parton,” she vows.

For now, Sorkin enjoys meeting families who want to stop and admire the candy dolphins and dive into the pool of fluffy pineapples. And, says, Sorkin, the prices are right for a family adventure.

“I know what it’s like to not have money — I was there. I never want to be so bougie that Miami Sweet is too expensive for a family to go to.”

To that end, Miami Sweet offers family four-pack bundles and kids under three enter for free.

Sorkin will tell you the ticket price is well worth what you get in return: a few hours of escape, as the world melts away into a candy-coated paradise filled with jelly-bean parrots flying under cotton-candy clouds.

And after the past year and a half, we can all use some happiness.

Says Sorkin: “You can channel the blackness into a world of rainbows, unicorns, and joy.”

Miami Sweet. Through February 2022, located on the third floor of Aventura Mall; 19501 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura; miamisweet.com. Daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets cost $29, admission is free for kids three and under.

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