Spring Break: Finding Art in Fort Lauderdale

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The only time we’ve ever been to Fort Lauderdale was when passing through to Miami Beach for the December art fairs. As a result, it came as a surprise two weeks ago to find the city has an active art community, beautiful beaches, and great hotels and restaurants. We flew into the “Venice of America” on Jet Blue and checked into the Atlantic Hotel, a well-kept, five year old boutique hotel with a great spa and restaurant. Luckily we got upgraded to a large suite with a living room, kitchen, bedroom, two bathrooms — both with walk-in showers and one with a comforting Jacuzzi — and an amazing view of the ocean and beach from the balcony. With the outdoor temperature hovering around 80 degrees, the first thing on our agenda was a dip in the ocean.

VIEW A PHOTO SLIDESHOW OF PAUL’S ADVENTURES HERE

After a quick visit to happy hour at the hotel’s Trina Restaurant & Lounge, we headed to the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale for the opening of With You I Want To Live, an exhibition of two local collections of contemporary art: the Gordon Locksley + George T. Shea Collection and the Francie Bishop Good + David Horvitz Collection. People were just starting arrive while we chatted with Irvin Lippman, the executive director, who introduced us to some trustees and members of the staff. Soon, the foyer was full with locals and visitors from New York and Miami, including art dealers Charles Cowles, David Castillo, Adam Sheffer, and Douglas Baxter; collectors Norman and Irma Braman, and Stanley and Pearl Goodman; and artists Pepe Mar, John Sonsini, and Michelle Weinberg.

Gordon Locksley and Dr. George T. Shea had a contemporary art gallery in Minneapolis in the mid-’60s where they exhibited work by Andy Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, Donald Judd, and Brice Marden. Locksley, who got his start as a hairdresser, lives in Fort Lauderdale and Shea, who was not in attendance, lives in Palms Springs (his house there was used in the 2001 remake of the film Ocean’s Eleven.) Their collection ranges from Pop and Minimal art of the ’60s to more recent Chinese contemporary art and street art. Highlights include a group of eight Warhol line drawings of flowers from 1975, Raymond Hains’ 1960 torn poster abstraction, paintings by Yue Minjun and Wang Guangyi, light pieces by Dan Flavin and Tracey Emin, a British phone booth rising from concrete rubble by Banksy, and a collage and painted wood assemblage by Swoon.

The Francie Bishop Good + David Horvitz Collection is located on another floor. Good is an artist who’s best known for her widely exhibited photographs of her niece Carly, which were shot over a ten-year period and document the young girl from childhood to late-teens. David Horvitz is President and CEO of WLD Enterprises, a private investment firm. Together they have amassed a large collection of contemporary art by mostly women artists of the past two decades. Standouts include Cornelia Parker’s 2003 hanging sculpture made of flattened silverware, Nicola Tyson’s 2005 canvas of a distorted figure with crossed legs, two digitally enhanced photographs of children by Loretta Lux, a frightening collage of a howling witch by Wangechi Mutu, and a video of dancing flowers by Jennifer Steinkamp.

The viewing of the two-part exhibition was followed by speeches and dinner for 120 guests in one of the museum’s permanent collection gallery. We were seated at a table with Elizabeth Armstrong, assistant director for exhibitions and programs and curator of contemporary art at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and Susan Grant Lewin, the PR rep for the event. By the time dessert arrived, we were all table-hopping and sharing our opinions about the work on the walls, before calling it a night.

Day two in Fort Lauderdale began with a rejuvenating, early morning swim in the ocean and breakfast of poached eggs with crabmeat washed down with mimosas while relaxing on the restaurant’s sun-filled terrace. A few hours later, we were eating again at a delicious brunch at Gordon Locksley’s oceanfront apartment, which completely occupied the 29th floor of the Palms and was surrounded by a wide wraparound balcony that afforded incredible views in all directions. Several of the guests from the previous night’s opening at the museum — including Lippman, Armstrong, and Sotheby’s contemporary art specialist Anthony Grant — were there to see more of Locksley’s diverse collection.

Next stop on the tour was the home of Francie Bishop Good and David Horvitz, a beautiful coral, wood, and glass house, designed by architect Deborah Berke, who’s responsible for Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York and 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville. The house, which is laid out as a group of joined boxes with courtyards and a pool, is featured as the Sospiro Canal House in Berke’s Yale University Press monograph. After viewing the stylish residence, we went downtown to catch the water taxi to check out the gigantic yachts and massive McMansions on Millionaire’s Row and then back to the hotel for a massage. We ended the day with an extraordinary seafood feast at Blue Moon Fish Co. on the Intercoastal Waterway.

Up early and in the ocean before 8 a.m., we packed our bags and checked out of the hotel before going to H20 Café for a delightful breakfast by the beach. Once we had been well nourished and eyed enough of the strolling beach crowd, we drove over to Girls Club, a private foundation and alternative art space, funded by Francie Bishop Good and David Horvitz. Architect Margi Nothard of Glavovic Studio in Fort Lauderdale showed us around the building and Michelle Weinberg, who advises the Girls Club, was on hand to discuss the Under the Influence exhibition, which is on view through September 30. Good’s studio is next door so we poked around it for a while and then caught a few more local sites before heading back to New York.

It was a fun-filled weekend with lots of dynamic art and interesting people. Knowing now that it is only a 30-minute drive from Miami made us want to visit again when we are back in Florida for Art Basel Miami Beach.