|While Art Basel Miami, the most important contemporary art fair in the country has been raking in the press as well as the big bucks, the adjacent city of Fort Lauderdale, with much less fanfare, has been silently growing by leaps and bounds.|
While Art Basel Miami, the largest and most important contemporary art fair in the country has been raking in the press as well as the big bucks, the adjacent city of Fort Lauderdale, with much less fanfare, has been silently growing by leaps and bounds. Up until the mid-eighties Lauderdale was the country’s go to destination for college kids on spring break. Today, real estate, both commercial and residential, is the face the city wears. Plush hotels, from W to the Atlantic to the il Lugano and the Ritz Carlton, followed by a plethora of condos, restaurants, night clubs, boutiques, and cultural institutions – you got to feed and entertain the people – are springing up like pimples on a teenager’s face. And why not! Fort Lauderdale, long the yacht capital of the country, and the country’s second largest gay vacation mecca, shares the same coastal beaches as Miami, has as many, if not more inland waterways, a lot less people, and at least for now, is considerably more reasonable than Miami on your pocket book.
The city’s most popular and populated cultural institution is the Museum of Art/ Fort Lauderdale, a division of Nova Southeastern University. Relatively unknown since its beginnings in 1958, the museum located at the end (or is it the beginning?) of Las Olas Boulevard the city’s main street was all but moribund until its current director Irvin Lippman, imported from the Columbus Museum of Art in Columbus, Ohio in 2004, was tapped to head the institution. Having previously cut his teeth as Assistant Director of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth – he also did a stint at the National Gallery in Washington, DC – with nothing to lose and everything to gain, jumped started his tenure at the museum by cleverly bringing in several blockbusters exhibitions. Lippman’s choices turned both town and museum upside down. Crowds from all over the state of Florida, and then some, came to see Diana: A Celebration and Tutankhamun and The Golden Age of the Pharaohs. With more than one million people having visited the museum since 2003, the museum now holds the record as the most visited art museum in Florida.
Like art museums the world over who have been digging into their permanent collections, as well as exhibiting the artworks of local collectors to counteract recessionary times – shipping alone can break the bank – the museum has mounted the art collections of prominent Lauderdale locals, Francie Bishop Good and her husband David Horvitz, Gordon Locksley and George T. Shea, from Palm Beach, California. Presented under the title With You I Want To Live – a title taken from a 2006 Tracey Emin neon wall sculpture – the exhibition’s 118 eclectic works (mostly paintings) by some 100 artists, virtually fill the museum’s two floors. Locksley and Shea are on 2nd floor. Good and Horvitz inhabit the first. Each collection obviously assembled by a discerning eye and not by committee – what a rare pleasure this is – is both thought provoking and stunning. Not only are we gifted with the art itself, but for those who love mystery we get to seriously contemplate the differing nature of each collector.
The collection of Locksley and Shea, long time art dealers in Minneapolis, with many of the works in your face, has a Wham Bam effect. Though Donald Judd, Damien Hirst, and Anselm Kiefer, all big names, make an appearance, it is the excitement emanating from the rebellious and danger-courting work of the collection’s street and graffiti artists, as well as a number of homoerotic works that catch and hold our eye. French artist Blek Le Rat gives us a foreboding painting of a homeless man and his dog sleeping in the street. Alixa and Naima (2008), a colorful ramshackle work by New York City based street artist Swoon, commissioned especially for this exhibition, depicts a young androgynous couple, perhaps they are homeless too, holding on to each other for dear life. In Hernan Bas’s Monster (from his series A Little Moby Dick in All of Us) (2003), a shirtless young boy in a sailboat is surrounded by fantastical sea monsters. Miami based Bas recently had a mid-career retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. In the middle of the floor is English artist Banksy’s installation British Phone Booth (2006). Sinking into the rubble – is it a bomb that did it in or has this it been rendered obsolete by the cell phone? – the once ubiquitous red telephone booth is in a process of disappearing.
The Good/Horvitz collection – though Good, a photographer, multi-media artist, and gallery owner – her Girls’ Club Collection – is the top alternative art space in the city – claims that this was not her intention “it just seemed to turn out that way” – consists mostly of art created by woman. While a number of names like Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Louise Nevelson, and Anna Mendieta are high profile, an even larger number are relatively unknown. Having started out as an abstract painter, Good’s collecting modus operandi was, and obviously still is, is to buy work that reveals something about the process. “Living with and collecting the work I of the artists that I love makes me look at my own work in a different way. In photography, if a see a work about a girl or about some the identity, I need to see that in a fresh and challenging way.”
Unlike Locksley, whose collection contains a number of sculptures and installations that are close to operatic in their effect, the Good/Horvitz collection has an all of one piece, calming effect. The abstract work of Joan Snyder, Louise Fishman and Cecily Brown, all extremely beautiful works, seem to bare this out. Even the photographic work like Tina Barney’s The Grandaughter (2004), Sarah Jones’s, The Spare Room (Franci’s Place) (1999) both C-Print narratives that feature a young girl in a domestic setting are contemplative. The Instant Decorator (Yellow Kitchen) (2004). Laurie Simmons’s Flex print depicting three woman, all playing the role of perfect 1950s wife, is particularly compelling. Upon first glance the domestic scene appears both whimsical, nostalgic, and a but funny, that is, until you realize that being a homebound domestic wide was the predominant path that society and its advertisers carved out for our mothers and sisters. In both collections, on canvas and off, lives are being lived and stories are being told. Some are secret, some defiantly not. In all cases, collectors and the artists are saying attention must be paid.