Collections Make Space to Showcase South Florida Artists

by Margery Gordon

The nonprofit spaces contemporary art collectors open to the public tempt connoisseurs with glimpses of personal predilections and market trends. Renowned for their acumen and foresight, South Florida’s intrepid jetsetters are as selective about acquisitions close to home as at art fairs, galleries and studio visits in far-flung locales.

To debut their latest discoveries, unearth gems from storage and reveal connective tissue, the spaces are re-installed each fall. Works created nearby don’t always fit the marquee shows, but most collections devise other means of exposure for artists reared and educated in the region as well as more recent arrivals.

Hernan Bas, The Paper Crown Prince, 2005, water-based oil on panel, 12 x 10 in. Courtesy of de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space.


The de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space devotes nearly all of the building Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz erected in the Design District in 2009 to conceptual constellations spanning their decades of patronage. “Beneath the Surface,” through October 2015, unearths the shifting foundations of American life amid globalization as viewed through domestic and foreign lenses.

On the outskirts are self-contained environments for initiatives funded by the de la Cruzes but returned to their regional makers. “We encourage artists to fully engage with the architecture of the space and to approach their projects by experimenting with non-traditional art practices,” says director Ibett Yanez. The 2015 lineup of locals defies boundaries: Amanda Keeley with her nomadic boutique EXILE Books; arts writer Rob Goyanes; and Emmett Moore, who fashions fine and functional objects.


Miami-based sculptor Jim Drain outfitted the project room last winter with a “Pleat Construction” of his knitwear accented by lighting, glass and wood structures. Drain aggregates ornamental and corporeal elements in “Protector, Knight of Egg” (2010), guarding the courtyard. In the library hangs “The Paper Crown Prince” Hernan Bas painted in 2005.

Naomi Fisher, Booty Bouquet, 1998, Cibachrome, 20 x 26 in., edition of 5. Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection.
Naomi Fisher, Booty Bouquet, 1998, Cibachrome, 20 x 26 in., edition of 5.
Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection.

Upon the launch of Art Basel Miami Beach, influential visitors to Fredric Snitzer Gallery fell for the wistful sensuality of Bas’ young male protagonists and raw sexuality of Naomi Fisher’s photographs of female body parts exposed amid tropical foliage. These Miami natives and erstwhile studio-mates (Fisher has shared a workspace with Drain since Bas relocated to Detroit several years ago) rub shoulders with tomorrow’s stars and today’s titans of cutting-edge art anointed at the Rubell Family Collection, in Wynwood since 1993.

“To Have and To Hold,” through May 30, tracks Don and Mera Rubell’s record as early adopters of emerging talent from new additions back to their first prescient purchases in the late 1970s. Highlights of 50 artists include an assemblage by Mark Handforth and video by Dara Friedman, spouses who have maintained a Miami residence and international following for 20 years.

Also marking a milestone this season is the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse on Wynwood’s western fringe. Its 15th anniversary exhibition, through April 25, compiles greatest hits from Martin Z. Margulies’ diverse holdings. While no South Florida artists made the cut, an Auxiliary Gallery spotlights works originating locally but not represented in the collection and sells them to benefit charitable causes.

Swimming Elephant, Andaman Islands, Havelock, India
Annette Bonnier, Morning Swim, Havelock Island, Andaman Islands, India, 2012, inkjet print, 41 x 58 in. (framed). Courtesy of Margulies Collection at the Warehouse.


An accomplished photojournalist born and based in Miami, Annette Bonnier captures “India’s Elephants” in Hindu rituals, circus acts, labor and recreation. She pledges 20 percent of proceeds from prints and bound volumes (released last spring by Miami’s Books & Books Press) to the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF). Bonnier illustrates a lecture Saturday, March 14, at 12:30 pm during a public brunch at the Warehouse.

Such programs reflect Margulies’ emphasis on education and philanthropy, notes Katherine Hinds, curator of the collection since 1982. “By looking at local artists alongside artists from around the world, students and visitors may be able to find relationships within contemporary art that may not be experienced anywhere else.”

Jillian Mayer, I am your Grandma, 2011, video still, video. Courtesy of the Girls’ Club Collection.
Jillian Mayer, I am your Grandma, 2011, video still, video.
Courtesy of the Girls’ Club Collection.

Connecting South Florida artists and communities is central to the mission of Girls’ Club, founded in 2006 by collectors Francie Bishop Good and David Horvitz to exhibit art by women. “Girls’ Club is dedicated to providing a platform for local artists and nurturing their careers,” says Good. The couple entrusted public artist and architect Margi Nothard of neighboring Glavovic Studio with redesigning the building where Good crafts her own artwork, and charged creative director Michelle Weinberg with activating the space.

“We engage the public in what artists do,” Weinberg says. Interdisciplinary performances and workshops tie into each exhibition’s theme. She and gallery director Sarah Michelle Rupert, artists themselves, explore narrative modes in “The Moment. The Backdrop. The Persona.” through Sept 26. Storytellers include female and male residents of Miami-Dade and Broward counties: a Jillian Mayer video, Leandra Arvazzetti ceramic, Aramis Gutierrez painting and Bas print.

Several local artists shown now are collaborating with Girls’ Club on limited editions priced at $100 or less apiece. The sixth season of “Artists in Action!” presents these commissions at talks by Natalya Laskis April 25, Christina Pettersson May 15, and Leah Brown June 27. Girls’ Club doesn’t have to look far for inspired participants, says Rupert, noting “the growth of the local art scene, and the increased visibility and institutional support of artists working in our area.”

Such opportunities are drawing artists from around the world to toil, teach and study here, while retaining and retracting homegrown creativity. In this expanded and refined talent pool, our high-profile collectors may find more local catches to suit their discriminating tastes.