Girls' Club and Museum of Art Brunches Brought Art Basel to Fort Lauderdale

Though it seemed like everything was happening in Miami this past Art Week -- from protests shutting down the Julia Tuttle Causeway to dozens of art fairs and plenty of poppin' parties -- there was no need to count out Broward County's cultural offerings.

Two marvelous art-focused brunches were the highlight in Fort Lauderdale this past Saturday at both Girls' Club and NSU Museum of Art. One marked the unveiling of a new mural from local artist Julie Davidow and the other brought legendary painter and filmmaker Julian Schnabel into town and center stage.

See also: How Flagler Village Became Fort Lauderdale's Cultural Core

The earlier brunch was at Girls' Club, a museum featuring contemporary art created and curated by female artists. This year's exhibition, The Moment. The Backdrop. The Persona., debuted last month. It features art in an array of mediums that examining narrative and identity.

The artists come from all over the world and the works are part of the collection of Francie Bishop Good and David Horvitz. There are a few locals in the mix, including an impressively surreal vignette captured in human hair on mylar by FAT Village curator Leah Brown, called "There Was No One Else" (2011). The work actually looks like a woodcut, and it features a pregnant woman in a tub with an half-human/half-elk creature leaning over her as people peer in from a window.

Upstairs, some may recognize "I Am Your Grandma" (2011) a one-minute video by Miami artist Jillian Mayer that went viral on the internet. It sends a digital message to the artist's future grandchildren, featuring an electronic tune and Mayer in various masks and abstract makeup that speaks to a desire to connect across generations and transcend realities.

The exhibition will remain at Girls' Club until September of next year.

Outside, though, was the key work of the day, as the paint was practically still drying. Davidow's mural takes over a wall adjacent to the parking lot in front of Girls' Club. She took inspiration from the oak trees that line the lot, saying she wanted her work to meld with the shadows from both the branches. She even chose colors that echo light filtering through the trees' leaves.

Light is actually a big part of her work, as she used something called an interference pigment which mimics the shine of seashells and butterfly wings. Refracting the light makes the wall appear to change colors depending on which angle you're examining it.

Girls' Club is also an important educational institution. We met Dara Katzenstein, who is interning for the fall semester, and recently launched a web project/blog, "Humans of ABMB," which examines gender equality during Art Basel Miami Beach. You can read her observations here.

We also met Erica Mohan, part of the Girls' Club's new fellowship program. Sarah Michelle Rupert, gallery director, said of Mohan's role, "It's a step beyond a regular internship, with more responsibility, program involvement and a stipend. She's working on a very cool video blog project 'Defining a Moment,' where she interviews artists in their studios. The project is to debut next month online with a public artist talk event in January."

A shuttle bus outside connected Girls' Club with the NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, which hosted a director's brunch of its own featuring Schnabel. His work is on display in a group show, Café Dolly: Picabia, Schnabel, Willumsen. It brings together his creations from the late '80s to now with Francis Picabia's later figurative period (1926-51) and the late 19th to mid-20th-century works of Danish artist J.F. Willumsen.

The event took place on the second floor near part of the collection that showed the impressive works by these male artists -- an interesting contrast to Girls' Club.

Early in the brunch, Schnabel even led an impromptu tour of the exhibition. He spoke about choosing to sometimes paint lines across his gigantic paintings. He says it's to create a sense of incompletion in order to keep the work in the present.

The relationship between these artists is as colorful as their works. For instance, the exhibition dwells on Picabia's figurative post-Dada/surrealist period, which led to his contemporaries in the movement to dismiss him as "regressive." Schnabel endured his own criticism by mixing figurative work with abstraction. Meanwhile, Willumsen is one of those artists plagued with the critique of "kitsch."

Café Dolly, which features 75 works, will run until February 1, 2015. It is also showing alongside a photography exhibition called American Scene Photography: Martin Z. Margulies Collection, composed of almost 200 photographs by 74 photographers covering mostly the 20th century. It runs until March 22, 2015.

Finally there is Highlights from the William J. Glackens Collection, which will be on view until February 2015. Though in another room, the work by this artist fits nicely with the Café Dolly. Glackens (1870 - 1938) was a American realist painter whose style turned more impressionistic in his final days.

There was barely time to take it all in before brunch was done and director and chief curator Bonnie Clearwater had to whisk away Schnabel to Miami Beach where they would engage in a discussion at Art Basel Miami Beach proper.

Girls' Club, 117 N.E. 2nd St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954 828-9151, or visit

NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, One E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-5500, or visit

Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @HansMorgenstern.

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