Twenty-five years ago, David Horvitz and Francie Bishop Good purchased their first artwork together, an abstract wooden sculpture by Louise Nevelson. Since then, Horvitz, an investment manager, and Good, an artist, have become Fort Lauderdale’s most prominent arts patrons, with a private art collection notable for its emphasis on contemporary female artists.
Today, the couple — married 31 years — are expanding their legacy by making their artworks more accessible than ever. While Miami is home to many world-renowned collectors, few would guess that one of South Florida’s most progressive would reside in Fort Lauderdale, a city whose cultural scene is still very much on the rise. Horvitz and Good’s collection is a rare gem, so notably unique that in the 2000s, the art book publisher Rizzoli deemed them the world’s only private collectors with a public exhibition space dedicated to contemporary female artists.
Rizzoli was referring to Girls’ Club, a nonprofit alternative arts space in downtown Fort Lauderdale that the couple founded in 2006 to present exhibitions — often of works from their own collection — and programs on, and for, contemporary women artists.
Their own collection includes photographic pioneers Catherine Opie, Carrie Mae Weems and Vivian Maier; painting prodigies Elizabeth Peyton, Mickalene Tomas and Cecily Brown; and multidisciplinary mavens like Dara Friedman and Jillian Mayer. With so many artists in the collection coming from so many different disciplines, it’s hard to pin down its core. But Horvitz offers a clue, noting that much of the work “is not easy” to digest. Many of the recent acquisitions are conceptual in nature, resulting in body of works that flout convention.
In that, they are distinctive, says Frances Trombly, a Miami-based fabric artist whose work Good and Horvitz have purchased. “I believe they collect what inspires them, not what the market tells them to collect,” she says.
The collection long has been influenced by Good’s own art practice. That, in turn, has been inspired and shaped by the artists she collects, she says. Good’s work spans the realms of photography and painting, and she has been featured in numerous exhibitions locally and nationally. This year, she was the subject of a solo show at the Hilliard University Art Museum in Lafayette, Louisiana, curated by Jane Hart, a South Florida-based independent curator.
The show, titled “Comus,” features a recent body of work that connects Good’s photography and painting practices. Many of the works combine scanned portraits from Good’s yearbooks and those of her late mother, and scans of her paintings that contain some of her mother’s costume jewelry. Hart says that Good’s willingness to push boundaries and work in multiple disciplines is what makes her work remarkable.
“What I think makes her stand out among artists is that she’s interested in experimentation beyond one single process,” says Hart.
An artist’s practice spills over into all aspects of life. Still, few live as intimately with art as Horvitz and Good. On any given day, they can view many of the 700 or so works they own.
A changing selection appears in their airy private home, where Horvitz and Good live with Lucky, Buddy and Bosco, all rescue dogs of mixed heritage. It was designed for the couple, whose four children are grown, by New York-based architect Deborah Berke Partners (whose founder is now dean of the Yale School of Architecture). Located on a Fort Lauderdale canal off Las Olas Boulevard, the house was designed to ensure there was enough wall space to highlight their art collection while incorporating the garden, water and light outside the massive windows. The result is invitingly tropical, a welcoming modern home that reflects the couple’s personalities.
Horvitz also works with the art; much of it hangs in the offices of SouthOcean Capital Partners, a private investment firm where Horvitz works as chairman. It is an unusual place for a display of more than 100 artworks, many of which are bracing and provoke strong reactions. Horvitz says that he gets the most pleasure out of the works when he sees the emotions they elicit from those who visit his office.
“The office is filled with art that is not traditionally seen in offices . . . People who work with me absolutely love it, and they get so excited when we rehang and bring something else. We have business people come through and they see this enormous Mickalene Tomas nude right by the front desk . . . their eyes get really big and they go ‘Wow!’ They appreciate that, and I appreciate that.”
But most importantly, their collection has been the heart of Girls’ Club, which is also home to Good’s studio.
The space has been a leading institution in the burgeoning Fort Lauderdale art scene, in part because it is one of the only alternative art spaces in the city tapping into the global art landscape, culling from an international roster of artists from the couple’s collection while also showcasing homegrown talents. Sarah Michelle Rupert, gallery director of Girls’ Club, attributes its success to the size of the institution, which adds a personal touch when compared to larger art organizations.
“I think some of its uniqueness comes from the fact that we are so small. Our connection with the audience is very personal. The three of us — Francie, Michelle [Weinberg, creative director of Girls’ Club] and myself — are giving tours, curating shows, directing with interns and fellows,” Rupert says.
Still, after 10 years in its Margi Nothard-designed space, Girls’ Club will move out in early 2017 — the building is being sold — and proceed with nomadic programming. The final exhibit at the space will be “Pink Noise: Flexing the Frequency,” an exhibition that will explore “the prevalence of the feminine association of the color pink in contemporary art and life.” It will close early next year.
Beginning this winter, Girls’ Club will organize a series of multidisciplinary public performance projects called OFFSITE with local artists Jen Clay, Vanessa Garcia, Jenny Larsson and Christina Pettersson. The institution will curate two shows on location: “Women Painting” at Miami Dade College’s Kendall Gallery and “Change Agents” at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood.
Girls’ Club’s transition from a brick-and-mortar institution to a roaming program is part of a larger effort by Horvitz and Good to bring the collection to new audiences. For example, the show at the MDC Kendall gallery will be the first time Girls’ Club has ventured into Miami-Dade County. By hosting the exhibition at the westernmost campus of the college in the city’s deep suburbs, the institution is serving an area where there has been a relative dearth of contemporary art exhibitions.
But while Girls’ Club’s nomadic programs will be temporary, Horvitz and Good are cementing their legacies in more permanent ways. Most significantly, they recently made a promised gift of more than 100 works to the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale. The promised gift is the core of an exhibition titled “Belief + Doubt: Selections from the Francie Bishop Good and David Horvitz Collection,” which highlights work by artists including conceptual portrait photographer Cindy Sherman, text- and photo-based artist Barbara Kruger and the late Cuban artist Ana Mendieta, known for her “earth-body” works in various media. The show runs through Dec. 10.
The promised gift is part of their continued philanthropy with the museum. Horvitz has served on the museum’s Board of Trustees since 2006, and since 2013 the David and Francie Horvitz Family Foundation has committed to $2.5 million in challenge grants to it.
The NSU Art Museum isn’t the only institution benefitting from a donation by the couple. Horvitz’s alma mater, Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, also will receive a selection of works. Between the two donations, their collection will shrink by roughly a third, to around 600 works. While some collectors would have bittersweet emotions after parting with so many works, Good says they are more than happy to see them find new homes.
“I was never one of those collectors who wanted to have their own museum,” she says. “I’m really excited to share them. I’m thrilled [to donate them]. They should move on. They should be enjoyed by other people. It should inspire other people, other artists, and other kids.”
This article was first published in the December issue of INDULGE magazine.
Through Jan. 22: “Belief + Doubt: Selections from the Francie Bishop Good and David Horvitz Collection,” at NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. nsuartmuseum.org; 954-525-5500.
Through early 2017: “Pink Noise: Flexing the Frequency,” at Girls’ Club, 117 NE Second St., Fort Lauderdale. girlsclubcollection.org; 954-828-9151.