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Art Fort Lauderdale hopes to rebound from a rough first year

Last year at the inaugural Art Fort Lauderdale, a chain of near disasters almost ruined Andrew Martineau and Evan Snow’s art fair along the New River.

The fair uses the city’s water taxis to shuttle fairgoers to multimillion-dollar mansions along the New River that have been turned into temporary art galleries. But the day before it began, Martineau recalls, organizers had sold just three tickets. On the fair’s opening day, Fort Lauderdale Water Taxis visited the wrong homes. And four art galleries that pledged to participate in the fair pulled out at the last second.

“We were panicking,” recalls Martineau, who says he drained his bank account to program the riverfront fair, which eventually sold 700 passes. “We were a work in progress, and things really got screwed up with the water taxi guys going the wrong way. But we got all the kinks out by the second half of the fair.”

After what Martineau calls a year of hard-won lessons, a bigger, retooled Art Fort Lauderdale will return Thursday, Jan. 25, through Sunday, Jan. 28, to five waterfront homes near Las Olas Boulevard. The homes will be stocked with contemporary art by 105 local artists and old masters, including Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Joan Miró.

Both the artworks and these estates are for sale (asking prices: between $2.5 million and $5 million, so start haggling). To reach these high-priced digs, passengers must board the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi at Bahia Mar Yachting Center. From there, visitors will set sail for the properties, which represent the fair’s five stops.

Martineau says Art Fort Lauderdale will now feature ArtAuto, a showcase of for-sale concept cars, including the $750,000 Italdesign Aztec. Another new stop is ArtsUnited, a collection of works by LGBT artists from the Fort Lauderdale nonprofit. Martineau says traveling by car to each luxury home isn’t allowed — the communities are gated, anyway — and street addresses are left vague on the Art Fort Lauderdale website to avoid security risks.

“I wanted a fair that couldn’t be duplicated somewhere else,” says Martineau, who expects 1,400 visitors this year. “I know we don’t have these huge art credentials like other Art Basel fairs, and I’m this guy that no one knows, for the most part. But we think art should be enjoyed in a relaxed setting, and this is a pure, artistic journey along the river with beautiful homes.”

Another stop, billed ArtIndie, will offer sculptures, photographs and paintings from some 50 South Florida artists in two mansions on Mola Avenue and in the Idylwild neighborhood. ArtDialogue, at the Bahia Mar Yachting Center, will feature a series of art- and business-related talks. ArtGallery, taking place at homes in Colee Hammock and on Barcelona Drive, will include works from Miami’s Tranter-Sinni Gallery. Patrons should plan to spend three to five hours on the water, Martineau says. The water taxis (there will be three) will loop every 30 minutes. Snacks, liquor and live music will be available at Bahia Mar and some of the homes.

Mona Tranter, the owner of Tranter-Sinni gallery, says she was aware of Martineau and Snow’s programming snafus last year, but liked Art Fort Lauderdale’s novel concept. She says Martineau told her that last year’s galleries pulled out because they were unwilling to take a chance on a first-year fair.

“I know they’re young and super new to the fair, but I liked their energy and optimism,” Tranter says. “One thing I’m noticing about the art world is how boring it’s getting. People want experiences now, and what they’re doing on the water sounds new and exciting.”

Art Fort Lauderdale will take place 3-8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25, noon-8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26 and Saturday, Jan. 27, and noon-6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 28, at the Bahia Mar Yachting Center, 801 Seabreeze Blvd. Admission costs $50-$60 for a one-day ticket, $160-$170 for festival pass. Call 954-361-4998 or go to ArtFtLauderdale.com.

pvalys@southflorida.com or 954-356-4364

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