Published: February 28, 2023
Review & Photos by Z.G. Burnett
WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. – The Palm Beach Show greeted its 20th anniversary with 150 exhibitors at the Palm Beach County Convention Center during Presidents’ Day Weekend, opening with a VIP reception on February 16 through February 21. The Palm Beach Show is sponsored by Palm Beach Illustrated and Florida Design. The booths were evenly split between fine and contemporary art, decorative arts and jewelry. Red “sold” dots sprouted throughout the opening night festivities with about 4,000 collectors attending and about a 20 percent increase in ticket sales over the course of the fair. “Momentum from the VIP Opening Night Preview continued over the weekend with robust crowds that remained steady throughout the public show days,” shared Kelsi Monteith, executive director of communications for the Palm Beach Show Group. “We have received an immense amount of praise from exhibitors and patrons alike!”
Visitors were greeted by Gino Miles’ “Arches” installation, which was unveiled at the VIP opening. Fabricated from stainless steel, the shining sculpture’s giant curls stood at 10 feet high and 9 feet, 6 inches wide. Miles (American, b 1952) writes in his artist statement, “My work explores a deep, timeless aesthetic connection to the primal spirit of humanity. In minimalistic yet often monumental sculptures, I interweave references to science and natural phenomena with the passage of time. These works invite the viewer to look beyond the traditional constraints of form, composition and space into a deeper world of possibility.” The sculptures’ reflective surfaces absorb and blend with their surroundings, creating a unique experience for every viewer and exhibition space, causing the piece to “forever respond to its current reality.” Four smaller Miles sculptures faced “Arches,” raised on plinths and lining the show’s entryway, one of which had already sold by midday on Friday.
Upon entering the main exhibition space, one would be hard-pressed to decide which direction to take with the long rows of booths stretching across the convention center. Equipped with a thorough floor map provided by the show’s organizers, many clients shot off to their preferred dealers before exploring. Amenities were in abundance, with in-house shipping offered as well as freshly prepared concessions, a champagne bar and a coffee bar hosted by local brewer Oceana Coffee. No floor space was wasted; presiding over the tables nearby was Kim Simonsson’s “Giant: The Philosopher” presented by Jason Jacques Gallery, New York City, and Gallerie Fledermaus, Chicago. Simonsson (b 1974) is a Finnish ceramic sculptor whose “Moss People” series “leads the viewer into an imaginative, fairytale-like world inspired by the forests of his native Finland, folklore, the idea of apocalypse and the ambient hum of contemporary life – among other things.” Although the stoneware “Moss People” are mostly life-sized, the “Philosopher” stood at approximately 151 inches high and was crafted from polystyrene, nylon fiber, steel tube and polyurethane foam.
This display highlighted a recent innovation in exhibition design that has been appearing throughout arts and antiques shows of all levels: the inclusion of QR codes in object descriptions. Although invented by Japanese company Denso Wave in 1994, unique QR or “quick response” codes became ubiquitous as people readjusted to public life post-pandemic and were more aware of touching shared surfaces. Appearing on menus, informational posters and in museums, the majority of booths stocking primarily art and antiques showed at least one QR code that linked customers to their website for further information on more storied items. Other QR codes such as that, which was included on Simonsson’ piece, directed buyers to Palm Beach Show representatives. This created an expedited shopping experience for faster browsers, especially when dealers were deep in conversation with other visitors. What these codes overwhelmingly did not share was these objects’ prices, thereby preserving the human connection between serious buyers and sellers, at least for now.
For those who prefer the traditional gallery experience, Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts provided full descriptions for the Old Master paintings on display, some with bibliographies, cardstock reproductions of select works and the in-person attention of “Larry” Steigrad, himself. In this booth was another image of a child that represented a far different code of ethics than Simonsson’ “Philosopher.” Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp’s “Four-Year-Old Girl With a Cat and a Fish” displays puzzling iconography even for art of the Dutch Golden Age; the spotlessly-dressed young lady’s composure while restraining a feisty feline from a tasty fish represents the behavior expected not only of children, but of all good Dutch citizens when faced with temptation. Behind her is a courting couple with a castle far in the distance, promising the good things that come to those who wait. If the image seems familiar, the reader may have seen it as a recent meme that replicates a conversation between the artist and his subject who demands to be painted with her “favorite fish.” Steigrad was in on the joke, as his restorer sent it to him while working on the painting. “I had a good laugh about that,” he smiled.
The SebastiÃ¡n DeyÃ¡ Gallery, Princeton, Fla., bridged the technological gap with a newly discovered early work by François Boucher (French, 1703-1770) titled “The Surprise.” With a brief description on its gallery label, the accompanying QR code led customers to a detailed analysis. Also featuring an irate cat and referencing “the inherent treachery of all cats,” the painting’s message is unclear. Boucher often featured cats as indicators of a painting’s overall tone and in this image, it reflects the subjects’ disgruntlement and distress. Found in a state of undress, the woman holding the cat seems more bothered at being disturbed than revealed in her shift, and the description suggests that the subject may have been drawn from a yet unidentified work of literature.
Animals of all kinds could be spotted throughout the show, including in the prominent booth of Galerie Gmurzynska, New York City, where Prince Hussein Aga Khan presented his underwater photography series “Souls of the Sea” at the VIP opening. The proceeds from these works exclusively benefited Focused on Nature (FON), the mission of which is “to assist in the conservation and protection of threatened and endangered species, as well as habitat conservation efforts when and where possible.” Founded by the prince, 70 percent of his photography’s sales revenue went directly to “on-the-ground” conservation organizations, with the other 30 percent put towards funding FON’s operations. Galerie Gmurzynska also presented rarities such as a plaster cast of Pablo Picasso’s left hand made in 1937, a 1920 print by Constantin Brancusi and Marjorie Strider’s “Girl With White Rose,” which appeared on many of the Palm Beach Show’s publications. “Participating at the Palm Beach Show provides us with the once a year opportunity to be in touch with the collectors and museums of Southern Florida in an unpressured way,” said Mathias Rastorfer, chief executive officer and co-owner.
One of the most visually striking displays of photography appeared on the outside of the booth of Waterhouse & Dodd, New York City, which was filled with the large-scale “Hyperphotos” of French artist Jean-François Rauzier (b 1952). These are compositions of thousands of high-resolution views stitched together into a fantastical new image. Rauzier “strives to transform the world according to his dreams, wishes and anxieties, and to recreate the magic and secrecy of ancient legends and stories using Twenty-First Century media.” From May to July 2022, Rauzier was invited to a residency by the Fondation Claude Monet at Giverny, the artist’s historic home and gardens. The series that resulted from this experience coincides with the 150th anniversary of the Impressionist movement, beginning with Monet’s “Impression, soleil levant” of 1872.
Another large canvas was presented by Janice Paull, Greenville, Del., of an embroidered Meiji-era Japanese silk-on-silk hanging. Created for display, it would have been made by multiple artisans. According to the label, “the hanging is worked in long and short stitch, with glossy flat silk used for the birds’ wing feathers, for the petals and leaves of the peonies,” and the peonies’ stamens were rendered in knot stitches. Snowy white egrets took flight against a background couched in spirals of quilted silk. The hanging was featured in John E. Vollmer’s Re-envisioning Japan: Meiji Fine Art Textiles (2019), and had already sold by Friday morning.
Textile art was prevalent throughout the show, especially from artists who are not typically known for their work in this medium. Gladwell & Patterson, Knightsbridge, London, hung Pablo Picasso’s “La Serrure” on the exterior of its booth, a lockstitch tapestry showing abstract views of a lock, as described by the title and dated 1955. Picasso experimented with multiple mediums during his lifetime, each easily identified by his signature style. Another woven hanging by Joan Miró was mounted in a frame by Galerie Gmurzynska, titled Sobreteixim from 1960. Translated as “Overweave,” this piece was one of a series Miró created around this time that was his first experiment with textile assemblage.
Paul Vandekar and Deidre Healy of Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge, Downingtown, Penn., specialize in textile arts and ceramics, both of which were on full display in their space. The exterior wall of their booth was covered with British sailors’ woolworks, known as “Woolies,” that invited long inspection from many passers-by. Within their booth was a large collection of porcelain and ceramics that was welcoming. One piece that captured the attention of many showgoers was an oversized Rauk pottery sculpture of an apple by American ceramicist Renzo Faggioli. Healy shared on Friday that the show was off to a good start with a few new sales.
The booth of Justin Westbrook Antiques, Richmond, Va., was filled with opulent treasures that highlighted a utilitarian, but no less sculptural, Nineteenth Century French tub. Probably used for crushing grapes and winemaking, the tub was found in Avignon and big enough to fit two adults sitting down. Hand-hammered and painted in an appealing light green, the tub had a working drain in the bottom and could contain its own garden as a raised planter. This was Westbrook’s second time exhibiting at the Palm Beach Show and expertly summarized the experience, saying “It’s a marathon, not a sprint!”
Even in sunny Florida, exhibitors were eagerly awaiting spring and bringing the outdoors into their displays with stunning floral arrangements by Interior Concepts International of West Palm Beach, Fla. One exhibitor that embraced this service was Silver Art by D&R under the banner of Antique French Arts, Marseille, France. Lush greenery complemented its shining wares, especially a set of gold vermeil plates from Tétard Frères, circa 1903. These were decorated in Louis XVI style with a laurel leaf frieze around the plates’ rims.
M.S. Rau, New Orleans, La., brought one of many gleaming flatware sets in its stock, a 300-piece silver service for 12 by Tiffany & Co in the maker’s Winthrop pattern. Introduced in 1909, the pattern features Neoclassical laurel branches, fruit baskets and floral accents. The service was housed in its original fitted chest. Across from this was a curious panther figure rendered in Blue John, a semiprecious mineral of which few sculptures are known to exist. From M.S. Rau’s description, “The rare stone is a variety of natural calcium fluorite found exclusively in Derbyshire, England.” Blue John mining began in 1760 and was a popular accent stone in Georgian and Recency decorative arts. Due to the stone’s brittle nature, this panther would have been painstakingly hand-ground over a period of months. Dating from the late Eighteenth Century, the panther reflects the Georgian fascination with reviving classical themes of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East.
Another unusual sculpture was a plaster cast offered by Darnley Fine Art by Spanish artist Mariano Benlliure y Gil (1862-1947) of a youthful Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Never cast in bronze or marble, the hollow cast retained its original measuring nails and was colored to resemble terracotta. According to Darnley’s description, “Nails are visual tools that help sculptors achieve the correct dimensions for the sculpture…Once a plaster sculpture is completed, the dimensions are transferred from the plaster sculpture to the stone block with the pointing tool.” This process was perfected by Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822). Presenting this cast was special for Darnley, Adrien Pett explained, because the gallery’s location is across from Mozart’s London home in Cecil Court.
The Palm Beach Show remains the area’s only high-end showcase that offers the finest of every category in art, antiques and jewelry. The most prestigious cultural event of the season, it’s no wonder that the show continues to grow. By placing many periods, styles and movements side by side, the effect is a true wonderland of the finest goods concentrated in one place, and a long weekend is needed to view them all.
The Palm Beach County Convention Center is at 650 Okeechobee Boulevard. For information, 561-822-5440 or www.palmbeachshow.com.
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