Published: February 25, 2003
By Stephen May
WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. – In keeping with tradition, the seventh Palm Beach International Art & Antique Fair, January 30 to February 9, featured a dazzling and eclectic array of fine and decorative arts, as well as antiquities, furniture, jewelry, textiles and objets d’art. Dealers from all over the world offered an enticing and costly trove of wares that organizers estimated were worth over one billion dollars.
The bazaar opened at the International Pavilion with a vernissage to benefit the rapidly expanding, nearby Norton Museum of Art. Benefactors paid up to $5,000 per couple to attend the opening night festivities
Of the 50-odd dealers, 18 were from the United States; 24 from England; five from France; two from Belgium, and one each from Argentina, Austria, Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands. In spite of the downturn in the economy, dealers seemed cautiously optimistic about prospects for sales. Buyers certainly had top-of-the-line objects from which to choose.
Furniture, always a big attraction, was available in a broad mix of choices. London-based Adrian Alan, a specialist in Nineteenth Century European furniture and artwork, had one of the most spectacular booth entrances. Its centerpiece was a rare, colorful Flemish tortoiseshell and ebony cabinet of drawers, with wonderfully intricate details, dating to around 1680. Standing on a later carved, giltwood stand, it was priced at $130,000.
Flanking this ornate piece was a handsome pair of bronze mounted, marble sphinx created in France around 1860. Part muscular animal and part sexy woman, and measuring 38 by 24 by 61 inches, these two unusual decorative devices were for sale for $260,000.
Also hard to miss was Jean Lambert-Rucki’s dark-polished wood mask, circa 1941, in the booth of Jacques De Vos of rue Bonaparte in Paris. A combination of African art and cubism and mounted on a stand at least nine feet tall, it was priced at $95,000.
Galerie Atlan, also headquartered in Paris, offered a dizzying array of Eighteenth Century and First Empire furniture, as well as paintings and sculpture. A highlight was an intensely decorated Louis XVI mazarine chest of drawers, measuring 491/4 by 341/4 by 723/4 inches.
Quite a contrast was provided by the straight lines and unadorned appearance of a set of lemontree furniture sited front and center by Jackson’s, a Stockholm dealer. Consisting of a desk, two armchairs and a shelf, it was offered for $250,000.
Among American dealers, drawing a good deal of attention was the booth of Mary Helen McCoy Fine Antiques of Birmingham, Ala. McCoy had assembled an imposing display of Seventeenth to Nineteenth Century French provincial pieces and accessories, including a towering Louis XVI biblioteque (1774-1793), selling for $120,000.
Perhaps the oldest object on view, dating to the First Century AD, was a life-sized marble torso of the Diadoumenos. It once belonged to dancer Rudolf Nureyev. Ariadne Galleries of New York was asking $750,000 for this intriguing Roman copy of a fifth century BC Greek statue.
Jewelry was evident in great profusion in a number of booths, none more sparklingly than that of Richters of Palm Beach. With outlets in Atlanta, Maui and Nashville as well, this Worth Avenue specialist in antique and estate jewelry and gems displayed cases filled with diamonds, rubies and other precious stones.
There were a lot of glittering rdf_Descriptions, too, at Elise Abrams Antiques of Great Barrington, Mass., notably a silvered bronze and cut glass crystal centerpiece, circa 1890, signed Baccarat. Asking prices: $70,000. Abrams also featured a variety of appealing, hand painted plates.
For collectors of dinner and tea services, there were several interesting opportunities. One of the most fascinating was a 29-piece dinner service made in China, circa 1775, apparently for President John Adams and his wife Abigail. Each porcelain piece was decorated at the center with a large pink enamel rose within a floral border. A plate from the present service is in the White House Collection. This Qing dynasty dinner service was priced at $51,200 by Jorge Welsh Oriental Porcelain & Works of Art of London.
Also highly appealing was a Josef Hoffmann five-piece tea and coffee service, 1925, made in Vienna of hand wrought brass and gilding, with fruitwood handles. Displayed by Historical Design, a New York late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century fine and decorative arts dealer, this impressive Austrian set could be had for $115,000.
A rich display of antique Persian and Oriental carpets by Geoffrey A. Orley & Shabahang of Palm Beach and Bloomington Hills, Mich., was highlighted by a splendid Bakhtiari “Tree of Life,” circa 1900, carpet. This intricately designed, 193- by 232-inch work of art was offered for $375,000.
Wallpaper and map collectors found several specialists in their fields. The display of Carolle Thibaut-Pomerantz, a Manhattan and Parisian dealer in antique wallpaper panels and decorative arts, was highlighted by “Le Jardin d’Armide,” 1855, designed by Edouard Miller and printed by Jules Desfosse. Described as “one of the finest, if not the most important, Second Empire wallpaper décor,” it featured an architectural setting and colorful depictions of flowers and trees, with the statue of Armide at the center. This rare wallpaper décor, measuring 113 by 105 inches, was available for $95,000.
Charles Edwin Puckett, with his wife Teresa, brought a wide variety of early maps, medieval illuminated manuscripts and classical antiquities from their gallery in Akron, Ohio. Their offerings included leaves from a Fifteenth Century “Book of Hours” and a map of “Virginia” and “Florida” engraved in the Seventeenth Century in the Netherlands.
Visitors interested in antique arms, armor and related objects did well to make a beeline for the booth of Peter Finer of The Old Rectory in Ilmington, Warwickshire, England. Finer, looking every inch the staunch country collector, exhibited everything from swords, guns and suits of armor to portrait paintings. A curious, rare, metal German Jeseter’s Helmet, circa 1580, festooned with three bells, spirally twisted gilded ram’s horns and a gilded plume holder, and fitted with a hinged visor and broad moustache, was for sale for $78,000.
Galleries dealing in paintings and sculpture were particularly strong in American and French work, with some intriguing pieces emanating from such artistic outposts as Hungary and New Zealand.
Passers-by were drawn as if by magnet to “Escaping Nymph,” 1933, an audacious and unusual painting by Sandor A. Toth, a Hungarian-born artist who spent time in Paris. This striking 35- by 26-inch canvas, exhibited by Kieselbach Gallery of Budapest, was priced at $65,000.
Another riveting sight was the 119 inches long and 88 inches high green bronze sculpture, “Long Horizon,” by New Zealand sculptor Paul Dribble (born 1943). Occupying the entrance to the booth of London dealer Whitford Fine Art, it was offered for $120,000.
MacConnal-Mason Gallery, a venerable London dealer in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century European paintings, featured numerous attractive genre: country and animal depictions by British, Dutch and French artists. But the eyes of most visitors seemed drawn at least at first to an intense depiction of five disparate figures seated around a roulette table in a gambling den. An astute commentary on types of figures in French society, “Le Tripot,” 1883, was painted by Jean Eugene Buland (1852-1927), a Paris-born painter with a gift for precise detail, insightful faces and masterful compositions. This riveting painting was priced at $750,000.
A lot of works by Raoul Dufy, the prolific French artist, were visible in a number of galleries, including Frost & Reed of New York and London and Galerie Fabien Boulakia of Paris. Boulakia also had on hand some fine paintings by the likes of Georges Braque and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and an outstanding Jacques Lipchitz sculpture, “Seated Man with Guitar,” 1948, for which he was asking $600,000.
Among the French and Dutch art displayed by Nortman BV of Maastricht, the Netherlands, a standout was a small, superb still life by Gustave Caillebotte, “Nature Morte aux Pommes,” 1888. Its unusual price of $1,000,050 was reached in translating euros into dollars, a gallery representative explained.
Galerie Cazeau-Béraudiére, a Paris dealer in Impressionist and Modern Masters, featured a large, exuberant Pablo Picasso painting, “The Man with Sword,” 1969, behind a quintessential, elongated Alberto Giacometti bronze sculpture, cast in 1973. The Picasso was priced at $3 million, the Giacometti at $1.4 million.
A niche in the booth of Salis & Vertes, a Salzburg, Austria, dealer specializing in modern European art, was filled with fine works by Marc Chagall. Ranging in price from $200,000 to $950,000, they drew a steady stream of admirers.
Another gallery focusing on Twentieth Century work, M.F. Toninelli Art Moderne of Monaco, was proudly displaying works ranging from Francis Bacon to Marino Marini to Cy Twombly. The star was a beautiful, gleaming bronze by the incomparable Constantin Brancusi, “Princess X,” 1916, listed at a hefty $5.5 million.
The most expensive painting at the fair appeared to be a $12.5 million canvas by Joan Miro, “L’Oiseau Au Plumage Deploye Vole,” 1953. This color-filled, expressive work, flanked by a subtle Kandinsky and a Picasso cubist canvas, was displayed by Manhattan’s Acquavella Galleries.
Chicago dealer R.S. Johnson was pleased to be exhibiting a large and colorful cubist painting by Albert Gleizes, “Still-Life with Checkerboard,” 1924. Asking price: $265,000.
Irving Galleries of New York, whose interests include European and American painting, sculpture and photography, featured a wonderfully moulded bronze sculpture by Lithuanian-born, American émigré sculptor Lipchitz. “L’acrobat sur un Cheval,” 1914, created when the artist took up cubism while living in Paris, was for sale for $600,000.
Galleries devoted to American paintings and sculpture, especially from the first half of the Twentieth Century, had some of the strongest work at the fair. Two Manhattan dealers, Adelson Galleries and Berry-Hill Galleries, which consistently mount outstanding exhibitions in New York, led the way.
It was hard to know where to begin at Warren Adelson’s exhibit, which displayed standout paintings by Marsden Hartley, Childe Hassam, John Marin, Richard E. Miller and Georgia O’Keeffe (a $950,000 floral canvas), among others. The most interesting was a vibrantly hued, expressive early Hartley landscape of western Maine, “Hall of the Mountain King,” 1908. The price was $3.5 million. It would look good in the current Hartley retrospective at the Wadsworth Atheneum. Adelson also had two museum-quality Hassam oils on view, “Isles of Shoals, Appledore,” circa 1890, going for $850,000, and “An Isles of Shoals Day,” circa 1901, priced at $675,000.
Berry-Hill’s offerings included fine works by Milton Avery, Mary Cassatt, Frederick Frieseke, John Singer Sargent (an $8 million landscape) and Robert Vonnoh. There were two nice Cassatts of female children, a pastel ($1.5 million) and an oil ($4 million). The show-stopper here was a large, stunning and light-filled painting by Vonnoh, “The Ring,” 1892.
Another Manhattan dealer, Questroyal Fine Art, had an impressive exhibition of smallish American paintings, including canvases by Albert Bierstadt, Alfred T. Bricher, William Merritt Chase, Jasper Cropsey, Sanford Gifford, Thomas Moran and Francis Silva. The standout was an early Hassam painting of Paris, “Rue Madelein, Place de l’Opera,” 1988, selling for $495,000.
With a plethora of topnotch offerings in so many fields, this year’s Palm Beach International Art & Antique Fair continued its tradition of high standards. Fittingly, this prestigious showplace for international work was teeming with what appeared to be serious collectors.
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