Art fairs

Fifth annual artpalmbeach shows Florida as glass capital of the US

Collectors are buying for sun-drenched second homes


With Alan Greenspan bemoaning the nation's financial plight and millions still in shock from 11 September, the Floridian show organiser David Lester accurately took the pulse of the art market and his re-orchestration of the fifth annual artpalmbeach (held 10 to 15 January), spoke volumes about his brand of showmanship.

The fair was dramatically different from last year. Not returning were Marlborough, Barry Friedman, John Berggruen, Maeght and Fabien Boulakia. "People are looking for art for their second or third homes and $1 million pictures are not on their list," says Mr Lester, who stocked this fair with slightly less expensive dealers such as Hollis Taggart and Blue Gallery and counselled dealers to bring examples priced at under $300,000. Five top glass dealers came (and six more had to be turned away), confirming the Sunshine State's ascendancy as the glass capital of the nation.

The combination of top glass and blue chip names at moderate prices made for a surprising level of success, considerably higher than last year’s fair. Attendance was more than 20,000 and on Sunday, some 6,000 jammed the aisles. Last year, a scant several hundred filled the opening night but this time, more than 1,000 mobbed the tent. "The clients were at the level of Lester's Art & Antique's Fair," said Michael Goedhuis.

Robert Fisko of New York's Forum Gallery, who scored a number of sales by Saturday saw 60 people he knew. "There is no permanent cultural scene in Florida, so fairs with pre-selected art are enticing," he said. First time participant New York private dealer Donna Schneier sold a William Morris handblown and sculpted "Rhyton" for $95,000; a Toots Zynsky fused bowl in day glo colours for $16,500, a Ron Nagle vessel and a Chihuly on the opening night. By Saturday, Holsten Gallery had sold eight Lino Tagliapietra ridged and striated vessels in reticinno at $30,000-40,000 a pop. By Saturday, he had also sold a glass installation,"Masai", of 23 glass shields for $135,000 to a Florida collector. Dealer Jim Schantz flew the 64-year-old Venetian artist over to charm collectors and clearly, that worked wonders.

Paintings and sculpture, too were favoured. London dealer Leslie Waddington sold two Barry Flanagan bronzes, a man on a horse and a 1981 elephant which had been exhibited at the Tate and the Centre Pompidou along with an anorexic-looking Mimmo Paladino bronze horse and a Matisse drawing from 1944. Theo Waddington, who now has a gallery in nearby Boca, sold both figurative and abstract works, including a Jim Dine. Jim Goodman sold a Calder stabile/mobile.

Underscoring the importance of the decorative arts in Florida, Hollis Taggart Gallery sold two pieces by the late artist Max Kuehne: a screen and small table in gessoed wood with silver leaf for a total of $70,000 to an Oklahoma resident who is building a second home here.

Textiles also sparked interest. A Santa Fe dealer sold late 19th-century Congo bark cloth as well as an Inco mantle from 200 AD for $35,000.

The weekend before, 4-8 January, ArtMiami 2002 was in full swing and some dealers at the Palm Beach event also showed up for that fair. Berkeley Square's Peter Osborne reported selling Australian aborigine art at $15,000 a piece. "If you had something original, there was business to be done," says Mr Osborne of the fair he has participated in for 10 solid years. New York dealer Mary-Anne Martin, who took Latin American paintings, racked up sales including an Isabel Toledo glass sculpture, a Diego Rivera watercolour and a Gonzalez Fonseca sculpture to Floridian and Swiss clients. For New York dealer Nancy Hoffman, the Miami show was her first fair since 9/11. "We have to think of these two fairs as chapter one and chapter two," says Ms Hoffman. Potential clients in Miami told her they would return for a second look in Palm Beach and they did. She made sales at both fairs.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Florida is glass capital of the US'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 122 February 2002