Palm Beach—America’s International Fine Art and Antique Fair

May 14, 2007

- Ferdinand Léger, The Summer. Collection of Desplas and Co. Ltd., London. Courtesy of Palm Beach Fair.This fair was one of the few that incor­po­rated rig­or­ous vet­ting require­ments for every exhibitor. Almost 100 of the world’s lead­ing deal­ers par­tic­i­pated, rep­re­sent­ing all the dis­ci­plines of art and antiques, from clas­si­cal antiq­uity to the present. The areas of art cov­ered included Greek, Roman and Egypt­ian, Asian, Old Mas­ters, Arms and Armor, Amer­i­can and Euro­pean 19th and 20th cen­tury fur­ni­ture, estate and cou­ture jew­elry, objects d’art, Pre-Columbian, tribal art and clas­sic and mod­ern works by more con­tem­po­rary masters.

The con­ser­v­a­tive tastes of the more con­ven­tional col­lec­tors are well known by the deal­ers who, accord­ingly, brought the works that would appeal, and appeal these selec­tions did. There were many, many red dots in the booths, each one indi­cat­ing yet another sale. In addi­tion, the deal­ers also attrib­uted some sales to the build­ing boom in this area, as new res­i­dents were eager to pur­chase fur­nish­ings and art and accessories.

The fair ran this past Feb­ru­ary, and was held at the Palm Beach Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in West Palm Beach, Florida. There I met many art deal­ers, col­lec­tors, inte­rior design­ers, museum pro­fes­sion­als and art experts, plus many phil­an­thropists who donate art and objects to muse­ums. Rumors of the high cal­iber of the offer­ings, plus the lure of the warm Florida weather, proved a win­ning com­bi­na­tion for the seri­ous buy­ers. Princess Michael of Kent was present along­side her crowd of Florida-based and inter­na­tional friends, which included the likes of Ivana Trump. These groups stand as exam­ples of the blue-blooded atten­dance at this fair. The princess even gave a fundrais­ing lec­ture on the topic of Marie Antoinette and was very suc­cess­ful in rais­ing some seri­ous cash.

The lec­ture series fea­tured, “In-Booth Sem­i­nars,” had large groups gath­ered many times a day at the var­i­ous deal­ers’ booths. In this series, each dealer spoke on his field of exper­tise and the par­tic­i­pants had the oppor­tu­nity to learn from them on a one-on-one level.

The deal­ers were very inter­na­tional, with a sur­pris­ingly large group from France and Eng­land, fol­lowed by Italy, Ger­many, the Nether­lands, Switzer­land, Bel­gium, Spain and Turkey. Deal­ers from across the United States were very well rep­re­sented in every area.

In his sec­ond year as Palm Beach direc­tor, Michael Mez­za­t­esta, the direc­tor emer­i­tus of the Duke Uni­ver­sity Museum of Art, has not only been the one to raise the vet­ting require­ments, but has also insti­tuted a pol­icy for the fair’s spon­sor­ship of museum pub­li­ca­tion grants to insure schol­ar­ship for the future. Mez­za­t­esta fur­ther devel­oped the spe­cial exhi­bi­tion sec­tion at the fair, which hap­pened to receive a good deal of media cov­er­age. This exhi­bi­tion cen­tered around a huge paint­ing of Marie Antoinette by Eliz­a­beth Vigee-Lebrun painted in 1788 from the New Orleans Museum of Art’s col­lec­tion. This painting’s inclu­sion and place of promi­nence was meant to high­light the need to aid the New Orleans Museum of Art in its fundrais­ing efforts to recover from Hur­ri­cane Kat­rina. Many other events took place in con­junc­tion with the fair to raise these much-needed funds. One such event was a won­der­ful lec­ture given by the direc­tor gen­eral of the Museum of the Chateau de Ver­sailles on the topic of the museum, and accom­pa­nied by a dis­play of the Chateau’s restoration.

The fair also had a national com­po­nent in terms of atten­dance since the regional co-chairmen of the fair fil­tered in from their respec­tive cities across the United States.

The many excel­lent Old Mas­ter paint­ings offered for sale by the deal­ers at the fair are the true hall­marks of the event and, since you don’t see Old Mas­ters in abun­dance in Florida very often, the buy­ers flock to see them here. Gal­leries like Moretti Gallery from Flo­rence, Italy, London’s Whit­field Gallery and Col­naghi Bern­heimer from Munich were just a few of the expert deal­ers fea­tur­ing them.  Later works by 19th cen­tury Euro­pean and Amer­i­can artists, includ­ing Bier­stadt, Rodin and Boucher, were prime exam­ples of that period.

Galerie Cazeau-Beraudiere from Paris, France, is an annual booth favorite. While there I saw two of the finest Sou­tine oil paint­ings that I had ever viewed, and right along­side an excep­tional, Sam Fran­cis oil paint­ing from 1957.

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