By Myles Ludwig
At some point in the fifth hour of my three-day trip into the enchanted forests of Artlandia, standing in the aisles of great hall, I sensed a shiver of collective Stendhal syndrome, as if a powerful aesthetic spirit might levitate the Convention Center, drawing it up into the cerulean sky above the city of West Palm Beach.
The Palm Beach Jewelry, Art and Antique Show, which closes today, is that good. That magnetic.
Startling beauty surrounds, genius abounds. From the mini – an 18th-century silver baby’s rattle, delicately ringed with tiny bells, atop a handle of antibacterial coral and incorporating a nanny’s whistle by Hester Bateman, the first woman authorized to mark her silver in Great Britain, shown by Mariella Veronesi of Bologna’s Silver & Silver; a miniature suite of delicate orchestral inks on paper by Jean Dufy, displayed by the Galerie Jacques Bailly in Paris by Bailly himself, the world’s expert on the artist – to the monumental – a dancing hippo in a tutu by Bjorn Skaarup and a pair of gargantuan anthropomorphic figures fronting the entrance by Jim Rennert, both at the Cavalier Gallery in Palm Beach; and a relaxed bronze Damsel by Nigerian artist Ndami Okonkwo who studied at the University of Hawaii and Brigham Young University represented by Colm Rowan’s Fine Art of the UK, so comfy I was tempted to nestle into her commodious lap.
There was a massive Cleopatra and the infamous asp by the 19th-century Swedish artist Julius Kronberg shown by M.S. Rau Antiques of New Orleans, so imposing it demands a castle wall for proper appreciation; a massive magic golden carpet woven for the sultan of the Ottoman Empire’s Istanbul palace at Diamond Antique Oriental Rugs; and the brilliance of a tapestry fashioned for King Louis XVI at Boccara that shows textiles from antique to modern in Paris.
This is a stunning show.
Even the booth of Benjamin Steinitz who deals in an eclectic collection of rare furniture and objets d’art from the Renaissance to the 19th century in Paris is a work of art.
The charming Sloane Hemmer introduced me to the collection of Elayne Mordes and her late husband Marvin, who have created Whitespace, a 6,000-square-foot gallery in West Palm Beach, to exhibit and sell unique the unique work they have collected over the course of 30 years. She showed me a piece of “wearable art,” a clever bracelet of acrylic layered with images from art magazines by Jennifer Merchant.
At Cynthia Scott fine jewelry for gem aficionados, there are sensual curvilinear perfume bottles carved by Art Guyon of Sierra black feldspar and polka-dot jasper with stems of organic opal and crystal to enhance the finest boudoir; Debra Steidel showed her elegant, hand-thrown Art Nouveau-inspired porcelain clay vessels, glazed to a sheer crystalline perfection and shimmering with intricately made lids; Cliff Lee’s splendid smooth-as-silk Imperial yellow pots with slender necks and the wonderfully simple, sophisticated adornments of silver and stones and beads by partner Holly Lee; the drama of Patricia Robalino’s teardrop coral earrings set with micro-pavé diamonds.
The coral is from her grandfather’s collection and she is the third generation of her Ecuadorian master jewelers and located on Worth Avenue. And there are the sensitive golden twig necklaces and bracelets of Sam Shaw that pay homage to the natural environment.
Sculpture and jewelry are mixed in the beauty of Moroccan-Israeli artist Raphael Azran’s Klimt-inspired crafted bronzes inlaid with precious and semiprecious stones and his fine inlaid woodwork custom made in his West Palm Beach studio. He was kind enough to share a Godiva chocolate with me, from a box gifted by a happy client.
I loved the subtle gleaming black bronzes of Robert Hooke of Sag Harbor who sees the “stance” as his subject, whether of people or animals; the gaily polychromed animals of self-educated French artist Fonky-Two, whose aubergine rhinoceros gleans with amusement. He is represented by Franky Tirent’s Florida Prime Art in Hollywood; and the jolly glass cartoon characters executed with originality by the Berengo studio on the Venetian island of Murano.
Here are paintings galore, too. An exuberant Stella at Robert Ubillus-Adelman’s Masterworks Fine Art in Oakland, Calif.; fine French paintings by Max Carillier and ornate furniture at The Art of Time Gallery in Paris; the sweet and delicate pastel-and-charcoal of Louis Rouart and wife by Degas at Trinity House in the U.K.; works by Andrew and Jamie Wyeth; the remarkable precision of the tension between the languid and the dynamic by Linda Adair, shown by third-generation gallerista Alyssa Rehs of New York; a glowing Frieseke, The Rose Kimono – from the collection of Oprah Winfrey, presented at M.S. Rau; and, of course spirited Chagall and the deeply layered and aged work of Laurence Weidel at Gallery Y in Palm Beach that had the feeling of reliquary.
At Holden Luntz I was attracted to an enlargement of a strip of two shots from a contact sheet by Harry Benson showing those two key figures of bygone days – Andy and Bianca. Jaye Luntz, who supervises the new gallery on Worth Avenue, was delightful as she relayed her enthusiasm for the piece which shows Benson’s creative process. Of course, the enlarged Eastman was magnificent. I felt I could ascend the stairs of the photograph. And I enjoyed the wit of photographer Nathan Coe’s nudes in unexpected Palm Beach places and his smart digital double exposures displayed at the Fritz in Palm Beach.
For the sailor in you there were exciting pieces by 19th-century American artist James E. Buttersworth of the world’s first transatlantic yacht race in 1866 as well as many fine paintings of the China School at the Vallejo Gallery which the lovely Monica Vallejo showed me. For Americana cognoscenti, there was exceptional Native American art from the private collection of Palm Beach’s own Howard Russeck; fine illustrative popular art, particularly by the Hildebrandt brothers, Greg and Tim, at Zack Nation’s A Pop Culture Odyssey, and a fine collection of work at the self-effacing Roberto Freitas booth.
My only regret is that it, as exhilarating as it was, I had no stamina left to tour the craft show running at the same time.