By Sandra Schulman
Further expanding the way the arts are seen in West Palm Beach, a new artist-run space has opened in CityPlace that lets gallery goers interact in an up-close insider way.
Garala – a combination of the names of the three artists who run it – actually have studios in the elegant space and also exhibit the work is a bright, accessible way. The interactive artist-in-residency program features sculptures, pottery and beautifully crafted jewelry and portraiture. A resident Weimaraner dog adds to the vibe.
“We saw what was happening with the new Culture Lab in the former Macy’s space and then saw some available spaces in CityPlace, so we reached out to the owners at Related Group,” says Ray Gross, one of the artists in the co-op along with painter Laurent Dareau and jewelry designer Gabriele Kraus. “Over lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, they offered us this space and it came together very quickly. We all have plenty of work to exhibit and also space for a working studio.”
“We’ve all shown in various art fairs and local galleries,” says Dareau. “but this was an opportunity to do something of our own with direct contact to the public. It’s all about interaction.”
The name Garala came from combining the first two letters of each artist’s name – Gabriele, Ray and Laurent. (Ladies first.) All are Florida-based artists and gallerists with decades of experience, showing at top art fairs and creating pieces for influential collectors. The trio, who have previously shown their work through the same galleries, were inspired to create this new exhibition where they could engage the public as part of their artistic process.
Dareau has a buzzed about painting in the front window facing Rosemary Street of a Norman Rockwell-type painter making a portrait of a sitting pretty Michelle Obama – except he is painting Melania Trump. At the recent Art Palm Beach Fair, he exhibited with the ArtSynergy Collective; there was a line of people who wanted selfies with the painting and it was hotly discussed.
When asked what it really means, Dareau was ambiguous.
“What do you think it means?” he slyly asks, putting the question back on the viewer. The work came from a commission last year to paint various political and public figures, which led Dareau to think about how the artist approaches such a subject. Much of his work is about classic and pop art icons and how they interplay with culture and history. Walt Disney cartoon dogs hang out on the moon with MTV astronauts, giant rubber duckies sail the seven seas, Whistler’s mothers drinks a Corona. It’s all very clever and you don’t need an art degree to understand it — but it may help.
A gallerist and studio owner for more than 18 years, Gross focuses his artist work on hyper-realistic porcelain sculpture and paintings using a variety of mediums on wood surfaces. Giant tubes of paint and brushes are actually delicate painted and fired porcelain. Gross tells the story of how he began making them.
“I kept a small garage studio in Lake Worth. A woman in high heels and a leopard cape appeared, chauffeur-driven, in my driveway. She wanted to commission me to make her colorful 3-foot flowers. I was 22 and arrogantly told her ‘no’ … she responded, ‘then make me artist brushes. I did. I delivered them to Palm Beach in my rusty ’61 Chevy singer sewing machine truck. Much to my delight, she loved them.
“As I arranged them in two tall glass cylinders on her mantel, she turned to a woman typing behind a giant IBM asking, ‘How much did we pay the florist last year?’ The check she then wrote was big enough to buy a new truck, clay and a kiln. Her name was Enid Haupt (and) the artist brushes changed my life,” he said.
Haupt, who was the publisher of Seventeen magazine and an heir to the Annenberg media fortune, was a major philanthropist best-known for her contributions to horticulture, the arts and cancer research.
Kraus, a gallerist with over 30 years of experience in jewelry design, creates mixed-medium art and unique jewelry. She makes metal in unusual sculptural forms and fantastic (and affordable) necklaces of black leather cord that mimic barbed wire with freshwater pearls attached. She tries on a ring that can also be extended to become a bracelet.
Together, it’s an elegant display of various mediums with chandeliers, white couches and huge floral bouquets donated by Art Palm Beach. The studio areas are open and accessible with works in progress on display. The artists will curate the work of finished pieces including paintings, sculptures, silkscreen, and metal, every few weeks. They are also looking to do weekly events to keep the space vibrant and keep people coming back.
“Book signings, talks, films, fashion shows, we’re open to any and all types of things that are art-related,” Dareau says. “We own this, we’re busy creating and talking to people all day, something I never did working alone in my studio.”
Garala is slated to run through the summer.
For more information about Garala and upcoming events in the space, visit facebook.com/garalaart/ or www.cityplace.com/west-palm-beach-shopping/garala-art/.