We are all aware that Miami experiences its annual December celebration of high life and hysteria, and transmogrifies into the temporary center of the world’s art market during the highfalutin Art Basel week, but I want to announce here that its sometimes rarified neighbor to the north is also witnessing a burgeoning art scene. And it isn’t just for the Lily Pulitzer set with their omnipresent polo sculptures and distinguished family portraits.
Starting November 30, just before Miami’s Art Basel, Palm Beach is holding its first ‘New Wave Art Wknd’, bringing in all the top local collectors, artists, curators and gallery folk. Conceived by Palm Beach and Los Angeles gallery owner Sarah Gavlak, oft-cited for her focus on women and LGBTQ artists, there will be seminars, dinners and such major collectors as Beth Rudin DeWoody, Jane Holzer, Ann Tenenbaum, Lisa and Richard Perry, and John and Amy Phelan offering private tours of their notable collections.
Last winter, Beth Rudin DeWoody opened her extraordinary artspace, The Bunker, a 20,000 square foot former Art Deco munitions factory in West Palm Beach, to showcase a rotating inventory of the 10,000 or so highly original, highly personal, and often amusing works of contemporary and modern art that she has long collected. Beth is considered one of the world’s major collectors and is also a longtime board member at the Whitney Museum. She is married to the esteemed photographer Firooz Zahedi. whom you know from all those table top books and striking ‘Vanity Fair’ images.
The day after Thanksgiving, just past the start of Palm Beach’s busy social season, when most of the snowbirds had already flocked south, I had the opportunity to attend the opening of Wendy Fritz’ Fritz Gallery on Royal Poinciana, probably the handsomest gallery Palm Beach has ever experienced, an enormous soaring ceilinged space with an antique ‘Phantom of the Opera’ type crystal chandelier breaking the capacious white box. The Asia-influenced multimedia artist Mira Lehr, whose work has been exhibited at the New Museum, the Smithsonian, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami, and the Getty, has earned her solo opening show. Described as an eco-feminist, Lehr’s exhibition, on view through January 2, is focuses on seeking a solution to decimated aquatic systems. But trust me, Lehr’s art also looks beautiful. Other local dealers were at Fritz to see the stunning new space, including West Palm’s Paul Fisher and Wellington’s Jean Chisholm. The gallerist’s mother, artist Donna Long (sister of Gordon Getty) and jazz chanteuse and disco diva Asha Puthli were striking guests at the opening. Lehr’s show will be followed by the latest work from the esteemed collage and assemblage artist Bruce Helander, the doyen of Palm Beach’s art scene, whose work is in fifty permanent museum collections. Helander’s talented and leggy Colombian wife, Claudia Helander, has cultivated another artform, majestic living art at the Esplanade on Worth Avenue, walls sprouting framed air plants, succulents and florals.
The Helander show at Fritz will be followed by the impressive and often massive scaled and stunning abstract expressionist paintings by South Florida artist J. Steven Manolis, a former Salomon Brothers partner turned veteran of three solo museum shows.
And the Palm Beach vicinity is attracting artists as new residents including the lyrical painter Judi Regal, formerly Chicago-based.
Noted for her soft focus landscapes and depictions of nature, Elizabeth Thompson, of both New York and Delray Beach, which neighbors Palm Beach, is presenting forty years of her painting at the Coral Springs Museum of Art, south of Palm Beach. The opening artist reception will be held on December 6. And Michael Bloomberg, through his Bloomberg Philanthropies, has made a major donation to the City of Coral Springs in partnership with the nearby City of Parkland, the sight of the Stoneman Douglas shootings, in order to enable the Coral Springs Museum of Art to develop public art focusing on healing after gun violence.
And while the Palm Beaches with their many galleries, some new and some long established, may seem small when compared to Miami, it is always a positive surprise to watch the outstanding work being created in the area, especially when the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County presents its showings of local artists.
And West Palm Beach now has a mini Wynwood of its own, the vibrant young Northwood Village, designated an art district. So far, though, Northwood Village is not chockablock with the graffiti-like murals that adorn Miami’s buzzy art neighborhood.
Palm Beach’s classic (and contemporary) standout Norton Museum of Art is presently closed. But it is expanding, expanding, expanding, and will be reopening in February.
And of course I’m not saying you shouldn’t also visit Miami Beach and its world renowned Art Basel, just that there’s a new and concurrent and more tranquil art world to explore nearby. And the super quick and clean Brightline train can deliver you between Miami and West Palm Beach in little more than an hour. (And if you just happen to be in Miami, even after Art Basel, I urge you to please visit Martin Margulies collection at The Warehouse in Wynwood. His new Anselm Keifers are astounding.)
Fritz Gallery Opening, Palm Beach
“Tracing the Red Thread”, Mira Lehr Solo Exhibition, Fritz Gallery, Palm Beach