It’s high season in Palm Beach, Florida, where, for years, I had heard my summer neighbors on Nantucket winter away their woes. This year, I took it upon myself to explore what all the ado was about in this gorgeous corner of our country. (Having spent so many years in Europe, I do love emphasizing the ‘our country’ part.) Winter months are when an art fair (nearly) every week keeps Palm Beach-based or -bound collectors on their perfectly manicured and aesthetically alert toes.
My visit to Art Palm Beach, last week, led to a, shall we say, less than enthusiastic response. So, I was going to hold out until next weekend when Palm Beach Jewelry, Art and Antique Show is scheduled to take place. Aside from encouragement from several local islander – those who live on Palm Beach island rather than in West Palm Beach – residents, I was seduced by the inclusion of the image of an antique armor on the fair’s poster.
In addition to antique jewelry, I have always had a weakness for exquisitely crafted arms and armor with exceptional historic pedigree. How could I resist the dramatic Medievalesque romance of antique jewels and armors under the same tent – well, not really a tent but the idea is intriguing – that await me in the spirit of Saint Valentine’s Day?
I cannot think of many other dealers other than Peter Finer of London who offer a more fabulously seductive historical collection of arms and armors. As it happens, it was indeed one of Finer’s helmeted knights that graces next weekend’s fair’s poster. In any case, it turned out that Finer and his son also opened, if you will, the American International Fine Art Fair: they were given the first booth to the right of the entrance at the fair’s main exhibition hall in the Palm Beach Civic Convention Centre.
It also happens that a number of other dealers – mainly from London – are exhibiting their collections at both events: American International Fine Art Fair (Feb. 5-10) and Palm Beach Jewelry, Art and Antique Show (Feb 15-19). I asked Jason Laskey of The Silver Fund (London), why he and other European dealers have chosen to present their collections at both fairs. He responded, “Firstly, the cost of shipping objects to the United States is extremely high hence if we can extend our stay in the area by several days, it’s well worth our time and budget. Secondly, the two fairs are quite different: this one (AIFAF) is much more spacious since there are fewer dealers. The one next week, includes many jewelry exhibitors hence the focus of the collectors who attend it are quite different, as well.” Laskey continued, “Personally, I would stay a month in Palm Beach if I could; the weather is glorious.” ‘Tis indeed. Palm Beach, in fact, Florida, is where people complain about miserable weather when the temperature falls down to 60+ F and the sky is partially cloudy.
In any event, not unlike the Hamptons (NY) where, by last count, there were at least three (contemporary) art fairs during the area’s very short (summer) season, Palm Beach has become the place where fairs come to test their competitive strength and longevity. The question remains, are there really enough buyers/ investors/ collectors/ patrons – four very distinct categories of those who purchase art – who come through this Floridian haven to render the organization of these consecutive events sustainable? Or, frankly, are there enough good dealers who wish, and can afford, to spend a week in this expensive city – with a hotel suite full of staff, and safe & affordable storage space?
So, after all, why did I cross the state (from Sarasota), again, to come to Palm Beach? In case you missed one of my last posts, I have been eager to attend a fund-raiser organized courtesy of a friend’s foundation: American Friends of British Art (see my post from last week, here) which hosted a lecture and luncheon with Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill at The Colony Hotel. (More on AFBA’s 10th anniversary lecture, later this week…)
The 17th edition of the American International Fine Art Fair, actually, turned out to be quite delightful. I would even say that it was a civilized affair due to its fairly small size. With 49 exhibitors, dealers had much more time to attend to collectors’ queries… hence very few buyers were sharp elbowed, along the way.
Be still, my beating heart for another ‘round of Antique Jewels, Arms & Armors… Our date, in Palm Beach, next weekend @ Palm Beach Jewelry, Art and Antique Show.