By Molly Hamill
Palm Beach, Fl. – Someone says art, Florida, winter and you might think — Art Basel. But that’s not the Sunshine State’s only signature art event. Over 85 exhibitors from 21 countries were in attendance from January 21-25 at Art Palm Beach for an impressive show dedicated to contemporary, emerging and modern masters at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach.
While a winter storm battered the mid-Atlantic and East Coast states, a bustling crowd of creatives and collectors met for the 19th incarnation of the fair. Works by big names like Picasso, Leger and Calder were interwoven with a multitude of contemporary names working in a broad spectrum of mediums — glass, photography, paint, resin and paper, just to name a few. Complimenting the work on view was a variety of talks spanning themes from “Aboriginal Masters of the Australian Western Desert” to “Art of Central America: Overlooked an Undervalued.”
Sculpture was a strong suit. The massively voluptuous Botero, “Reclining Woman,” 1995, positioned at the fair’s entrance was a harbinger of the role sculpture and 3-dimensional pieces would play at Art Palm Beach this year.
Columbian artist Camilo Matiz made a statement with his work, “Take a Selfie, Fake a Life.” A single phrase written in white neon hung in front of black-framed mirrors, the reflection revealing a second sentiment. The punchy vision Matiz expressed with his installations felt current. It drew viewers in physically and elicited a few grins from those who stopped to see their own reflection in his work — and perhaps take a selfie.
“It’s about the duality of being a human being,” said Matiz’s representative and gallery owner Christopher Paschall. Matiz’s work, including, “You Are a Star/You Bastard” and “Believe You Can/Lie to Yourself” dominated the back wall of the fair.
Work by Italian artist Fidia Falaschetti was also hard to miss. Falaschetti’s sculpture takes culturally relevant iconography and breaks it apart. His deconstructed Donald Duck, “Donald Fuck (fusia),” constructed of resin and aluminum painted, presents the well-known Disney character with a gloved hand (middle finger up) where his head should be, the other hand holding up an iPhone. Bright, bossy and irreverent, Falaschetti’s work gets in your face and seems to shout: “Hey! You! Are you seeing this? What the hell is going on here?” Fabien Castanier Gallery (Los Angeles and Bogata, Columbia) brought the work and was new to the show this year.
Amidst the buzz, fair organizer Lee Ann Lester of Next Level Fairs spoke energetically about participation and turnout for this year’s fair. “I visited 19 fairs this year and decided to make big changes,” she said. With 50 percent new dealers, the fair (and the surrounding grounds — a new Hilton Hotel is going up next to the convention center) got something of a facelift.
And while fair organizers reported an increase in sales from last year’s numbers, others say they tend to take talk about sales with a grain of salt. Presenter Tom Sergott from New Mexico, got into dealing five years ago after a career as a plastic surgeon. “You can’t believe half of what you hear anyway. Have you seen the noses that come out after these fairs? Miami was awful for some of the satellites,” Sergott quipped with a Pinocchio reference, after just having made a sale himself from his Sergott Contemporary Art Alliance booth.
But little red dots, empty spots on booth walls and anecdotal evidence gave the impression pieces were indeed moving at Art Palm Beach. Bruce MacDonald of Havoc Gallery of Burlington, Vermont was happy to be back at the fair again this year, showing (and selling) his large, abraded, silver metal wall sculptures. His large, geometric and colorfully holographic patterns appealed to passers by.
“You know, they had exactly the right amount of wall space, and the price tag didn’t scare them,” MacDonald said. Bets are, he’ll be back for Art Palm Beach 2017.