Thursday, February 5, 2009

ArtBuzz: Fine art fair offers art, antiques -- and even some laughs

Aphrodite (Roman, 1st-2nd century A.D.),
for sale at the Numisart booth at the fine art fair.
(Photo by Katie Deits)

By Katie Deits

WEST PALM BEACH -- David and Lee Ann Lester have resumed ownership of the arts-and-antiques fair they founded in 1997, and the duly rena
med American International Fine Art Fair opened this week.

Tuesday was a $1,000-per-person benefit for the Norton Museum of Art, which offered attendees a chance to see and buy jewels and original works of art on display at the six-day event (which used to be called the Palm Beach International Art and Antique Fair).

The fair, at the Palm Beach County Convention
Center on Okeechobee Boulevard, has about 100 international dealers dealing in everything from paintings to sculpture, jewelry, textiles, books and manuscripts. Periods of art from antiquity to contemporary are covered, and there are lectures to hear as well as exhibits to visit.

On Wednesday, interior designer Mario Buatta spoke to a standing-room-only crowd that seemed to enjoy his charming and vivacious sense of humor as much as his decorating tips.

The Man
hattan-designer’s breezy style and humble manner belies the fact that he has decorated the homes for a long list of celebrities that includes Mariah Carey. He has even redecorated Blair House, the White House guest quarters where President Obama stayed just before his inauguration last month.

"I like dust," he quipped. "It's excellent coating for fine furniture, and after three or four years you don't even notice it."

Buatta said as a child, his parents' home was very modern, with austere colors, and he couldn't touch it, or sit comfortably on the furniture. So, rebelling against that restrictive atmosphere, his decorating style uses comfy furniture, vivid and cheerful colors, and lots and lots of chintz.

He's known, in fact, as the Prince of Chintz, and he offered some decorating tips to the audience:

* Group collections together, because it makes them look more important.
* Have your possessions tell a story.

* Collecting antiques gives your home a sense of history. (“You can make believe it was in your family,” he joked.)
* Use back-to-back sofas to create grouping and a sense of intimacy.
* Mirror the wall behind a sofa and hang a painting
over part of the mirror. “A mirror expands the wall and brings more light into the room — very important in small apartments, like in New York.”
* Avoid too many family photographs or photographs of yourself with celebrities.

Buatta also plugged the next issue of Architectural D
igest, which will feature a home in Juno Beach's Lost Tree Village that he decorated.

The main event of the fair, of course, is the exhibi
ts, and here are some that caught my eye:

Sundaram Tagore, with Hiroshi Senju's Iguacu.
(Photo by Katie Deits)

* Sundaram Tagore, president and curator of his galleries in New York, Beverly Hills and Hong Kong, talked about Iguacu, a 14-foot-wide painting by Japanese artist Hiroshi Senju. Using ground pigments mixed with animal-hide glue, the artist p
ours and flicks the mixture onto hand-screened Japanese rice paper creating a multi-layered effect that gives the appearance of falling water.

Emperor Akihito has commissioned Senju to create a painting for a temple, and his work is in museums such as the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. He also received an award at the 1995 Biennale di Venezia.

The work is powerful, drawing the viewer in to e
xperience and almost feel the mist of the water. It’s in the Sundaram Tagore Gallery in booth No. 114 — definitely worth a visit.

* Numisart Ancient Art (Booth 407), based in Munich, Germany, offers a fascinating array of Greek and Roman art — many museum-quality pieces, such as a Roman statuette of Aphrodite from the 1st to 2nd century A.D. According to the art dealers, Christian Niederhuber and Oliver Habel, this bronze has an interesting provenance, as it was in the collection of a famed Middle Eastern photographer.

You can snatch up this lovely 2,000-year-old br
onze maiden (seen at the top of this post) before a museum buys it for only $95,000.

* The 19th Century Shop (Booth No. 103) of Stevenson, Md., offers illuminated positives from the glass negatives of the pioneering American photographer Edward Curtis, renowned for his ethnographic work with the remaining American Indian tribes of the West. Curtis used a large-format camera, which means the photographs are finely detailed.

A photo by Roberto Edwards.

* Exhibiting in several booths is Palm Beach's Holden L
untz Gallery, which sold 14 photographs of painted bodies by Chilean photographer Roberto Edwards at the recent palmbeach3 contemporary art fair. Also featured at Holden Luntz are classic black-and-white photographs of many celebrities by masters of photography such as Horst and Alfred Eisenstaedt.

The American International Fine Art Fair runs through Sunday at the Palm Beach County Convention Center at 650 Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach. For more information, visit or call (239) 495-7293.

From left: Asia Oettli of Palm Beach Gardens, Peter Hardt,
the artist Nune, and Alan Najarian of Lake Worth, viewing the
ancient art on display from Peter Hardt Galerie.
(Photo by Katie Deits)

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