Sunday, February 6, 2011

Art feature: Fine art fair draws different kind of crowd to Convention Center

Patrons of the American International Fine Art Fair
gather near the bar.‭
‬(Photo by Jenifer M.‭ ‬Vogt‭)

By Jenifer M.‭ ‬Vogt

It’s remarkable.

In a few short weeks,‭ ‬International Fine Art Expositions‭ (‬IFAE‭) ‬has transformed the Palm Beach County Convention Center from an über-cool,‭ ‬contemporary art warehouse that housed their Art Palm Beach fair‭ ‬into a refined country-manor home for the current American International Fine Art Fair‭ (‬AIFAF‭)‬.

At the entrance,‭ ‬a four-spout fountain sits,‭ ‬surrounded by plush greenery and a few delicate pink flowers.‭ ‬The polished concrete floors have been replaced by plush carpeting.‭ ‬Subdued track lights have replaced bright overhead lights.‭ ‬White-cube exhibit booths have been Martha Stewart-ized with alternating Wedgewood blue,‭ ‬vermillion red,‭ ‬steel gray and buttercream walls accentuated by white molding.

The convention center leapt from MOMA to Met‭ — ‬while we were sleeping.

The crowd seems to have changed as well.‭ ‬Rather than Latin accents,‭ ‬one now hears plenty of British and French ones.‭ ‬Women have gone from wearing silver Prada to pink Pulitzer.‭ ‬The young and trendy have been replaced by mature bluebloods.‭ ‬Even the parking lot has gone from BMW to Bentley.

The art is different,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬for the most part.‭ ‬Abstract paintings have been replaced by plenty of serene landscapes with ornate,‭ ‬gold-gilt frames.‭ ‬Marie Antoinette is no longer walking among us,‭ ‬though she can be seen in some of the works on display.‭ ‬There are now also antiques,‭ ‬ceramics and rare books.‭ ‬And the bada-bling has gone up a notch with the participation of high-end jewelers such as Graff,‭ ‬Scavia and Buccellatti.‭

Confidence Dans le Paysage Bleu‭ (‬1979‭)‬,‭ ‬by Marc Chagall.‭
(‬Photo by Jenifer M.‭ ‬Vogt‭)

In this genteel environment,‭ ‬one might almost forget that,‭ ‬for-the-pure-love-of-art notwithstanding,‭ ‬the AIFAF,‭ ‬which will be at the convention center through next Sunday,‭ ‬Feb.‭ ‬13,‭ ‬is about‭ ‬selling.‭ ‬Yes,‭ ‬all of these beautiful people are here to buy and sell art,‭ ‬which is a relatively stable commodity right now.‭

The art market,‭ ‬unlike other sectors of the economy,‭ ‬has held,‭ ‬despite the precarious economy and post-Madoff private-collector decommissioning.‭ ‬Most buyers believe,‭ ‬along with William Gaddis,‭ ‬that‭ “‬a work of Art redeems time.‭ ‬And buying it redeems money.‭”

The market for contemporary art,‭ ‬illustrated by last year’s Art Basel Miami Beach,‭ ‬seems to be bursting at the seams,‭ ‬but the tastes at AIFAF tend to more conservative genres.

Art dealer Howard Rehs.‭ ‬
(Photo by Jenifer M.‭ ‬Vogt‭)

“I deal mostly in‭ ‬19th-century and some contemporary realism.‭ ‬Our clients are successful and busy,‭” ‬said Howard Rehs,‭ ‬a third-generation New York dealer and owner of the Rehs Gallery.‭ “‬At the end of the day,‭ ‬they’re looking for something relaxing and calming to look at.‭ ‬They prefer figurative or landscape to abstraction.‭”

Moving throughout the fair,‭ ‬one could see that these traditional tastes transfer to more contemporary mediums,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬as demonstrated in works by photographer John Dugdale,‭ ‬who was on hand at the Holden Luntz Gallery booth.‭ ‬Dugdale is blind and was accompanied by an affectionate companion,‭ ‬a golden lab named Henley,‭ ‬who gently nuzzled up to visitor’s ankles.‭ ‬The artist’s studio is located in the Catskills,‭ ‬which may explain why his photographic work demonstrates the same glow that is seen in many Hudson River School landscapes.‭

Dugdale explained that he sees his work‭ “‬in my heart.‭”

Holden and Jodi Luntz of Palm Beach
with artist John Dugdale and Henley.‭ ‬
(Photo by Jenifer M.‭ ‬Vogt‭)

“I just recently lost the sight that I did have.‭ ‬But I have these images in my memory bank,‭” ‬he said.‭ ‬Of the Catskills light,‭ ‬he noted,‭ “‬It’s so lovely.‭ ‬You can’t get away from that golden light.‭ ‬It’s pervasive.‭”

That golden light was evident in many works throughout the fair,‭ ‬but strikingly evident in a very large landscape painting taking up the entire wall at‭ ‬New York’s Alexander Gallery Booth.‭ ‬Laurel Acevedo,‭ ‬who owns the gallery with her husband,‭ ‬stood in front of the work,‭ ‬The New World‭ ‬by Baron Jean Antoine Théodore Gudin,‭ ‬explaining its provenance and significance while engaging two private collectors.

Though Gudin worked at the same time as the Hudson River School painters he was not a part of the movement and worked mostly in Europe,‭ ‬though Acevedo noted that‭ “‬he inspired Frederick Church.‭” ‬One could easily see the influence.

‭“‬It’s a rare work to see because Gudin,‭ ‬though American,‭ ‬existed mostly in national collections in‭ ‬Europe.‭ ‬He was employed by two kings of France.‭ ‬This work was in the collection of a former secretary of state,‭” ‬she said.

Some of the fair’s galleries crammed work into their booth space.‭ ‬Others presented work in a thought-out manner,‭ ‬such as the‭ ‬Renoir and Friends exhibit in New York’s Hammer Galleries booth.‭ ‬Though all the works are for sale,‭ ‬they’re presented in a curated exhibit,‭ ‬with accompanying catalog,‭ ‬something you don’t always see in an art-fair setting.‭

The‭ ‬Renoir and Friends exhibit at NYC‭’‬s Hammer Galleries.‭
(Photo by Jenifer M.‭ ‬Vogt‭)

Hammer’s president,‭ ‬Howard Shaw,‭ ‬explained that the gallery has a history of presenting one-man exhibitions of Renoir’s works,‭ ‬having done so in both‭ ‬1959‭ ‬and in‭ ‬1984.‭ ‬Because the Hammer Galleries recently relocated,‭ ‬the show wasn’t seen in‭ ‬New York,‭ ‬and Shaw chose to preview it here at AIFAF,‭ ‬a treat for visitors who will see works that illustrate Renoir’s influence on other great artists.‭

“While Renoir doesn’t fit neatly into the history of modernism because in his late work,‭ ‬he looked toward the old masters—whereas artists such as Monet and Pissarro embraced modernism—you wouldn’t be able to appreciate Matisse’s odalisques or Picasso’s nudes without understanding Renoir’s influence on them,‭” ‬Shaw said.

While the majority of fine art offerings at AIFAF are geared towards‭ ‬19th-century figurative and landscape artists,‭ ‬there are a few galleries that present some modder offerings,‭ ‬such as Palm Beach’s Arcature Gallery and Miami’s Rudolf‭ ‬Budja Galerie.

And moving from art to look at,‭ ‬to art that you can wear,‭ ‬Scavia displays jewelry-as-art in original,‭ ‬elegant floral settings.‭ ‬The Graff booth is guarded by two tall,‭ ‬young models bedecked in evening gowns and jewels.‭ ‬And Buccellatti has what seems to be a tongue-in-cheek‭ “‬hear no evil,‭ ‬speak no evil,‭ ‬see no evil‭” ‬three-monkey statue greeting visitors to its booth.

Complementing the dealers and their offerings,‭ ‬AIFAF is providing a robust program of lectures that brings scholars,‭ ‬artists and specialists to the lectern to discuss a range of topics.‭ ‬Those that collect and those that merely admire have the opportunity to both increase their knowledge and rub elbows with great art,‭ ‬all in an environment created with every detail intended for the uplifting pleasure of celebrating aesthetics and inspiring awe.

Jenifer‭ ‬Mangione Vogt is a marketing communications professional and resident of‭ ‬Boca Raton.‭ ‬She’s been enamored with painting for‭ ‬most of her life.‭ ‬She studied art history and‭ ‬received her B.A.‭ ‬from Purchase College.

The‭ ‬American International Fine Art Fair‭ (‬AIFAF‭)runs through Feb.‭ ‬13‭ ‬at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.‭ ‬Hours are noon to‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬daily through Saturday‭; ‬noon to‭ ‬6‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday,‭ ‬Feb.‭ ‬13.‭ ‬Admission is‭ ‬$10‭ ‬in advance,‭ ‬or‭ ‬$15‭ ‬at the door,‭ ‬for a one-day pass‭; ‬$35‭ ‬for a one-day pass with catalog‭; ‬$15‭ ‬in advance,‭ ‬or‭ ‬$20‭ ‬at the door,‭ ‬for a multi-day pass‭; ‬$45‭ ‬for a multi-day pass with catalog.‭ ‬Student admission is‭ ‬$10.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬visit‭ ‬

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