Palm Beach 's AIFAF, An Instrumental Social Happening, Drew Throngs

It’s no secret that Palm Beach is the winter home to countless Newporters such as Jerry Bitting, Dodo Hamilton, Merrilyn Bardes,  Jay Serzan, and this year Phyllis Rogers, Ruth Orthwein, Susan Stautberg and Wylene Commander.  If reveling in the glittering social season is fun, many confess that there is so much to do here, there’s never enough time to do it all. Among favorite places frequented by the likes of Henry and Mary Flagler, Joan and Paris Singer, Goldie and Samuel Paley; the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Marjorie Merriweather Post, the Wanamakers, Munns and architect Addison Mizner, NewPalmers regularly attend scintillating lectures and events at the Society of the Four Arts, Preservation Society of Palm Beach, Norton Museum of Fine Art and the Flagler Museum, rich with Palm Beach history.


In addition, a major highlight of the Palm Beach social season is the important annual American International Fine Art Fair (AIFAF). This year the flower-bedecked event was held in the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, from February 3rd through the 12th, celebrating 16 consecutive years of record crowds.


Vehicle as sculptural art

The breathtaking exhibits are tightly vetted and brilliantly choreographed, a few very special ones absolutely magnetizing the admiring cognoscenti. Among them, there was a booth dedicated to the legacy of legendary artist-jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé. Under the guidance of his grandchildren, Tatiana and Sarah Fabergé, the firm’s Creative and Managing Director Katharina Flohr presented exquisite jewels and objects of today that clearly pay homage to those created for the Russian Royal Court. The collection included a new series of Faberge eggs based on the lavish Imperial Easter eggs of the Romanov dynasty.


In another area of the show, Lee Siegelson’s booth was all about Bling! Exhibiting a unique inventory of rare gems and jewelry, such as a 19th century diamond pendant necklace worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her 1953 coronation, and an awe-inspiring f aquamarine and ruby “belt with a buckle” necklace created in 1935 by Fulco Duke of Verdura for Paul Flato, Siegel’s presentation brought sophistication of his third generation estate jewelry business to the Fair and was directly tailored to the most discerning collectors. “This was the first year we exhibited in the show,” said spokesperson Sarah.


Innovative sculpture

“We are known for rare gemstones, jewelry and objet’s d’art. We have one of the most important collections of Cartier Art Deco collections on the market today, as well as contemporary designers and jewelry by Siegelson. Every piece has been fully researched as to design, maker and stones, and is absolutely authentic, significant and beautiful. These pieces have stood the test of time and are as desirable as they were 50 or more years ago. Our oldest piece dates from the 1800, but our real focus is from 1900 to 1950.”


Farther along, we paused at Hammer Galleries booth. Hammer Galleries originally rose to prominence exhibiting Russian icons such as works by Faberge, in the early 1930s. Today the gallery focuses on 19th and 20th century European Art and work by American Masters. Last year Hammer Galleries presented a major exhibition of the works of Pierre- Auguste Renoir. This year the focus was on selections from their exhibition: Modern Masters: Paris and Beyond, featuring works by Chagall, Dubuffet, Leger, Matisse,, Miro, Picasso and Van Dongen. We admired many canvases, including a 1950s oil-on-canvas in rich jewel tones by Marc Chagall, titled Le Pont Neuf.


The Palm Beach Convention Center transformed

If show attendees gazed at the vast and glistening collection of Georg Jensen silver in The Silver Fund’s booth, many appreciated the fact that they were admiring inventory from the largest worldwide dealer in estate Jensen silver. Others headed to Todd Merrill, 20th Century and Studio Contemporary, known as the source for the best American And European vintage furniture and contemporary artist produced decorative art. The third-generation dealer, who opened his business in 2000 quickly became known for a mix of American studio and custom furniture, as well as European furniture and lighting. Many patrons owned Merrill’s Rizzoli-published book: “Modern Americana: From High Craft to High Glam,” the first book to define the genre of Americana Studio and custom furniture of the post-war period. We were riveted by “Folly 2010, the large and intricate white porcelain installation that dominated one brightly painted marine-blue wall by artist Beth Katleman.


Ali Safyurtlu & designer Terry Van Lear

Interspersed among the American dealers, a coterie of British firms such as Waterhouse & Dodd (they also have a NY presence), Wick Antiques, owned by Charles Wallrock, Willow Gallery (specializes in English and European 19th and 20th century paintings), and Richard Green Gallery (international paintings of finest quality), dominated the show.

Fine instruments, rare books and classic cars also created their own brand of drama. Then, during several days of browsing, we enjoyed well-attended lectures by renowned authorities. Among highlights: “Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus,” delivered by Lloyd Dewitt of the Art Gallery of Ontario; “Faberge Then and Now” by Geza von Hapsburg, and “Recent Works by Andrew and Jamie Wyeth,” with Andrew Wyeth’s only and very lively granddaughter, Victoria Wyeth, illustrated why this very well-done show is a star.


This year, fine instruments joined fine art at the exhibition as Violin Advisor in association with Rare Violins of New York presented a collection of rare violins and stringed instruments. Violin Advisor Stewart Pollens is the former conservator of musical instruments for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and is the global authority on musical instruments, including restoration and maintenance of historic pieces.


Opening night party patrons


Another de rigeur stop was at Ariadne Galleries dramatically lit exhibit of ancient art and classical antiques. There, a team of experts three locations in New York, Paris and Munich led by Torkom Demirjian’s There, the undisputed show-stopper was the Torso of Aphrodite with Drapery, a Roman piece dating from the first to second century A.D.

                                                                            -- Marion Laffey Fox


A throng of art and antique lovers

Andy Warhol photographs

Sensational modern lighted sculpture

Young collectors

Steuben glass admired and considered

Glossy marble Roman Torso of Aphrodite with Drapery,

at Ariadne Galleries, dates from the First to Second Century AD.

The crouched stone figure from Ariadne Galleries was the AIFAF logo. 

Camille Pissarro's 1886,“Paysannes Ramassant des Herbes Eragne"

at Gladwell & Company


Oil on canvas by John Atkinson Grimshaw titled "Late Autumn" from

Haynes Fine Art of Broadway is the largest fine art dealer in the UK

Exquisite diamond, emrald  and ruby bracelet  from Lee Siegelson

Jeff R. Bridgman Antiques’ comprehensive American flag collection

drew hordes of collectors. President Theodore Roosevelt

is framed by a period flag

KM Fine Arts signature piece was a 59 by 70 oil on canvas by

Fernando Botero, painted in 2009, called The Whore House.

Mallett displayed a Fanciful glass chandelier featuring exquisite leaves

and flowers

The dramatic porcelain festooned wall by Beth Katleman,

titled "Folly 2010", dominated Todd Merrill’s booth.

Detail of Beth Katleman's "Folly 2010" at Todd Merrill

Newport Seen's Marion Laffey Fox on the art beat

 Images by Newport Seen & courtesy of AIFAF











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