Lifestyle,Artists

Florida Living Art Scene

By Heather Buchanan - June 26, 2021

The Next Generation Redefines Palm Beach’s Art Scene

Einstein Mural Art by Eduardo Kobra
Photo: Adrian Wilcox Photography

You might call it the Palm Beach pandemic perfect storm for art. Families had already been migrating from high tax states and inclement weather to Florida, lowering the demographic age of the island and bringing in more contemporary taste and a new generation of collectors. Add some big financial institutions like UBS and Bank of America setting up shop or Citadel Securities which created a trading floor at the Four Seasons for the winter and there was an even larger influx of cash to spend on art.

While Art Basel Miami was the hub for the hip art scene, galleries from New York and elsewhere this year established a presence in Palm Beach to bring a new infusion of artists to a clamoring market which was sheltering in Palm Beach and enjoying less Covid restrictions than other parts of the country.

Gallerist and art consultant Julie Keyes who is in both Palm Beach and the Hamptons said of the market, “Right now art has become a commodity on a different level than it has before. People are not just buying decorative art – they are buying investment pieces. They want to understand who created the art as well as the trajectory of the artist. People have become savvy that with the right art consultant you can spend the same amount of money as you do to decorate your house and it becomes an investment that pushes it forward.”

Keyes represents artist and sculptor Nathan Slate Joseph who has a studio in West Palm Beach. His dynamic, abstract compositions of galvanized steel are trending in Palm Beach including at The Breakers and a sculpture installation in Royal Poinciana Plaza.

With a strong base in both its real estate and auction house Sotheby’s also got in the gallery game with a new location in Royal Poinciana. David Schrader, Sotheby’s Global Head of Private Sales, commented, “We are incredibly excited to be opening a new gallery space in Palm Beach. This historic city has always been a popular destination for our clients, and with many of them staying longer-term under present circumstances, we’re thrilled to directly bring them a selection of fine art and luxury goods in a curated and shop-able setting, alongside our distinguished peers at Pace and Acquavella, creating a curated shopping experience for collectors of all tastes.”

Photo: Nathan Slate Joseph 

Both Royal Poinciana and Worth Avenue saw an influx of galleries including Paula Cooper, Lévy Gorvy, Adelson and Lehmann Maupin on either a temporary or permanent basis, creating gallery hopping strolls more reminiscent of Chelsea. Gallerists took advantage of the captive audience to deepen or develop new relationships with constantly rotating shows and group exhibits. 

Also noticeable was a move to more diversity and emerging artists. Sarah Gavlak of the Gavlak Gallery started the incredibly popular New Wave Art Weekend. New Wave’s mission is to foster a vital dialogue around diversity, inclusivity, immigration, and equal rights for women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ communities through public programs and by hosting an artist-in-residence program for emerging artists from marginalized communities. 

The Norton Museum after its $100 million dollar renovation and expansion from internationally acclaimed architect Lord Norman Foster also saw an uptick in its audience enjoying its permanent collection, special exhibits, sculpture garden and community favorite Art After Dark weekly programs with lectures, music, dance and film. The Norton launched RAW (Recognition of Art by Women), featuring the work of a living female painter or sculptor as well as the biennial, international Rudin Prize for Emerging Photographers in partnership with Beth Rudin DeWoody. Hope Alswang, Executive Director of the Norton Museum of Art, said, “We look forward to welcoming everyone to the revitalized Norton, which took years to create, and which we hope will inspire and delight for decades to come.” DeWoody also opened The Bunker Artspace in a former toy factory in West Palm Beach where she invites the public to view her impressive contemporary collection.

From a civic standpoint Palm Beach County has also committed to programs to support local emerging artists. The Cultural Council hosts exhibitions as well as artistic innovation fellowships and grants. Jennifer Sullivan, vice president of marketing and programs for the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County comments, “One of the reasons that The Palm Beaches is referred to as ‘Florida’s Cultural Capital’ is that we’re a destination with world-class art experiences — from museums to galleries, fairs to exhibitions, public art to murals. We’re really seeing a remarkable burst of energy this summer within the art scene from both residents and guests alike. People were craving the enrichment that art adds to their lives, and we’re pleased that there are so many opportunities to enjoy art in person.”

Some of the current exhibitions to enjoy include the Norton Museum of Art’s China For the Record: Celebrating Art by Women (through September 26) and For the Record: Celebrating Art by Women (through October 3), and the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s Vickie Pierre: Be My Herald of What’s to Come (through September 5). Also, from the Boca Raton Museum of Art, the world premiere of Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru opens October 16. More events and exhibitions from additional art venues can be found at www.palmbeachculture.com/events.” 

West Palm Beach Artist Ben Leone who also has a studio in Sag Harbor comments on the vibrancy of public art, noting Sybille Welter and ArtLife WPB. The organization believes in the power of public art to spark social involvement, creative connectivity, foster a positive future and contribute to an open and inclusive community discourse. Leone notes especially the amazing public sculpture at 360 Rosemary from world-renowned artist Yinka Shonibare.

Orchid Mandala I
Photo: Ben Leone

“I’m really excited where art is going in our community,” says Leone. “This year has shone a resilience and we’ve seen blue chip galleries come down as well.” Of his own artwork Leone says, “I grew up in an environment heavily influenced by construction and architecture. I like to use my hands to fabricate and push the boundary of the material and subject matter. I’ve been working with orchids and porcelain to create hanging wall sculptures. The work is titled ‘Orchid Mandala I’ and I intend for them to be meditative; a source of harmony, allowing you to focus your attention, connect back to our natural being and bring positivity and balance into your life. And what better symbol of Palm Beach than a tropical flower with a rich history.

While it is a destination popular for its warmth, it is fair to say that the art scene in Palm Beach is definitively “cool.”

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