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Feb. 11, 2011

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Worth Avenue is bustling, Madoff is a distant memory, and the temperature is a sunny 70 degrees. Itís Palm Beach, Fla., home of David and Lee Ann Lesterís American International Fine Art Fair, Feb. 5-13, 2011, at the spacious Palm Beach County Convention Center. Now in its 15th year, the fair draws top galleries, and partnered with the nearby Norton Gallery of Art for a special gala celebrating its 70th anniversary (with a preview evening sponsored by Black River Caviar -- you could do worse!).

Top-level participants include Graff, the London-based jeweler whose founder, Laurence Graff, is a big player in the contemporary art market; Mark Borghi Fine Art, the bi-coastal American art dealer known for his sophisticated selection of modern and contemporary artworks; Richard Green, the celebrated New Bond Street picture dealer; and the arms-and-armor expert Peter Finer from London.

Still more boldface names include Cohen & Cohen (Surrey), Michael Goedhuis (London, New York & Beijing), Mallett (New York & London), MacConnal Mason (London), Potterton Books (North Yorkshire, UK), the Silver Fund (San Francisco), and Waterhouse & Dodd (London).

As the fair enters its final weekend, dealers say that they already have plenty of sales on the books. "Sales are very good," David Lester told the Palm Beach Post. "The recession seems to be over."

The show is a little smaller this year, with about 65 galleries, down from more than 80 in 2010.

Hammer Galleries, which opened its new Park Avenue headquarters last year with a boffo show of portraits and other works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, has brought 20 examples of the emblematic Impressionistís works to AIFAF. Word is that the top price there is $9.5 million for Les Laveuses (1912).

Galerie Terminus from Munich has the fairís most visible spot next to the entrance, and has filled the booth with works by John Chamberlain, Allen Jones, Anish Kapoor, Gerhard Richter and other contemporary masters. The classic Richter abstraction from 1986, according to a report in Art Info, was priced at $2.9 million.

Other notable works include Austrian artist Gottfried Helnweinís mural-sized, super-realist paintings (done on photographs, though you couldnít tell), at Barry Friedman Ltd. of New York. His works, which premiered this fall at Friedmanís Chelsea outpost, sell in the low six-figure range.

Galerie Fabien Boulakia brought a range of works from Paris, including works by Claude Monet, Kees van Dongen and Fernando Boteroís seriously whimsical The Bathroom -- showing a substantial nude with a towel, sink and water-filled tub -- which is priced at $1.4 million.

A multi-day pass is $20 at the door (single-day visits are $15), and may be the fairís best bargain. In addition to four restaurants -- including the pleasant Center Court Cafť, as well as Love Sushi and the casual Americana Cafť -- the fair includes a comprehensive lineup of lectures, book-signings and other events. This weekend promises a "Collectors Roundtable" on American art on Saturday, and a panel on "The Curious Economics of Art" on Sunday.

Sometimes, itís just all about L.A. On Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011, Los Angeles sent a posse of top museum directors to New York to woo the East Coast press with a special lunch in the back room at Michaelís on West 55th Street. Among the speakers were Getty Trust interim CEO Deborah Marrow, Los Angeles County Museum of Art director Michael Govan and UCLA Hammer Museum director Annie Philbin.

The group migration to Michaels was all in the service of "Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980," an unprecedented local art-history project that includes more than 50 exhibitions at museums and art spaces across the region. Fueled by more than $10 million from the beneficent Getty Foundation, plus additional funding from Bank of America and innumerable private sources, it all starts in October 2011 and runs through Spring 2012.

For complete details, click here. But in the meantime, highlights of the art shows, listed here in chronological order, include:

* Santa Monica Museum of Art, "Beatrice Wood: Career Woman -- Drawings, Paintings, Vessels and Objects," Sept. 10, 2011-Jan. 7, 2012, includes more than 90 works by the celebrated Dadaist and California potter.

* Museum of Latin American Art, "MEX/LA: Mexican Modernism(s) in Los Angeles 1930-1985," Sept. 18, 2011-Jan. 29, 2012, begins with Mexican muralists and offers "an open-ended revisionist history of Mexican Modernism."

* Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, "Phenomenal: California Light and Space," Sept. 25, 2011-Jan. 22, 2012, features works by a dozen artists from Californiaís signature art movement, ranging from Peter Alexander and Larry Bell to Dewain Valentine and Douglas Wheeler.

* Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, "Los Angeles Goes Live: Exploring a Social history of Performance Art in Southern California 1970-1983," Sept. 28, 2011-Jan. 29, 2012, features re-stagings of historic performances, at LACE and additional sites.

* Craft and Folk Art Museum, "The Golden State of Craft: California 1960-1980," Sept. 25, 2011-Jan. 8, 2012, features 75 objects of both applied and non-functional artistry.

* J. Paul Getty Museum, "Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Paintings and Sculpture, 1945-1970," Oct. 1, 2011-Feb. 5, 2012, including nearly 50 artists in a show that is scheduled to travel to the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin.

* Hammer Museum, UCLA, "Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980," Oct. 1, 2011-Jan. 8, 2012, including works by a dozen artists -- from Melvin Edwards and David Hammons to Betye Saar and Charles White -- drawn from local collections.

* Los Angeles County Museum of Art, "California Design, 1930-1965: ĎLiving in a Modern Way,í" Oct. 1, 2011-Mar. 25, 2012, is the first major study of modern California design and includes more than 350 objects.

* Otis College of Art and Design, Ben Maltz Gallery, "Doiní It in Public: Feminism and Art at the Womanís Building," Oct. 1, 2011-Jan. 28, 2012, examines the celebrated art scene launched by Judy Chicago, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville and Arlene Raven in 1973.

* Norton Simon Museum of Art, "Proof: The Rise of Printmaking in Southern California," Oct. 1, 2011-Apr. 3, 2012, features works from the museum collection by John Altoon, Sam Francis, Ed Moses, Ed Ruscha, June Wayne and others.

* Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, "Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1982," Oct. 2, 2011-Feb. 13, 2012, surveys artistic creativity and nonconformity via works by 125 artists, organized by curator Paul Schimmel.

* Long Beach Museum of Art, "Exchange and Evolution: World Wide Video Long Beach 1974-1999, Oct. 7, 2011-Feb. 12, 2012, a survey of videos made by international visitors to the museumís facilities.

* Fowler Museum at UCLA, "Mapping Another L.A.: The Chicano Art Movement," Oct. 16, 2011-Feb. 26, 2012, surveys art spaces and art groups like the East Los Streetscapers, Los Four, Plaza de la Raza and SPARC.

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