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AIFAF Palm Beach


by Brook S. Mason
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Sixteen years ago, David Lester pitched a grand $500,000 tent in a forlorn area of Palm Beach and reined in international dealers like Sam Fogg of London and Steinitz of Paris. Since then, the fair has changed considerably.

The 16th version of American International Fine Art Fair, Feb. 3-12, 2012, is being held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, and emphasizes design more than ever. A total of 3,800 visitors took in the vernissage, compared to 4,500 last year.

“My goal is to incorporate a PAD-like format and have this be the Palm Beach Art and Design Fair,” said Lester, referring to French fair organizer Patrick Perrin’s Pavilion of Art & Design, which was staged at the Park Avenue Armory last November.

To that end, Todd Merrill was in the Palm Beach fair with Folly, an installation by New York ceramic sculptor Beth Katleman, her personal rendering of the French Toile de Jouy fabric with kitsch porcelain figures on an Asian theme. Merrill just completed a deal for the installation, which had debuted at PAD NY. It is going to a Korean buyer at $225,000.

Selling at the booth of the London-based Silver Fund was a 1930 Art Deco silver tea set for $45,000. Also on hand was Damian Garrido of Madrid, a new dealer at the fair, who brought silver accessories and nickel-plated furniture. Another new participant, Galerie Felix Marcilhac from Paris, sported a Marcel Wanders Fishnet chair in carbon from 2001 and a gleaming stainless steel desk and chair by Ben Swildens (b. 1938), designed for the Paris Peugeot showroom. In an edition of eight, the ensemble is a single curvilinear unit, and was completed in 2011, taking off from the original 1966 design. The price is $120,000. Twentieth-century furniture by Willy Rizzo (b. 1928) and Maison Jansen was spotted as well at the booth of the London and New York firm Mallett, which is traditionally know for offerings that are, well, more traditional.

As if marking the recent death of John Chamberlain (1927-2012), three dealers were featuring his work. Arcature of Palm Beach devoted an entire stand to the artist, including his enameled steel Madam Meux, 1987. Both the Munich-based Galerie Terminus and KM Fine Artsfrom Chicago also saluted the artist by showing his sculpture.

Selling at Mark Borghi Fine Art of New York was a Sam Francis acrylic painting, Untitled, 1994, for $85,000; a Jules Olitski pastel, Untitled, 1963, for $14,000; and a George Condo work on paper, Untitled, 1983, for $28,000.

Red-dotted at Waterhouse & Dodd was an Alexander Calder work on paper, Untitled, 1970, for $145,000. “I thought I would sell mostly in the $20,000 range,” said Jonathan Dodd.

Sales at Holden Luntz of Palm Beach included two prints by Ormond Gigli of his iconic Girls in the Windows, 1960, at $30,000 each, according to Luntz gallery director Gabriel Gordon.

Nearby, Stern Pissarro Gallery of London clinched deals for two Camille Pissarro works on paper at $30,000 each, as well as works on paper by Ludovic Rodo Pissarro and Paul Emile Pissarro. Gallery director David Stern is married to Lélia Pissarro, the great grand-daughter of Camille.

New York's Imperial Oriental Art and Imperial Fine Books red-dotted a 15th-century celadon vase for $55,000, as well as a copy of the Federated Convention, 1911, for $160,000. This last was sold, along with two China trade paintings, to a new client, always a positive sign for the market.

“The Madoff era and reverberations from that fiscal nightmare are over,” said Lester, beaming.

American International Fine Art Fair, Feb. 3-12, 2012, Palm Beach County Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Boulevard, West Palm Beach, Fla. 33401.

BROOK S. MASON is U.S. correspondent for the Art Newspaper, and also writes for the Financial Times and other publications.