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Palm Beach Modern + Contemporary Fair Opens with Tribute to Renowned Art Collector and Warhol Muse Jane Holzer

Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony, pictured from left: Bruce Helander, presenter, Jane Holzer, award recipient, Nick Korniloff, Executive Vice President & Director, Pamela Cohen, Vice President, Marketing Sponsorships & VIP Relations.


By BRUCE HELANDER April 6, 2024

Palm Beach Modern + Contemporary, one of the last major art fairs of the South Florida season, just concluded its annual run at the Palm Beach County Convention Center with some significant star power, including the presentation of its annual Lifetime Achievement Award at a VIP reception on opening night to winter Palm Beach resident “Baby” Jane Holzer, celebrated art collector, film producer, actress, model, curator, fashion icon and Andy Warhol superstar.

The award is a prestigious honor that acknowledges valuable cultural contributions to the community. Recent past recipients of this distinguished tribute include mega art collector Beth Rudin DeWoody, photographer Harry Benson and Frances Fisher, Chairwoman of the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens. The award also recognizes several award-winning films that Holzer produced, including “The Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “Naked Tango.” In 1964, author Tom Wolfe called her “The Girl of the Year.” Jane’s considerable impact on the nearby Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach began in 2014 with the exhibition “To Jane, Love Andy: Warhol’s First Superstar.”  Since then, Holzer personally has been responsible for gifting nearly sixty works of art to the Norton Museum’s Contemporary Collection. Last summer she was part of the historic “Change Agents: Women Collectors Shaping the Art World” exhibition at the Southampton Arts Center. The award ceremony was attended by many of the area’s most illustrious art collectors and was an appropriate and noteworthy beginning to a prominent art fair that showcased important galleries from around the world.

Cecil Touchon, PDP928ct17, 2017, painting on canvas. Courtesy JF Gallery.

The fair lived up to its earned reputation for attracting work by a wide range of artists, with 73 top galleries representing seventeen countries offering such legendary names in the art world as Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Helen Frankenthaler, Stanley Boxer, Harry Benson, Mel Bochner, Bernard Buffet, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fernando Botero, Alexander Calder, Dale Chihuly, Sam Francis, Sam Gilliam, David Hockney, Keith Haring, Robert Indiana, Alex Katz and Franz Kline. Also on view were works by KAWS, Yayoi Kusama, Wifredo Lam, Robert Longo, Fernand Léger, Roy Lichtenstein, Sol LeWitt, Joan Miró, John Marin, Julian Opie, Claes Oldenburg, Richard Prince, Robert Rauschenberg, Donald Sultan, Hunt Slonem, Kenny Scharf, Manolo Valdés, Ai Weiwei and Tom Wesselmann, as well as many others.

‘Service’ cat admiring Bernie Taupin’s mixed media photograph “Elvis.” Holden Luntz Gallery.

One of the most recognizable names in this year’s fair is the multi-talented Bernie Taupin, best known as Elton John’s songwriting partner, and who also happens to have a career as a visual artist. I had the pleasure of interviewing Taupin for The Huffington Post a decade ago connected to his exhibition at Art Wynwood. Since then, his work continues to relate to his lyrical communicative songwriting background as he incorporates recognizable imagery with a message. Taupin arrived in Palm Beach just after receiving with John the 2024 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in Washington, D.C. His special exhibition, titled “Bernie Taupin—Two Sides of the Sixties,” was organized by Holden Luntz Gallery, Palm Beach, and featured fifteen mixed-media pieces. In these works, Taupin adds his own distinctive touches to photographs taken by iconic pop culture photographer Terry O’Neill, with whom Taupin was very close friends.

The Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens was a nearby satellite venue of the fair and showcased the exhibition “Savage Garden” by the ANSG’s artist-in-residence, Jordi Molla. The artist also wowed the crowd with his outstanding exhibition at the Paul Fisher Gallery during the fair, where the artist/actor displayed fanciful painted varieties of exotic flowers and plant life as well as his remarkable mask series. Molla, like Taupin, connects his art with an ongoing alternate career and classic mask symbolism as an actor (among other roles, he was Johnny Depp’s co-star in the motion picture, “Blow”). His work continues to have a theatrical thread that seems to stitch together a dramatic animated visual experience with an exquisite combination of color and texture on unprimed canvas.

Jordi Molla, Beautiful Life, painting on canvas. Courtesy Paul Fisher Gallery.

The so-called Palm Beach season, which for decades only lasted from Thanksgiving to Easter (and before the invention of freon and pesticides, from Christmas to March) has expanded considerably with many members of the financial community trading in their northern homes for full-time addresses in Palm Beach County and bringing their interest in acquiring quality art with them. With several hundred professional artists on view, it’s a challenge to narrow down a list of favorites, but here’s a “top ten” list based primarily on quality, invention and superior aesthetic components:

An iconic Helen Frankenthaler color field painting at Aktion Art, exhibited by two of the youngest dealers in the show, Kameron Ramirez and Nick Hissom. For pedigree and historical impact this was the most intriguing painting. Two by Frank Stella, exhibited by Masterworks, “Fruit Loops” by George Morton-Clark at Eternity Gallery, a towering Fernando Botero bronze at Galeria Duque Arango, a beautiful and unusual portrait of his wife and muse “Juliet” by Man Ray at Adelson Galleries, “La Cortina (Ochukua)” by Wifredo Lam on display at Latin Art Core, at Contessa Gallery Hunt Slonem’ s iconic butterfly painting and his sculpture made from a towering mosaic of mirrored fragments forming a bunny shape, Cecil Touchon’s smooth geometric painted composition at JF Gallery and Augusto Esquivel’s portrait of Van Gogh created by strings of buttons at Aldo Castillo Gallery.

Nick Hissom & Kameron Ramirez, owners, Aktion Art, pictured with Helen Frankenthaler painting. Photograph by Annie Watt.

In addition to the fair’s impressive sales, the nearby island of Palm Beach now has some of the highest residential sales in America with a property selling recently for nearly $200 million dollars. Needless to say, this is an exceptional art-buying crowd, ready to fill their empty walls with high quality art. If you are looking around the island for a deal, the least expensive private home is $8.5 million. So as real estate values have grown steadily so has the length of an especially active social calendar as the number of high-end collectors grows exponentially. The Palm Beach Modern + Contemporary fair, directed for the past eight years by Nick Korniloff, continues to create an exceptional and selective art fair environment that caters to high-net-worth individuals (residing in an area without a state income tax) as well as those just beginning to build exceptional art collections in Palm Beach County. This was a memorable show attended by thousands of art lovers and buyers who have a discriminating visual palate and the resources to support this eminent fair. WM

Bruce Helander

Bruce Helander is an artist who writes on art and is a member of the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. His most recent book is “Chihuly: An Artist Collects” (Abrams, Inc.). He is a frequent contributor to numerous publications including The Huffington Post and Forbes.

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