October 1, 2020
Wealthy Covid Refugees Lure Top Art Galleries to Palm Beach
The art world has a new destination: Palm Beach.
Next month, New York dealers Pace and Acquavella Galleries, as well as Sotheby’s private sales unit, will open temporary spaces at the Royal Poinciana Plaza, an outdoor shopping center in the Florida resort town.
The migration south is similar to one earlier this year, when galleries, auction houses and restaurants set up outposts in the small villages on Long Island’s South Fork after many of the city’s millionaires and billionaires moved there to sit out the pandemic.
“We have quite a lot of clients in Palm Beach and we are seeing even more people who will be spending more time there due to Covid, due to taxes, due to not wanting to be in New York,” said David Schrader, head of Sotheby’s private sales. “We need to travel great objects to where people are.”
Sotheby’s will take over a 3,000-square-foot space that previously housed Soul Cycle and Goop pop-ups and offer a collection of jewelry, vintage cars and fine art, including auction highlights. Pace will open with a solo exhibition by the California light-artist James Turrell. Acquavella, which is expanding beyond New York for the first time in its 99-year history, is bringing “Masterworks: From Cezanne to Thiebaud.”
Despite its wealthy residents and visitors, Palm Beach isn’t known for a thriving gallery scene. One exception is Gavlak Gallery, which opened in 2005 and has shown artists such as Marilyn Minter, Simone Leigh and Betty Tompkins.
“For years I’ve been saying, ‘Why doesn’t another gallery come down here?’” said owner Sarah Gavlak, who’s been the only gallery tenant at the Royal Poinciana for the past two years. “There’s an educated, smart community of collectors. They are interested in new discoveries.”
Anchored by the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, the community includes plenty of New Yorkers, such as oil trader Andy Hall, museum trustees Ann Tenenbaum and Ronnie Heyman, and Beth Rudin DeWoody, who is showing parts of her sprawling art collection in a former toy factory.
Newsprint mogul Peter Brant, who has an art foundation in Greenwich, Connecticut, bought a waterfront mansion in Palm Beach during the pandemic. Hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, who acquired Brant’s Basquiat for more than $100 million this year, set up a trading floor at the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach, moving dozens of employees and their families.
“It will be a nice addition to have some serious galleries that I and some of my friends are interested in,” said Tenenbaum, who’s on the board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “It will be a little more hip and cool and art focused. ”
The new arrivals may tap into pent-up demand for art buying as most art fairs, including Art Basel Miami Beach, have been canceled this year due to the pandemic.
“People will definitely buy,” Tenenbaum said. “You are going to be walking around Palm Beach, going to the galleries. There’s not much else to do.”