Art Palm Beach

(January 24, 2014)

Investors drawn to ArtPalmBeach

Posted: 5:00 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24, 2014

Email                          8Facebook  0Twitter  0ShareThis  8

Email Facebook Twitter ShareThis

By Jeff Ostrowski - Palm Beach Post Staff Writer


Forget oil on canvas. Buyers of contemporary art want something fresher — something like black, yellow and green rubber ducks arranged to create an outline of a person.

Even before ArtPalmBeach officially opened Friday, London art dealer Nick Woolff had sold the eye-catching montage of bath toys. A representative of a Cleveland hospital snapped up the piece, during Thursday night’s VIP party.

It’s a fairly healthy start to the show,” Woolff said.

Collectors, it seems, can’t get enough of contemporary art, the focus of the three-day event at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. Works of recent vintage have emerged as a wise place to park cash, said Bruce Helander, a West Palm Beach artist and former editor of The Art Economist magazine.

“Of all the markets you could invest in, contemporary art has come out on top,” Helander said. “The informed investor is making very profitable, attractive returns.”

hat’s despite the art world’s lack of transparency and investor safeguards.

“It is highly secretive,” Helander said. “It is the most unregulated commodity in the world. These are primarily objects of cotton canvas with some wood frame around it that magically turn into millions of dollars.”

The more valuable the item, the cagier dealers are about revealing prices. Asked about a Marc Chagall oil painting and a Paul Klee watercolor on display at ArtPalmBeach, Howard Brassner, owner of ArtLink International in Lake Worth, would say only that the price tags “are approaching $1 million” apiece.

Because sales outside of major auctions go unreported, tracking the market is tricky. Jupiter gallery owner JB Berkow said contemporary art isn’t entirely recession-proof, especially for the under-$20,000 pieces she specializes in.

“I don’t carry blue-chip artists,” Berkow said. “I carry mid-career artists.”

Demand for those works ebbed along with demand for everything else. To cut costs during the Great Recession, Berkow moved her gallery from a storefront along PGA Boulevard to cheaper industrial space in Jupiter.

ArtPalmBeach, which includes exhibitions by galleries from Europe and South America, continues through Sunday.

Click here to return to the News page