Since the pandemic started I’ve been to Palm Beach four times, the latest visit lasting four days. Sometimes the visit includes beach time but usually not, and I always find new discoveries like bike and walking tours, lots of eye candy, manage to do damage shopping, and fine dining. Plus, now with popups of major New York art galleries, the reopening of the Norton, Society of The Four Arts and the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, top cultural offerings too. Here are my recent finds, places to put on your list of things to do and in part 2 coming up, look for a list of restaurant picks, some tried and true, and others new.
The Society of The Four Arts is a gem with its reliably very good exhibits, lovely garden with 20 sculptures by world renowned artists, and a notable lecture series. Don’t miss the current exhibit on until January 17, “Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence”. It features the work of a community of women living and working together in rural KwaZulu-Ntal, South Africa. They do intricate beadwork using Czech glass in abstract and figurative subjects on black fabric. The fabric, in large scale pieces, is stretched like a canvas into a contemporary art form. One piece can take 10 months to complete. The excellent exhibit also includes a video showing how the work is done, and displays of the beads themselves.
Another winner is the exhibition in the gardens by contemporary American artist Philip Haas. His painted fiberglass sculptures, busts rendered in floral, fruit and vegetables of four seasons, are inspired by Italian Arcimboldo. Next up January 30 is the work of Charles and Jackson Pollock.
Now reopened is the highly regarded Norton Museum of Art with an impressive permanent collection of more than 8,200 works in five curatorial departments: European, American, Chinese, Contemporary and Photography. As Mr. W, an artist, said, the quality of the collection is such that even if you’ve seen it before, it’s well worth seeing again and again. Plus, the architecture alone is worth a visit, by starchitect Lord Norman Foster. Other features include an indoor and outdoor café, sculpture garden, and shop filled with well curated items for the home, fashion accessories, and of course art books. Special exhibits now on include The Collection of prints and drawings of Esther M. and Sumner L. Feldberg with representations ranging from Christo to Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein .Also check out “A Brief History of Photography Through Landscape” including images by MoMA curator Edward Steichen, modernist Brett Weston and Californian John Divola.
A major new attraction are the prestigious international art galleries that have set up shop for from a few months to the spring. We’re talking Pace, Acquavella, Lehmann Maupin, Paula Cooper, White Cube and Sotheby’s Auction House. And they have serious exhibits – from the works of Sam Gilliam and Wayne Thibaud to Claes Oldenberg. They join permanent galleries such as Gavlak with an exceptional show on now with the work of California artist Gisela Colon. The galleries are at Royal Poinciana Plaza and Worth Avenue and White Cube is in West Palm Beach.
The high end shopping competition for Worth Avenue, and a stop I never miss when in Palm Beach is The Royal Poinciana Plaza designed by John Volk, architect to America’s royal families like the Vanderbilts, DuPonts, Fords and Pulitzers. It’s built around a handsome garden courtyard with plenty of seating plus there’s plenty of parking. Find 50 brands in everything from fashion and beauty/wellness, to home furnishings There are both traditional brands like Hermes and Yves St Laurent, but also, less usual designers including Australian label Zimmermann (love their clothes) and Kirna Zabete who began in New York’s SoHo, to Cremieux from St. Tropez and Stoney Clover Lane from Palm Beach natives who have a line of travel and organization essentials.
The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts is offering live performances with social distancing and the The Palm Beach Opera will present its first-ever outdoor festival, featuring live performances of “La bohème,” “Pagliacci,” and “Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute)” at the South Florida Fairgrounds’ iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre on Feb. 19-27.
One of my most valued “finds” recently was Leslie Diver of Island Living Tours and her bike tour of Palm Beach. She entertains and educates on the history, architecture and skinny on residents, famous and infamous, in her bike and driving tours. We took the Estate Section/Historic vias on Worth Avenue. In the hour and a half, 6 mile ride, you go down private roads you’d never know existed, with gorgeous homes you can actually see (unlike in other places where they’re hidden behind hedges). Then there’s the story behind the people and architecture in the passageways off of Worth Avenue.
Diver, whose background includes 10 years on the Architectural Review Commission and Landmarks Preservation Commission, as well as working as a personal assistant to big monied residents, has a unique perspective and amazing stories. In fact, her commentary on Henry Flagler includes juicy details you won’t hear in the Flagler Museum! You can rent a bike at the Palm Beach Bicycle Trail Shop located in the Royal Poinciana Plaza, the meeting place, or bring your own, as the tour doesn’t include bikes. Newest offering is an architecture tour, Strictly Architecture. The cost is $35 per person for a bike tour.She also offers a walking tour and gives talks for groups. Cost of the driving tours depend on the group size. For more information and to book, click here.
Flagler Museum, the not to be missed attraction, was formerly the winter home of Henry Morrison Flagler, a leading figure in America’s Gilded Age. The antique filled, frescoed, sumptuous mansion well worth a visit just in itself, has held over their popular show, “Walk This Way: Historic Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection” until January 9.
It explores how shoes have become representations of culture — coveted as objects of desire, designed with artistic consideration, and expressing complicated meanings of femininity, power, and aspiration for women and men alike. Featuring 100 pairs of shoes from iconic designer Stuart Weitzman’s extensive private collection assembled over three decades with his wife Jane Gershon Weitzman, the exhibition covers larger trends in American economic history.This exhibition has been organized by the New-York Historical Society. Important note: you need a reservation for day and time as well as to pay in advance.
Crave a spa treatment? Both The Breakers hotel and the Eau Palm Beach have top ranked spas. My favorite is the one at the Eau Palm Beach. Click here for my review of the spa and hotel.
An interesting information tidbit, I discovered that Palm Beach is an ideal place to look for a pre-owned luxury car. Makes sense with the HNW (high net worth individuals) snowbirds who buy a car for tooling around PB, racking up few miles, and then turn it in after the lease expires with very few miles.
Interested in checking out consignment shops for men and women? Check out this earlier post: