Monday, March 6, 2017

Palm Beach Social Diary: Seasonal March

HSN's Rara Avis and longtime Palm Beacher Iris Apfel and artist Chuck Close were among Frances and Jeffrey Fisher's guests at the Wednesday night reception they hosted at their landmarked El Bravo Way home to introduce the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens' new executive director Roger Ward to ANSG's board members, patrons and supporters.
Seasonal March: A Palm Beach Reception
By Augustus Mayhew

With yet another presidential weekend slated, Palm Beach area residents should have already mapped out the next several days, especially considering that south of Mar-a-Lago the Four Seasons is holding the Republican National Committee's convergence for its deepest VIP pockets where DJT is slated for Friday night. Yes, helipad construction is underway, certainly not fast enough for many, even among the most patriotic, as emergency rooms are reporting isolated cases of chronic logisticitis.

Courtyard and gardens, view east from the formal loggia.
On Wednesday night the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens president Frances Fisher, who this week was awarded the prestigious 2017 John C. Randolph Award by the Fellowship of Christians and Jews, welcomed Roger Ward as ANSG's new executive director. At one time, Ward was entrenched two minutes north of the Ann Norton, as a former chief curator and deputy director of the Norton Museum of Art. In 2013 Ward went to the Mississippi Museum of Art where he served until recently as deputy director and chief curator. The new director has an MA and Ph.D. from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.

The Fishers welcomed 100 guests, with a bit of help from Christina's Catering and their accommodating staff, to their Volk-Maass designed state-of-the-art landmark estate. Completed in time for the house's original owners Charles and Gracia Hall to experience the Depression-Elsa Maxwell era at Palm Beach, the Halls reveled giving theme parties. For one champagne brunch, they had a backgammon board painted with 24 triangular points on a canvas large enough to cover their backyard and had giant-sized dice cubes made. Their guests became human checkers, moved according to the roll of the dice in a human-sized backgammon game.

I had not seen Chuck Close since a few years ago at East Hampton's Guild Hall. As we walked around the house, he was much more engaging than I remember, riveted by the tapestry in the tap room and the portrait in the dining room. Also a pleasure meeting Close's business manager Eve Xanthopoulos who grew up in Boca Raton. I am probably the last person on Earth to meet nonagenarian Iris Apfel who seems just as active and affable in 2017 as she might have been in 1940. Then, it was on to Testa's where I filled up on fried chicken salad and coconut cake. While waiting for March in South Florida "to come in like a lion ..." here are some snaps of Wednesday night's reception.
Frances Fisher and Roger Ward.
Jeffrey Fisher and Julie Fisher Cummings. Jeffrey Fisher, son of the late Nine West co-founder Jerome Fisher, and his wife Frances had acquired a vacant parcel at the Maddock North Lake Way subdivision with plans to build when they did a turnaround in 2011 and acquired a historic late 1920s landmark house in need of a few touch-ups located south of Worth Avenue. A pleasure meeting Julie Cummings, as the week before I was seated next to her daughter Caroline Rafferty at the Everglades Foundation benefit. Cummings is a trustee and vice-chair of her family's foundation named for her parents Max and Marjorie Fisher.
Entrance hall. Our arrival was delayed as the plan was to pick up Iris Apfel at the Palm Beach Towers where she, Chuck Close, and Eve Xanthopoulos were meeting up. Maybe not surprisingly, Close was delayed in traffic driving up from South Beach.
Guests gathered in the formal loggia and courtyard gardens as temperatures were in the mi-70s.
Formal loggia.
Jeremy and Rita Johnson. Jeremy is president and CEO of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. On April 23,I will be the HSPBC's speaker for their Sunset History Cruise. At the moment, my topic will be, "Believe It or Not: Palm Beach Myths and Legends."
Will Corrente and Heather Vidulich.
Sculptor Jane Manus. Ray Wakefield.
Stephen and Theo Hayes. The great-great grandson of President Rutherford B. Hayes, author Stephen Hayes, an ANSG board member, is the president of the board of trustees for the President Hayes Presidential Center. On a local level, Stephen and Theo are selling their Flagler Drive waterfront house, first owned by Jerome Wideman, best known as Paris Singer's lawyer.
Amanda Skier, executive director of the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, and Roger Ward, executive director for the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens.
Laurel Baker.
Rene von Richthofen, Deborah O'Kain, David Miller, and Jacqueline Togut.
Allison Roddick, Waterhouse & Dodd.
Natalie Alvarez, David Ober, and Frances Fisher.
Kay Lyons and Susan Cummings.
Architectural drawing. Charles and Gracia Hall residence, façade. El Bravo Way, Palm Beach. Volk and Maass, architect. The firm's senior architect Gustav Maass was a University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture graduate, trained in Beaux-Arts techniques. Charles M. Hall was a "retired capitalist from Detroit." In December 1929, the Hall's residence was described as a "$1000,000 house." The quarry key stone and hollow-tile house was designed with five master bedrooms with baths, six servant's rooms, and a three-car garage.
Architectural drawing. Hall residence, façade detail. Volk and Maass, architect.
Façade, detail.
Façade, window.
South elevation, overlooking courtyard.
Shell-clad bust, formal loggia.
Iris Apfel
Frances Fisher and Iris Apfel.
Iris Barrel Apfel. Subject of the documentary film Iris (2015), Apfel and her late husband Carl formed the New York-based textile restoration company Old World Weavers, working at The White House for nine presidents during their more than 40-year career.
David Miller and Iris Apfel. "Iris is an inspiration to all in the world of art and design and I am fortunate to have known her as a client and friend for many exciting years," said Miller. "Her collection at Salem's Peabody Essex Museum will be world class, as is she," Miller added.
In the courtyard garden, Eve takes a photo of Chuck and Iris for Chuck's phone.
Chuck Close
"Framed, 2017." Chuck Close and Eve Xanthopoulos.
"Viewpoints: Chuck Close."
Artist Stephania Conrad with Chuck Close.
Chuck Close viewed the heraldic tapestry for quite a while.
Tapestry, detail.
Hallway, tableau.
Guests gathered in the living room where Roger Ward gave a brief talk.
Eve Xanthopoulos.
Eve Xanthopoulos and Iris Apfel.
West courtyard. The lighting of this courtyard was especially spectacular.
West courtyard.
West courtyard, fountain.
Iris Apfel, Frances Fisher, and Chuck Close (Everyone was absorbed with the courtyard.)
Eve and Iris exchanged good nights.
Chuck Close and Eve headed back to South Beach.
Photography by Augustus Mayhew.

Augustus Mayhew is the author of Palm Beach-A Greater Grandeur