Palm Beach Landscapes: Art & Artifacts

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Last Wednesday night the Gardens Conservancy was joined by more than 250 guests in bestowing its 2019 philanthropy award to Christine Aylward during the annual Evening in the Gardens benefit held at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens.

Palm Beach may still be disoriented from not having to navigate roadblocks, delays and detours during Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Apparently, the lack of annoyance may have bewildered the driver of a Ferrari that recently drove off the North End dock and into the channel. Purposely, according to the local police. Yet another, this time a Mercedes, backed into a shop on South County Road crashing through a plate-glass window. Only on Palm Beach, where everyone is a someone somewhere at sometime for something, are some identified only by the car they are driving, making perhaps for a J. G. Ballard science-fiction scenario. Then again, off-islanders are named for their slightest offense, as what makes for “news” on Palm Beach is too often more Colbert than Flaubert.

My latest venture to the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden has led to a greater appreciation for Norton’s artistic works, long overlooked if not disparaged. Today’s fascination with Midcentury-Modern design — its minimal lines, functional forms and institutional color wheel — is a turnaround from the insignificance it was once relegated not so long ago.

Sculptor Gino Miles stands next to Splendor, specifically created for the exhibition at the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden. “Contours in Metal” runs through May 12th, 2019.

Today Palm Beach harbors several prime MiMo commercial and multifamily buildings, among them the statuesque Palm Beach Towers and the works of Edward Durell Stone, Howard Chilton and John Stetson. During the past several decades, it has leveled hundreds of MiMo single-family homes, especially in the North End, including several of Alfred Browning Parker’s exhilarating works, without regard to their importance as representational of the time when they were built. Instead, Palm Beach has created a sizable gap in its architectural history, replacing MiMo houses with streets composed of archaic facades imported either from centuries past or a distant idyll, appreciated mainly for their square-footage.

Nonetheless, it is probably the current exhibit of Gino Miles’ sculpture, described as “elegant minimalism,” juxtaposed with Ann Norton’s more monumental pieces that for me enhance her historical and aesthetic importance. This led me to wander over to The Four Arts and take a fresh look at the nearly 20 works installed at the Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden.

Along with Miles’s sculpture, the Denver-based Tansey Contemporary gallery has organized an exhibition of glass artists, including the work of Murano Maestro Lino Tagliapietra, for the Ann Norton, reminding us of the fine line between artists and artisans, craftsmen and sculptors. And then a look at a local craftsman sixth-generation tagliapietra (It. “stonecutter”) Rick Herpel who recreates history utilizing many of the same tools as sculptors but for utilitarian ends rather than the pursuit of some higher aesthetic.

Palm Beach’s architectural history is often told as much by the memory of its lost landmarks rather than its portfolio of existing houses and buildings. During the past four decades of breathless non-stop building, Herpel has had a front-row perspective on Palm Beach’s unique interpretation of preservation, restoration and recreation. “Everything is more over the top and anything is on the table,” said Herpel, when asked what separates Palm Beach from other resorts.

Although picture-perfect weather, Ann Norton’s guests gathered beneath the tent for the program in close proximity to the service bars and buffet.

January 9, 2019 – 6 pm
Gardens Conservancy’s 2019 Evening in the Gardens benefit
Ann Norton Sculpture Garden
253 Barcelona Road – WPB

The tent was SRO for the award presentation.
L to R.: The evening honored Christine Aylward with the 2019 Ann Norton Award for Philanthropy. Congratulations!;  Matt Lorentzen served on the executive host committee along with his wife Helene, an ANSG trustee. The host committee also included Peter & Ruth Derow, Mary & Irwin Ackerman, Nick Korniloff & Pamela Cohen, and Sheryl Maher & Blaine Phillips.
Bob and Susan Wright served as the event chairs with Frances Fisher, founding chair, and Sally & Bill Soter, honorary chairs.
Also on the host committee Ray Wakefield, left, and David Miller, right, with Mary Page Evans, center.
ANSG trustee Sarah Benitz and her mother Ann Benitz. stand next to Moonlight, a work by Gino Miles.
ANSG CEO Cynthia Kanai.
Cynthia Sulzberger, ANSG trustee and board secretary, with her husband Steven Green.
Edie Dixon and Peggy Dean.
Michelle Clark, Parker Stitzer, and Kelly Clark.
Michael Cawby and Brigitte Nadeau.
Linda Olsson.
Kate Waterhouse.
L to R.: Allan Feingold.; David Sarama.
Ben Kuckei and Hannes Kuckei.
Susan and Ron Lee.
Deborah Sponder, Cristin Longo, and sculptor Jane Manus.

Contours in Metal: Sculpture by Gino Miles
Murano Mosaics: Persistence & Evolution
Ann Norton Sculpture Garden
Organized by Tansey Contemporary – Denver

The Gardens Conservancy event coincided with the Palm Beach Modern + Contemporary Art Fair set to open the following night. Customarily, the Ann Norton showcases the work of one of the fair’s prominent sculptors but this year sculptor Gino Miles was joined by prominent glass artists, making for a first at ANSG.

The Palm Beach Modern + Contemporary Art Fair offered a shuttle for fairgoers to tour the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens.
The Garden Conservancy benefit attracted supporters, fairgoers, artists, and visiting gallerists.
Gino Miles’ sculptures provided contemporary counterpoints to the Midcentury Modern style of Ann Norton’s work.
A stainless steel work by Gino Miles frames a more traditional garden fountain sculpture.
Sculptor Gino Miles and Mary Ackerman.
On the afternoon of the opening, guests from one of New York’s historic house gardens toured the Ann Norton’s two-acre garden led by Frances Fisher and Margaret Horgan, director of community engagement.
Aja. 100″ H Stainless steel. $52,000. The Ann Norton benefits from the sale of the exhibition’s artworks.
In contrast to the Ann Norton’s more immediate presentation of outdoor artworks, at The Society of the Four Arts’ Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden works tend to be set apart from the landscape. Pictured above, a work encircled with a hedge.
On temporary exhibit, Edwina Sandys’ painted aluminum 12-foot Eve’s Apple highlights the role of sculptural expressions that rival the landscape rather than appear to adorn it.
Sculptor Edwina Sandys and David Miller.

Australian glass artist Clare Belfrage’s work.
Inspired by rock formations, plant forms, seashells, and natural fibers, Belfrage is part of the Adelaide-Canberra artistic community.
A Japanese glass artist based in Los Angeles, pictured above, Kazuki Takizawa’s Minimalist BW Threads are set atop marble.
The Main Gallery at the Ann Norton.
Jennifer Garrigues and Giselle Roman.
Giles Bettison’s Chrome pieces.
Close-up, work of Lino Tagliapietra, regarded as one of Murano’s “Maestro” glass artist who works in Seattle and Murano.
Tortuga, 2009. Lino Tagliapietra. Without the theatrics of Chihuly, Tagliapietra combines centuries-old Venetian techniques with a sculptural aesthetic.

Manufacturing History:
Herpel Cast Stone & Columns
6400 Georgia Avenue – WPB

In 2010, Rick Herpel gave the Simsbury Free Library a copy of his great-grandfather William Mansfield Ketchin’s 300-page memoir documenting the family’s brownstone buildings constructed from the 1850s to the 1920s in Connecticut’s Simsbury-Avon area, the quarries they owned, and the tobacco and construction business that eventually brought the family to South Florida. After WW II, Rick’s father Henry Herpel set up an offshoot of his mother’s family-owned Ketchin Tile & Brick Company, then based in Ft. Lauderdale, in West Palm Beach. William Ketchin came to Georgia Avenue, where the company is still located, to help his granddaughter’s husband organize the business. It was first known as the Ketchin-Herpel Floor Tile Company.

“I remember when I was five helping my Dad build a BBQ pit in our backyard made from coral heads collected off the beach at Sloan’s Curve,” recalled Herpel, who as a teenager began cutting and setting stone when he worked with his father. During the past more than 30 years that Rick has run the family company, it has fabricated architectural and decorative elements for countless mansions from Jupiter Island to Boca Raton, including the parade of Palm Beach estates designed by the resort’s heralded architects as well as the measureless Xanadus that replaced many of them.

Rick Herpel stands between a pair of urns also installed at the entrance to 610 North County Road, known today as the Howard Stern house designed by Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman. In 1986 Martin Trust demolished the existing classic Treanor & Fatio house of C. Michael Paul, supplanting it with a Tigerman early-1990s approx. 20,000-square-foot villa. The balustrade was designed by architect John Gosman for Peter and Leni May during their renovation of Casa del Sud at 1410 South Ocean Boulevard. In January 1994 the Mays sold the undesignated historic 1920s oceanfront estate for $10 million to the elusive Jeffry and Barbara Picower whose fortunes crossed paths with Ivan Boesky and Bernard Madoff.
“I really learned from working with and complying with the standards set by Palm Beach best architects and designers and having them as mentors, among them, John Volk, Henry Harding, Kemp Caler, Sidney Neil, Mark Hampton, John Gosman, and William Johnson of Wyeth, King & Johnson.
By the early 1960s Herpel patio and floor tiles had become as well-established as Ketchin tiles.
While Herpel’s is still located on Georgia Avenue, it has become a national and international business, expanding into the Caribbean.
While Herpel’s stonework can be found at Terry Allan Kramer’s $135 million La Folie and Nelson Peltz’s legendary Montsorrel, he recalled, “Among the most challenging contracts both in size and requirements was 1485 South Ocean Boulevard, Damon and Elizabeth Mezzacappa’s Villa Venezia, a 20,000-square-foot residence on 300 feet of waterfront on two acres. The floors, walls, tracery, stonework, coquina fireplaces … every aspect called for a high level of expectation, there were no secondary considerations.”
Having studied design and drawing at the Norton School of Art, Herpel has been involved in every aspect of production. To his right, the parrots cast from Barwig’s originals at Mar-a-Lago.

The Designer

More than a decade ago Herpel was in need of more industrial storage and production space and having located a nearby space on Norton Avenue, he designed his own warehouses, informed from his travels to Northern India.

Herpel designed two double-story 3,500-square-foot warehouses near his workshops inspired by Emperor Akbar’s architectural heritage in Agra.
The parapet crestings were modeled from Agra Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site, that served as the emperor’s residence during the Mughal Dynasty until the capital of India was moved from Agra to Delhi.
Herpel explains the origins of his design for the arched openings along the outer wall.
Clearly, the arch design is a variant of the interior hallway arches in Agra Fort’s Diwan-I-Am.

The Collector

During the past 30 years, Herpel has probably worked on either restoring or replacing every 1920s house and building built on Palm Beach designed by Addison Mizner, Treanor & Fatio and Wyeth & King. He began collecting the original architectural elements that many of his clients wanted to replace with more structurally sound simulated cast stone reproductions. Today his warehouse courtyard between the buildings has become what I describe as a stone garden, housing as many as 1,000 now nearly century-old architectural and structural elements. His collection of museum-quality imported antique and Mizner tiles are secured in a vaultlike location.

The stone garden in the courtyard.
Collector Rick Herpel in his stone garden.
A few of the remains from some of Palm Beach’s most prominent 20th-century buildings.

In between catching waves, Herpel has amassed an architectural trove with provenance both at his shop and at his home.
Herpel residence, 2018. Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach. In 1952, Henry and Patricia Herpel moved into a Midcentury Modern home on Miramar Way designed by Palm Beach architect John Stetson, featuring Herpel tile throughout, a coral rock patio, a Japanese garden, and an inner atrium. Many of these same elements can be found at Rick’s Flagler Drive house, crafting an artful backdrop for his collection of Mizner pottery.
Ali Baba jar, Herpel Collection. Mizner Industries, West Palm Beach. One of a pair of that Herpel owns. Rare.
Herpel Collection, Mizner Industries. Pictured above, several of Herpel’s collection of Mizner Industries-manufactured flower pots and tiles. Located in the back right row, a pair of Egyptian water jars with handles, as documented in the original Mizner Industries catalog.
Herpel Collection, Las Manos Pottery. What sets Herpel’s collection of Mizner artifacts apart from most of what is available in many online offerings or antique shop sales is that his works are embossed with the actual original Mizner stamp: Las Manos Pottery – Handmade – Palm Beach. Priceless.
“My father brought this Chinese garden Centennial home during the mid-1950s from the pre-demolition sale at the Mizner-designed Playa Riente,” said Herpel. Now, a centerpiece in a front garden.
Herpel Collection. Building Paradise: Addison Mizner’s Legacy exhibition by the Historical Society of Palm Beach County at the Johnson History Museum, West Palm Beach.
Herpel Collection. Building Paradise: Addison Mizner’s Legacyexhibition. “The frogs were set around a fountain as water spouts,” said Herpel.
Rick Herpel. Whether recreating history for the restoration of the Bok Tower in Lake Wales, the Ford House on Jupiter Island, the William Paley house on Lyford Cay, Arthur Vining Davis’ 1950s penthouse atop the Boca Raton Hotel & Club, or a Buddhist temple in Miami, Rick Herpel built on his family’s legacy that began 170 years ago with outcropped brown stone cut from quarries with steel-headed wooden mallets creating flat-arched window surrounds, cutting and laying walls for schools and churches, and engineering bridge abutments. But instead of cellar basements and cemetery monuments, Herpel’s workshops utilized molds to cast concrete columns, cornices, and floor tiles that have become as synonymous with today’s Palm Beach style as a Lilly or a blue blazer.

Photography by Augustus Mayhew.

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

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