Bertoia in Florida
Appraisal conference, Galere and lectures at Knoll & Design Within Reach
Boca Raton is a gorgeous, affluent area along Florida's east coast. I attended the recent ASA appraisal conference, held in mid-September at the Boca Raton Resort, a top-notch conference center with 5 star dining and adjacent beaches.
When I attended my first official appraisal courses back in 2013, just a handful of my colleagues were familiar with Harry Bertoia. Since 2013, I've given thirty (30!) lectures all over the country, spurred the creation of two solid Bertoia exhibitions in Detroit and New York, and handed out over 1000 business cards. Maybe it helped, because every fine arts appraiser with whom I engaged was aware of Harry Bertoia and was eager to talk about his work.
Other than my pleasure at being sought out by Bertoia fans, I garnered important valuation data, tidbits from long-time appraisers, and even got to the beach one afternoon.
Janine Cleveland, my Knoll companion, chauffer, organizer and top sales gal, dropped me off at a requested gallery. Kurt Dukovna of Galere in West Palm Beach has been selling Bertoias for about fifteen years. We had a chance to chat about his background with Bertoia in his lovely little gallery on South Dixie Highway. He began purchasing small Bertoia sculptures when they were more reasonably priced, but is not unhappy about the rising prices of Bertoia. He buys only what he likes, which is what any collector should do. Buy the best of what you love that you can afford.
The bushes have been particularly popular in his shop, but the tonal sculptures are favorites as well.
When Christie's and Sotheby's started to accept Bertoias about ten years ago, the values jumped significantly. Wright auction in Chicago, by the way, has now sold over 800 Bertoias. If you are in the Palm Beach area, stop in at Galere.
Design Within Reach in West Palm Beach boasts a spacious, comfortable showroom featuring Knoll products as well as the other prominent design company's office and residential furniture. Their semi-annual sale is on right now!
They are under new management by Laura Quinn (a very capable and enthusiastic gal), and were eager to have an event to draw in new clients.
Designers, architects, artists and other customers gathered around to hear the Bertoia stories. While entertaining and amusing for customers, the lecture was especially engrossing for DWR staff. Hearing about Harry Bertoia the man, the father, and the artist helps them educate fans and sell Bertoia chairs. An educated clientele is a buying clientele.
Once folks understand how much individual labor has gone and still goes into the construction of each Bertoia chair, they will never again squabble about price.
The peak experience of my trip was the visit to Knoll Miami. They are housed right next door to one of Florence Knoll's architectural projects, an early skyscraper in Miami. The view from the 17th floor offices is astonishing, with the entire downtown and bay and port areas visible from most of the rooms.
The old timers there were able to tell me stories of Shu (Florence's nickname, derived from her maiden name Schust) and Harry that were new to me. Shu turns 100 this year and still lives!
Knoll has the remarkable asset of retaining employees for decades, which speaks highly of its treatment of workers. Knoll isn't just a furniture company - it is a legacy, a design haven, a compilation of mid-century history.
Knoll invites the new while honoring the old. My lecture, usually under an hour, continued for well over an hour because of the warm reception and moved audience. A few tears were spotted during the talk.
At evening's end, I left with dear new friends and promises of future gatherings.