The crowd at the opening of Beth Rudin DeWoody’s Bunker Artspace in West Palm Beach Saturday during the first Palm Beach Art Weekend was as eclectic as her private collection. Who else could assemble Emilia Fanjul; local activists “Waffle” and Tuesday Lee Afton; Andy Hall; Lisa Perry; Pauline Pitt; Lee Quiñones; Adam Weinberg; Steve Wilson; Benny Holmes; Sandy Hill; Anne Pasternak; Irene and Jim Karp; Alexander Gray; Michele Oka Doner; Jane Holzer; Bruce Helander; a strawberry wig-coiffed drag queen; Princess Eugenia; Yvonne Force Villareal, and Jocelyn Javits and Kamil Grajski with their young children in tow under one roof?
“You know how they say Palm Beach is charging into the Fifties? That’s not the case in West Palm, where something is really happening,” said Grajski, as a nearby, old-school surfer gleefully admitted, “I’d never be allowed in the front door on the island in this outfit. I can finally wear my cool sneakers.”
DeWoody renovated an Art Deco munitions factory on Bunker Road off a grittier stretch of U.S. 1. Co-curators Phillip Estlund, Laura Dvorkin, and Maynard Monrow attempted to rein in her collection of 10,000-plus contemporary artworks with its inaugural installation subdivided into densely packed, immersive, themed rooms — silver, linear, black-and-white photography.
“I call the main space on the first floor ‘brutalist grandeur,’” said Monrow of an onslaught of large-scale sculptures by Nick Cave, Jack Pierson, Liz Craft, Yinka Shonibare and dozens of others. “These couldn’t fit into domestic settings.”
Gazing at John Waters’s “Playdate,” dolls depicting Michael Jackson and Charles Manson as toddlers, Oka Doner turned as white as her diaphanous caftan. “And you wonder why we have Trump. It’s all connected,” she said, while Brooklyn artist Kenneth Zoran Curwood searched for his piece. “I heard it’s in the formalist room.”
Everyone got a taste of what Kyle DeWoody has been dealing with her entire life. (“Mom doesn’t like blank walls.”) The kid constantly had to intercept friends before they cracked open SlimFast and Wonder Bread that were actually pricy artworks.
“You had to be careful of what you bit into back in those days,” she said, pleased they found a proper home in the food room after being displayed in the family’s kitchen for years.
Los Angeles-based art and design duo Fallen Fruit created the vignette’s ornate custom wallpaper. For their performance piece at the reception, drag queens handed out cocktails garnished with cherries to singles and pineapple rings to couples. Wilson, who wore a McQueen suit bedazzled by a Kentucky artist, gave the artists a message to deliver to DeWoody.
“Be sure to tell her that I saw ‘Fallen Fruit’ first!” he said, regarding their good-natured competitive spirit. “Beth and I always lust after each other’s art. I’ll find something, and she already bought it and vice versa.”
Naturally Art Basel Miami Beach, which begins Thursday, was a hot topic. Organized by local gallerist Sarah Gavlak, Palm Beach’s baby version of Miami’s swollen art week was reminiscent of the early days of the fair when it only involved people who make, sell and buy art. Fur-accented Force Villareal couldn’t resist being part of the startup. Earlier in the day, she unveiled “Culture Lab,” a site-specific, year-long installation throughout the former Macy’s in downtown West Palm Beach. Michael Craig-Martin’s murals fill its exterior bays, and Stephen Vitiello recorded noises in the store before it shuttered for his sound installation, “You Are the Magic.”
“I’m going to Basel as a participant, but I feel this is where it’s at,” she said.