Auctioneer Press Release Palm Beach Modern Auctions

Tales of Provenance Add Flair to Palm Beach Modern Auctions’ May 18th Catalog

May 13,2024 | 09:00 EDT By Rico Baca

From “I walked up to the artist’s door” to “My designer bought it decades ago,” auctioneer Rico Baca  relates some of the more colorful stories of auction consignments. 

LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla., May 10, 2024 – The first question on the lips of visitors as they step through  the door at Palm Beach Modern Auctions is, “Where did you get all this stuff?” The quick answer would  be “All over the place.” The longer answer is much more varied and interesting. 

PBMA collects a vast array of intriguing, and sometimes personal, tales of provenance from their  consignors. The 500 lots in their May 18th auction came from 88 different collectors, estates, galleries,  museums, and dealers, located everywhere from across the bridge in Palm Beach to across the globe.  Every painting, sculpture, chair, lamp, ring, and handbag has a story, as does every collector. After two  and a half decades as a gallerist and auctioneer, Rico Baca knows that everyone remembers the first  piece they bought and that this is one of the most important questions he can ask his clients to get them  talking about their items.  

“Their eyes light up,” says Baca. “It’s an opportunity for them to talk about this huge part of their lives, something they’ve spent time, energy, and money on. Letting go of any part of their collection is  important and most really want to talk about it.” Not simply a conversational tool, the seller’s story can  be a way to engage buyers too, because everyone loves a story.  

“Our May 18th auction has brought some of the most interesting stories I’ve heard as an auctioneer,”  continues Baca. His favorite example is Milton Avery’s Red Rug, a nude figure typifying his painting style  of simplified, curvilinear forms. The seller, paring down her collection in preparation for a move, vividly  recalls visiting the artist’s home in the early 1960s. She had wanted to meet Milton Avery, of course, but  this was during the later part of his life and his wife Sally Michel (of artistic renown herself) met with her  and selected the artwork because Milton was unwell. She loved Sally Michel’s choice and has displayed  the painting on her wall since then.

Sometimes, the story is about the evolution of a collection instead, as it is with Kelly and Mike Mahigel,  owners of PDA Gallery in Naples, Florida. The couple share a lifelong interest in design with modest  beginnings in thrift stores. As young adults, thrifting evolved to flipping mid-century modern furniture  from garage sales and Craigslist. In time, their design habit became a gallery specializing in avant-garde and Postmodern furniture and decorative objects. 

The Mahigels are highly intentional about the way they buy. In a statement they shared with the auction  house, “We collect what we love but we have a few rules. Every piece must be out of production,  unique, or extremely early. Most importantly, every piece must invoke emotion on sight.” Twenty-six  lots in the sale are from their gallery, including several large Gaetano Pesce sculpted resin centerpiece vases, designed to bend and wobble in unexpected, delightful ways.

Contemporary art glass, from intricate tabletop baubles to 400-pound monoliths in cast glass, is a strong  category in the sale on the 18th and seems to inspire passion in its fans. Two couples, Debbie and Bud  Menin and Jules and Connie Kay, exemplify this. Coincidentally, both were lifelong collectors of art who  found a love of contemporary glass after a long history in other genres.  

The stars of the Menin Collection are two monumental, ocean-themed sculptures: Nautilus by Ivan  Mares and Splash by Vladimira Klumpar and Michael Pavlik, both massive works that highlight different  advanced techniques in cast glass. According to their daughter, “Debbie and Bud were deeply interested  in each artist’s style. It was important to them to understand the artist’s vision and how this came  through in his or her work. They traveled the world to visit glass artists in their studios and loved to  watch them at work. They formed personal relationships with many of the leaders in the field and took a  great deal of pride in understanding the essence of the contemporary glass art movement.” 

Jules and Connie Kay spent their 67 years of marriage accumulating art in various genres. When they fell  in love with contemporary art glass twenty years ago, they shifted focus to that entirely. Visiting local  galleries and studios together to seek out new and exciting works of art became a hobby and a joy for  the couple. The 34 pieces represented in the May 18th sale include a 65” tall Dale Chihuly Ikebana flower  vase, works by Harvey Littleton, Vivian Wang, William Morris, and a pair of David Bennett acrobats, one  of which is suspended dramatically from the ceiling

Sometimes the collector is also an artist, and they acquire pieces out of professional admiration. Such is the case with a group of mammoth ceramic sculptures and vessels by Sydney K. Hamburger. A relatively  obscure artist, her biomorphic forms sparked the interest of a New Jersey sculptor who researched her and acquired a group of her works from an estate. A trio of welded Harry Bertoia sculptures from his  collection are also in the sale. 

Other times, a client’s home is brimming with beautiful things, but the surprise is in the details. “They  knew enough to hire a good designer,” says Baca, “but keeping up with the market was not something  they focused on. I walked into one client’s home where they were downsizing. The Paul Dupre-Lafon  desk had to go, and they were thrilled to find out that it could sell in the six figures.” Another consignor  in the May sale inherited a group of five Edo Murtic landscapes. For her, the works were of sentimental value, though she smartly kept all the documentation. She was pleased by the estimates and delighted  when Rico called her a few weeks later to let her know that they are some of the most active lots in the  sale.  

Long story short, talking about provenance is not only about authenticity, though of course that is often  the case. Sometimes, it’s about shared passion, conversation, and those “You found it where?” moments.  

Palm Beach Modern Auctions’ May 18th Modern + Contemporary Art, Design & Luxury sale is open to  the public. Doors are open for preview Monday through Friday from 10:00 am-5:00 pm leading up to the  auction, and at 9:00 am on the day of the sale. 

Bidders attending in person enjoy complimentary refreshments and valet parking. Online, absentee, and  phone bids are also accepted. For those bidding remotely, high-resolution photos, video, and Facetime  preview appointments are available on request. 

Palm Beach Modern Auctions is a boutique auction house specializing in modern and contemporary art,  pop culture, design, luxury, and decorative objects. The saleroom, exhibition space, and retail gallery are located at 1217 N. Dixie Hwy., Lake Worth Beach, FL 33460. For more information, visit or contact or 561.586.5500.  

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Photo caption: Auctioneer Rico Baca stands with paintings and sculptures by Armando Barrios, Milton  Avery, Lynn Chadwick, and Manolo Valdes some of the highlights of Palm Beach Modern Auctions’ May 18th auction. 

Credit: Palm Beach Modern Auctions staff 

Photo caption: Postmodern design and contemporary art glass play well off one another in Palm Beach  Modern Auctions’ preview settings. Works shown are by Ettore Sottsass, Gaetano Pesce, David Bennett,  Vivian Wang, Ivan Mares, and others. 

Credit: Palm Beach Modern Auctions staff 

Photo caption: A pair of velvet-upholstered Jean Royere lounge chairs invite previewers to enjoy Edo  Murtic’s landscapes and the intricate scenes etched into the Philip & Kelvin LaVerne cabinet. The brass  and rattan floor lamps are by Paavo Tynell. 

Credit: Palm Beach Modern Auctions staff 


By Palm Beach Modern Auctions