The Complete Guide to Art Museums and Galleries in West Palm Beach
West Palm Beach is perhaps most well-known for its many beaches (it is Florida, after all), and its wealthy demographic, followed perhaps by its culinary culture.
But WPB is quickly becoming known as an art aficionado’s dream, loaded with museums, festivals, and galleries to delight the eyes and creative minds of art-lovers from throughout the land.
This post will give you a run-down of some of the best places to find good art—whether paintings, sculptures, or other mediums—in the city.
1. Norton Museum of Art
This gem was founded in the 1940s by Ralph and Elizabeth (Calhoun) Norton. The couple was deeply committed to art collection and preservation; the original collection housed in the museum was their own personal one.
The Nortons resided in Chicago but wintered in Palm Beach; they decided to make their gallery available to the public and opened the museum in 1941.
Currently, the museum features a permanent in-house collection of over seven thousand pieces, with special emphases given to curated European, Chinese, and American collections, as well as contemporary and photographic ones.
2. Galeria of Sculpture
Dedicated to housing modern glass art created by local, American, and international artists, the galeria has been a staple of the Palm Beach art community since 1977.
The gallery’s vast collection includes pieces from highly talented and renowned glass sculpturists, including Mary Beth Bliss, James Nowak, Michael Chon and Mollie Stone, and Joan Irving (who specializes in modern pieces of glass furniture).
The gallery also offers consulting and international shipping services for collectors or other interested patrons who want to acquire any kind of unique and creative glass art pieces (paperweights, perfume bottles, sculptures, goblets, kaleidoscopes, and more) from the museum’s many artists.
3. Flagler Museum
The Flagler Museum is housed in what was once the home of Henry Morrison Flagler (1830-1913), a hotel and railway multimillionaire who also had a love for fine art. As with the Nortons, Flagler’s personal collection became the basis for the museum.
Only Flagler has the pride of being both the founder of Florida’s first museum and the one whose leadership transformed Florida into a vacation paradise with a thriving economic foundation.
Given the museum’s founding during the Gilded Age (1865-1929), the current board of trustees and administration takes special interest in highlighting art and other exhibits that deal with the personalities, influences, and other issues related to that period.
Both in-house and traveling exhibits dealing with these topics keep the museum staff busy—and visitors interested-year-round.
4. Society of the Four Arts
This institution was founded in 1936 to preserve and cultivate fine arts programs and resources to the Palm Beach community.
Named for the four main varieties of art upon which the society focuses (art, music, drama, and literature), the Society is actually made up of several arms which focus tirelessly on art presentation and preservation.
The Esther B. O’Keefe Gallery houses numerous traveling art exhibitions along with a 700-seat auditorium perfect for lectures, dramatic productions, and film screenings.
The King Library is home to over 70,000 books, DVDs, periodicals, and other media and hosts multiple free book discussions each week for locals.
The Children’s Library is dedicated to cultivating a love of literature in the children of Palm Beach and offers free story time, signing, and other activities weekly.
The Botanical Gardens are of historical interest, exhibiting the different ways newcomers to south Florida could cultivate in the unique tropical climate, while the Sculpture Gardens feature carefully curated pieces in an outdoor setting.
Finally, the Dixon Education Building—originally Palm Beach’s public school, now a historic landmark—opened in 2013 with classrooms, and art studio and other features to be a learning center for the entire community.
5. Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens
The property now known as the Gardens was purchased by Ralph Norton in 1925 after an already illustrious and colorful history.
When Ralph and Elizabeth Norton opened the Norton Museum of Art (then called the Norton Gallery and School of Art) in 1941, they required a capable and talented staff to teach courses and oversee various aspects of running the museum.
Ann Weaver became the first sculpture instructor in 1942; after Elizabeth passed away several years later, Ralph became engaged to and married Ann. Her new status as a woman of means allowed her to devote all of her energy and time to sculpting—particularly the multiple pieces which are now the focal points of the garden.
With help from her friend Sir Peter Smithers, the second Mrs. Norton’s dream of having a sanctuary for flora and fauna amidst her beloved artwork became a reality.
Today, the gardens remain committed to Ann’s original vision of providing a place of flourishing for local wildlife and a place of life-giving respite to the people of Palm Beach.
6. Edward and Deborah Pollack Fine Art
Art dealers Edward and Deborah Pollack started this gallery in 1971 with an emphasis on collecting and displaying paintings created by Florida artists between 1850-1980.
Mrs. Pollack has also written multiple books about Florida art history, her most recent being Palm Beach Visual Arts, published by Pelican in 2016. Nearly 130 artists from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are featured in the gallery, and pieces by all of them are available for purchase upon request.
7. Armory Art Center
The Norton Museum of Art closed its educational arm in 1986, and a group of local artists, instructors, and other friends of the fine arts in Palm Beach banded together to preserve formal art instruction in the area.
They found the old National Guard Armory to be a perfect place to house the Center, and it opened with great fanfare in 1987.
While the primary focal point of the center is art education—its faculty have taught thousands of courses over its three-decade history—the Center also is committed to displaying art for the community in hundreds of exhibits.
They also offer lecture series and workshops by visiting master artists, and enabling nearly fifty artists-in-residence to be taught and to teach.
The Center also hosts a yearly summer camp for teenage emerging artists.
8. Palm Beach Photographic Centre
The Centre began in 1986 and is a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the local community through the photographic arts.
Besides its extensive and well-stocked museum, which offers multiple exhibitions from both amateur and professional photographers around the world, the Centre’s focus on photography education may be second to none.
Currently, the school is home to over three hundred separate photography workshops conducted by master photographers covering everything from the beginner to the most professional.
They also offer traveling workshops, private instruction, and membership and specific workshops for young photographers (ages 13-17), allowing the youth of Palm Beach to explore their artistic side.
9. Wally Findlay Galleries International
The first gallery in the Wally Findlay family began in 1830 in Kansas City, Missouri, founded by William Wadsworth Findlay.
His grandson, Wally Findlay, expanded the work William and his son Walstein had begun by opening branches in various locations around the country. Palm Beach’s gallery opened in 1961.
While home to many different styles of art over the years, the Findlay consortium is perhaps best known as a leading exponent of a kind of French Impressionist art known as the Rouen School, through the galleries also host many pieces by contemporary European and American artists as well.
The Palm Beach location is over 9,000 square feet, and currently features exhibits from modern artists Ward Jackson, John Ferren, P. Heine, and others.
10. DTR Modern Galleries
Palm Beach is home to only one of the multiple locations of this exclusive gallery of contemporary art. Indeed, DTR is one of the largest operations of contemporary art on the East Coast, having hosted pieces by some of the most famous modern masters (Picasso, Chagall, Dalí, Miró, Warhol, and others).
The galleries are also well-known for offering expert curating and consulting services, serving art collectors worldwide in building finely chosen and tasteful personal collections.
You can find information on upcoming exhibits on their website.
11. A.B. Levy’s
Founded in 1989, A.B. Levy’s might be considered a jack-of-all-trades in the Palm Beach art world. It houses an extensive and carefully curated gallery, specializing in antique and other decorative art objects.
Lev’s is perhaps best known for its annual auction series; eight times a year, the gallery auctions off its pieces to interested patrons who have a passion for French furniture, Japanese and Chinese decorative pieces, Tiffany lamps, and many other interesting and beautiful treasures big and small.
The gallery is also always interested in appraising and purchasing pieces from interested parties; sellers are welcome to contact the experienced Levy’s staff to discuss appraisal or selling outright.
The next auction is scheduled for May 4, 2017 and will feature a dazzling array of jewelry, art, and antiques.
12. ArtHouse 429
The new kid on the block—opening in January of 2013—ArtHouse 429 is a bridge between its surrounding environment, which is home to the up-and-coming young art community with its culture and hip restaurants, and the connoisseurs of the fine and upscale arts in the surrounding area.
The gallery is home to dozens of artists who specialize in the contemporary.
The gallery also features specific limited-time exhibitions of various collections and encourages friends of the museum to add to or begin their own private collections with a purchase.
13. Art After Dark
A local culture initiative of the Norton Museum of Art and sponsored by a charitable trust, Art After Dark allows the Palm Beach community to enjoy free lectures, exhibits, workshops, conversations with curators, and demonstrations every Thursday for free!
Specific emphases are often the focal point of each night, such as a gathering for young professionals or aspects of letter-writing, including an exhibit of handwritten letters from various artists.
The night usually closes out with a free concert by local artists and refreshments from various eateries.
New York City, Boston, and Chicago—along with who knows how many places in California—might be considered the key points of the art world in the United States.
But with all of the many wonderful hot spots for art education, preservation, and presentation in West Palm Beach–and there are far more than the ones I’ve listed here–this town in southern Florida just might give the others a run for their money.
Who knew so much culture was available in one out-of-the-way place? Hop on the Orange Line and spend an afternoon touring the many artistic treasures waiting for the mining in West Palm Beach.