The Naples International Art & Antique Fair opened Thursday night with a special preview honoring the Patty & Jay Baker Naples Museum of Art and the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts. The preview was followed by a by-invitation-only first view for special members that lasted until 10 p.m. But instead of the staid, predictable art fair staple found in even the best and most highly-rated outdoor shows, those who attended this preview and first view were treated to a chic, sophisticated viewing experience.
Naples International convenes inside the Naples International Pavilion. Located at 4835 Immokalee Road in North Naples (at its intersection with Livingston Road and within a stone’s throw of the I-75 interchange), the Pavilion is a refurbished and retrofitted 55,000 square-foot facility that was previously occupied by an Albertson’s grocery store. No one stepping inside the Pavilion Thursday night would ever know it though. Bonita-based organizer, International Fine Art Expositions (IFAE), transformed the stripped-down strip mall into a classy, au courant salon with a touch of old-world elegance imported from bastions of culture and refinement like Monaco or Cannes.
One of the ways IFAE achieves this neoteric ambiance is through an imaginative use of lighting. Instead of concealing the network of purlins, joists and trusses that support the building’s metal roof high overhead, IFAE uses the structural system to create soft backlighting in shades of soft violet and deep purples that convey a rich, regal setting. As the eye drops to the exhibition floor, each booth is denoted and demarcated by an LED-lit royal blue header that symbolizes the stability and permanence of the exhibiting art dealers, galleries and jewelers who make this such an outstanding show.
The space is designed to accommodate thousands of attendees, but IFAE carefully avoids cramping them together as occurs at the typical outdoor fair or art festival. Wide aisles and gangways carpeted to muffle chatter let viewers know there’s no need to hurry, and simple modernist benches provide restful transition points that subliminally separate the show’s 28 high-caliber exhibitors. In other shows, exhibitors vie for coveted corner booths. At Naples International, booths are cleverly configured in peninsulas so that collectors have access from three different aisles to the paintings, sculpture and fine jewelry that beckon inside.
Everything at Naples International is done with the art enthusiast’s comfort squarely in mind. Toward that laudable end, IFAE strategically provides not one, but three food-and-beverage gathering spots throughout the pavilion. There’s an expresso cafe in the front of the hall, a cafe bar in the rear and a sushi bar on the west end, stationed outside the long, deep lecture room where IFAE delivers on its promise to provide ample educational content to go along with the rare and extraordinary artworks that fill the hall.
If you’ve never been to an IFAE-organized art show, you owe it to yourself to attend Naples International. The art and antique fair runs through Tuesday, February 28. The show opens at 11 a.m. each day, and closes at 7 p.m. today and Sunday and at 5 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday. Please click here for a list of lectures offered throughout the balance of this 6-day fine art event, and for more information about the show, please telephone 239-949-5411 or go to www.ifae.com.