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“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life” [Pablo Picasso] and so it was at the annual George Giving Society* benefactor event. In the spirit of generosity and gratitude, the Board of Directors of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables invited friends and benefactors to dust off some time and immerse in an afternoon of art. The by-invitation-only event was at the elegantly refurbished 1927 Paist & Steward-designed home of Coral Gables residents and HPACG members Jose Valdes-Fauli and Shed Boren. Thank you!
Guests sipped champagne and nibbled on assorted gourmet delicacies all while experiencing the vast art collection lovingly acquired by the hosts. Decades of collecting fill the walls. All the walls! From one end of the home to the other and yes, even the kitchen. Contemporary meets classic as works by Roberto Fabelo, Gina Pellón, Emilio Falero, Manuel Mendive, Guillermo Muñoz Vera and Enrique Campuzan all live side by side. The collection also includes painters and sculptors from Central America, Mexico, the United States, as well as antique objects from China and Africa. One artwork, recently purchased from the artist’s estate, hangs above all others. A 6ft by 9ft Lowell Nesbit piece titled “Iris with four lillies”  takes up a whole wall and one’s breath; it washes the soul and frees it.
The “Sunday in September” affair, generously underwritten by Jose and Shed, was also a day to remember as art shared space with a historic jewel. Thanks to John Allen, director of the Coral Gables Museum, guests were offered a special viewing of the medal [reissued in 1995] bestowed on city founder George Merrick in 1927 when King Alphonso XIII knighted Merrick with the honorary title of “Don of the Order of Isabel La Catolica.” The medal on yellow and white grosgrain ribbon was regally showcased in the dining room where coincidentally several distinct “Meninas” grace the walls. Displaying the Order of Isabel medal was significant as this year marks the 135th anniversary of Merrick’s birth.
Aside from the art, the furniture, mostly by Knoll, is also meticulously curated. “This house is almost 100-years-old,” Jose observed, “so you’ve got all the architecture going on, and then you have all the artwork going on. So, you can’t have furniture going on. It has to be the classics, so that it’s very subtle and doesn’t fight with anything.” Pieces by Artefacto, Baker, and classic Biedermeier are favorites, as well as the recent acquisition of the Art Deco style aluminum and glass side table by the same designer associated with the Rockefeller Center.
The Honor Roll of Donors plaque was displayed next to a large sculpture that is one of a pair from the Ambete tribe in the Congo called “The Protectors of Children.” A short presentation on art and home by Jose Valdes-Fauli followed HPACG President Karelia Martinez Carbonell. Karelia highlighted the organization’s 30th anniversary and the many milestones attained throughout the years. She was joined by board members Lisa Bennett, Brett Gillis, and David Mitchell. Other guests included Ajit Asrani, Richard Bennett, Catherine Cathers, Daniel Ciraldo, Ray Corral, Vicki Cerda, Bruce Fitzgerald, Mayra Joli, Maggie Hernandez, Jeanette Pressman and Alejandro Nunez.
Everything at the impeccably decorated, art-filled home imbued a special soulfulness. Picasso would have agreed. *Donations are unrestricted and benefit historic preservation and its resources.
Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables (HPACG) is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to promote the understanding and importance of historic resources and their preservation. For additional information or to become a member, please visit www.historiccoralgables.org