The Silver Fund were delighted and honored to host the 2020 Lighthouse Guild Cocktail Reception honoring Audrey and Martin Gruss. A huge success, over 100 attended!
The Silver Fund was proud to be asked to stage a historic house on Palm Beach. The home, an architectural gem designed by classic Palm Beach architect John Volk classic, has been masterfully redesigned and expanded while carefully preserving the 20th century grandeur.
Palm Beach Society Magazine recently interviewed Mark Helliar about his background dealing in art and antiques and the extensive collection of Murano glass at The Silver Fund.
Easy-to-read text is below the image below.
Mark Helliar is… Worth Asking
HOW DID YOU START IN THE FINE ART INDUSTRY?
I started at age 19 right at the bottom as a porter at Christie’s Auction House in London. I then worked my way up to an expert in the silver department and eventually ended up conducting auctions on the rostrum as an auctioneer.
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DID YOU NEED?
I called up Christie’s to see if they had any jobs available.
I was asked to come in and see the Managing Director. He asked me only one question: did I know how to play golf? Of course, I immediately said yes. He said great you can start on Monday.
WHEN YOU LEFT CHRISTIE’S AFTER 10 YEARS HOW DID YOU START AS A DEALER?
I started by traveling around all the international trade fairs buying silver which was my expertise and specialty. I then branched out into other 20th Century items, the field I had a particular attraction towards as I’ve had a great appreciation for modern design.
HOW DID YOU BECOME SO INTERESTED IN MURANO ART GLASS?
About 20 years ago when I first started traveling to the fairs in Italy, I bought one or two great pieces of colorful glass for myself to keep. Soon the collection became an obsession and I tried to learn everything I could about Murano art glass.
HOW COMPREHENSIVE IS YOUR COLLECTION?
I currently have about 140 pieces at The Silver Fund, which I believe to be probably the biggest collection of sculptural Murano glass for sale in the United States today.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE SILVER FUND STORE ON WORTH AVENUE?
I have known the Founder, Michael James for many years, having done shows with him all over the United States. Before he opened the shop, he asked whether I wanted to join in and bring my art glass collection in the store. He thought it complemented the fantastic collection of 20th Century silver furniture and lighting and other art objects.
WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT PALM BEACH VERSUS OTHER MARKETS?
Palm Beach probably has more great collectors than anywhere else in the United States. The people here have traveled the world extensively, have experienced the finest things, and are truly interested in the arts and collecting. I had also found (from doing the shows here for the last 20 years) that I had a core group of collectors which allowed me to start a business here — knowing that I already had a good group of clients.
WHAT’S YOUR VIEW AS TO THE MURANO ART GLASS MARKET?
What is extraordinary is that some of the academic pieces of art class have been selling at auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Indeed, one piece made over $600,000. So the pieces that I sell with a maximum price point up to about $50,000 or $60,000 in my humble opinion have a long way to go. The more that’s researched about the design of these pieces and the more books published, the greater the field of collecting will be in the whole and the prices rise. So I would say it’s a very good time to collect Murano art glass as many or most of the great masters have recently passed away.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO COLLECTORS?
Unquestionably they should buy the best examples by the finest masters. Always try to acquire the premium pieces.
WHY SHOULD COLLECTORS COME TO YOU?
I think that whatever you collect it’s always good to
try and buy from someone who is an expert in their
field, because they will hopefully stop you from making fundamental mistakes. I have spent 20 years and invested a lot of time and money into becoming an absolute authority on the finest artisans working in Marano. I have one of
the largest collections that you can see anywhere in this particular field. I enjoy starting collectors on that journey with wonderful pieces that they can enjoy for years to come.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE ARTIST/ GLASSBLOWER?
My favorite artists are Loredano Rosin, Pino Signoretto, Alfredo Barbini, Archimedes Seguso and Licio Zanetti. Obviously, it’s difficult to just pick one. They are all amazing.
TELL US ABOUT ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE PIECES?
One of my favorite pieces that I have owned was two Murano glass rhinos that were hand formed in black glass by Loredano Rosin. These sculptures are a difficult and expensive art form to create. Loredano was a master at this type of glass and his sculptures are truly unique and hard to find. Sadly he passed away in 1991.
WHAT MAKES MURANO GLASS SO SPECIAL?
The fact that it could only have been made on the island of Murano in Italy. The artisans making this glass and design are part of a tradition that goes back 1,500 years. It’s passed from family to family, so it’s something unique in all of the world.
WHY IS IT THAT THE BEST PIECES OF MURANO GLASS SEEM TO ONLY BE AVAILABLE IN THE UNITED STATES?
In the 50s, 60s, and 70s, the very wealthiest of Americans went on the Grand Tour around Italy. They went to Murano and bought these incredible pieces directly from the masters when they were brand new. Thus the best collections are already here in America.
Palm Beach Society Magazine recently interviewed The Silver Fund’s founder and owner Michael James for the Worth Going column.
Easy-to-read text is below the image below.
The Silver Fund is… Worth Going
FIRST, A QUESTION I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE WHEN THEY WALK IN AND SEE SUCH A DIVERSE COLLECTION… WHY IS YOUR BUSINESS CALLED THE SILVER FUND?
The company was co-founded in London in 1996 by me with a consortium of investors to buy and sell estate silver from the nest Danish silversmith Georg Jensen — it was thus a fund and we took the company private in 2008. Later we expanded into silver from other makers, then after the opening of the shop in Palm Beach we expanded into furniture and design as we had an amazing 2500 square feet to fill.
SO YOU WERE IN LONDON?
Yes, we had a shop on Bond Street before moving to St. James Street in London. We opened in New York on Madison Avenue at 77th and also San Francisco after having had a successful silver concession within Gumps, the famous department store. We were also doing fairs and exhibitions around the world — Los Angeles, Chicago, Hong Kong, etc.
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START?
I have always loved buying and selling beautiful things. I started at 18 and it was a hobby that turned into a business and the only way to keep collecting was to keep buying and selling.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE PALM BEACH?
We have been exhibiting in Palm Beach for over two decades, starting with the American International Fine Arts Fair. We always enjoyed coming to Palm Beach in the winter to see our friends and clients and to make new ones. The fair was full of the best dealers in the world — it was amazing. There is no where else in the world like Palm Beach. When this space on prime Worth Avenue became available, we couldn’t pass it up.
DO YOU YOU STILL DEAL IN GEORG JENSEN SILVER?
Yes, for a long time we were the largest dealer in Georg Jensen hollowware and flatware in the world having published the definitive book on the subject. We still have a very large collection, but specialize in only the finest pieces now.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PIECE?
We recently purchased an incredible sh dish. We have a large selection of trays that came from an estate that had specially ordered them directly from Georg Jensen. It’s unusual to be able to find such a large collection of trays.
WHAT OTHER SILVER DO YOU DEAL IN?
Jean E. Puiforcat — French and Mexican. Jean Després — an amazing silversmith who designed and made all of the pieces himself who had an Aeronautical background. Also we showcase Tiffany, Cartier objects and thousands of different items.
WHAT DOES THE SILVER FUND SPECIALIZE IN NOW?
Furniture and lighting from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Fantastic designers including Vladimir Kagan, Karl Springer, Milo Baughman and Paul Evans amongst others. On top of this we have one of the nest collections of 50s, 60s and 70s Murano art glass available for sale in the U.S.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE DESIGNER?
It is difficult to pick, because they are so different, but Vladimir Kagan is a design stand out — his pieces are timeless. A few months before he passed away we had the good fortune of meeting him as he was a well-known Palm Beach resident. He was delighted to see a sofa in our gallery that he had custom designed for a client in the 70s and he said it should be in a museum.
DO THE CLIENTS INTERESTED IN MID-CENTURY FURNITURE MOSTLY HAVE MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY HOUSES?
Many of our clients have classic Palm Beach houses. Several of our clients have beautiful Mizner homes and the pieces look incredible, because they provide a wonderful contrast. They also work well with how people live now. The furniture is comfortable. The colors are vibrant and compliment the amazing colors and light of Palm Beach and most importantly, they were handmade in America, before mass manufacturing moved to China.
DO YOU REUPHOLSTER THE FURNITURE?
Yes, we reupholster all of the sofas and chairs. Choosing the fabrics and colors is one of our favorite aspects of the furniture business. We work with a few very talented local upholsters and restorers to make sure the pieces are all in excellent condition and immediately ready to live with.
ARE MOST OF YOUR CLIENTS IN PALM BEACH?
We have clients around the entire world. That is partly because we’ve been doing fairs around the world for years but also because Palm Beach is a very international city. One day last week our shipper picked up pieces that were going to clients in Miami, Bermuda, as well as the South of France.
WHY DID YOU EXPAND INTO FURNITURE AND DESIGN?
We’ve always loved design and bought things for our own homes. When we took the gallery in Palm Beach we had more space than in previous shops so it seemed like a natural progression. We have created a lifestyle shop which is hard to find in many other places in the world.
IS THERE A COMMON THEME THROUGH EVERYTHING YOU DEAL IN?
Everything we sell is the best of the best when it was originally made. They weren’t pieces that were mass produced, but rather, very expensive furniture in its day and it still shows — because they are of the highest quality.
WHERE DO YOU SOURCE YOUR ITEMS FROM?
We buy a lot direct from estates where we get to select an odd piece here and there, literally, and we reject hundreds of items in order to find the one real exceptional piece that makes its way to the gallery door.
DO DESIGNERS USE YOUR GALLERY AS A RESOURCE?
We have maybe a 100 or so top designers that visit our store when hunting for items for their clients’ projects, they always want that one accent piece that they simply can’t find anywhere else. It’s exciting to be a top resource for so many talented taste makers.
WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO PEOPLE READING THIS?
Visit our store and be inspired — many people out there have been hugely successful due to their financial literacy but we feel that many need that extra inspiration for visual literacy, if we can assist with that, we would love to.
Palm Beach Society is the social magazine of Palm Beach. It focuses on all the major fundraising activities which take place throughout the year, to raise money and support for a wide variety of charities and non-profit organizations which are committed to serve the local community.
The Silver Fund celebrated the upcoming gala 2019 Lighthouse Guild Visionary Dinner honoring Thomas C. Quick with a cocktail party on Wednesday, January 23.
The Silver Fund will host an exhibition of museum-quality vintage Murano glass March 30 through April 15.
The Cultural Council of Palm Beach County hosted 120 people on March 5 for its second edition of Culture & Cocktails with Michael James, owner and founder of The Silver Fund.
The evening’s topic at The Colony was “The Eternal Allure of Silver” — which James would know about, being the largest dealer worldwide in estate Georg Jensen silver, and selling more than $40 million to private clients since 1996.
James displayed more than a half million dollars of dazzling silver pieces that night.
The next and final Culture & Cocktails event on April 2 will feature Palm Beach Opera General Director Daniel Biaggi and Beth Clark, CEO of the Young Singers of Palm Beach.
The Silver Fund hosted a cocktail party committee members and supporters of Lighthouse Guild’s upcoming Palm Beach gala “A Visionary Evening”. The evening will honor Grace Meigher and her daughters, Elizabeth Meigher and Amanda Mariner, and Junior Honoree Wyatt Koch.
Among those in attendance were Judith and Rudolph Guiliani, Marc Rosen, Carla and George Mann, Lucy Musso, Kate Gubelman, Pauline Pitt, Stephen DeAngelis, Mai Harrison, Eles Gillet, Beth Rudin DeWoody, Kathy Bleznak, Allison and Don Gulbrandsen, Gigi and Harry Benson, Nancy Paul and Pam Fiore.
The Silver Fund honored the Lighthouse Guild at a private reception in its store on Jan. 18 drawing nearly 100 guests including honorees, chairmen, committee members and supporters of the upcoming dinner dance.
Michael James of The Silver Fund welcomed Mark G. Ackermann, who acknowledged honorary chairman Arlene Dahl. He also thanked Dinner Dance Chairs Thomas Quick, Frannie Scaife, Kit Pannill and Talbot Maxey as well as Young Visionary Chairs Michael Idy and Mathieu Rosinsky.
Among those in attendance were Judith and Rudolph Guiliani, Marc Rosen, Carla and George Mann, Lucy Musso,Kate Gubelman, Pauline Pitt, Stephen DeAngelis, Mai Harrison, Eles Gillet, Beth Rudin DeWoody, Kathy Bleznak, Allison and Don Gulbrandsen, Gigi and Harry Benson, Nancy Paul and Pam Fiore.
The Palm Beach “A Visionary Evening” Dinner Dance will be held Feb. 22 at Club Colette.