When we think about Florida, we often picture the Keys, lush beaches, mangroves and Miami night life. Here, we offer some insight regarding activities and places to visit in the Sunshine State.

The Norton Museum of Art

Straight from Palm Beach International Airport, we headed to The Norton Museum of Art. The renowned architect Lord Norman Foster, founder and executive chairman of Foster and Partners reimagined the museum's expansion and completed it in 2019. It is an exemplary vision of an elegant modern space for visitors to experience art and gather. It pairs well with the museum's original art deco building with its clean and crisp lines of that period. The museum’s expansion was intentionally built around a century-old Banyan tree. On one side of the entrance, one is greeted by this immense tree, and on the other, a reflecting pool is topped with Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s sculpture Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, 1999. All these external elements, tree, roof, pool, and art lend a welcoming air and add direction. The metal canopy roof also provides shelter from sudden Floridian downpours.

Pamela and Robert B. Goergen Garden

Visiting just gardens alone makes me happy, and one with sculptures doubles my happiness. I was drawn to Keith Haring’s yellow-painted aluminum sculpture, Julia, 1987. I like how the yellow color pops against the green of the Coccothrinax Argentata, commonly known as Florida silver palms. Haring made five of these sculptures and one artist's proof. The Norton's Julia is number three out of five. The sculpture was named after a dancer and friend, Julia Gruen. Haring captured a sense of movement in this sculptural portrait. It is dynamic, joyful, and instantly recognizable as a Keith Haring, and Julia feels very much at home here. Another standout is Franz West’s Gorgo, 2006, in epoxy resin. I find the color combination of lime green and aqua blue appealing. I think it looks like potted greenery growing out of an urn. Other sculptures include Antony Gormley, Jenny Holzer, Fernand Léger, Paul Manship, and Ugo Rondinone.

Lunch first, then art

After a relaxing and satisfying lunch at the museum’s restaurant, we were ready to wander through their galleries. It is a spacious restaurant and offers garden views and floor-to-ceiling windows, and from inside of the restaurant one can see Fernand Léger’s sculpture of Le Tournesol, 1952. I was dazzled by their varied art collections from American, Chinese, Contemporary, European, and Photography. It was quite the treat to view world-class art sans crowds. The permanent European collection includes Monet, Bernard, Cezanne, and Picasso, including some of Picasso’s ceramics, a personal favorite. I want nothing but pine for one of his vessels as they capture the time and place they were created, in the South of France. The surprise sculpture by Constantin Brancusi gives an idea of how well-rounded this art collection is, and I have only touched the surface.

Ellen Graham Unscripted

We saw an exhibition of photography by Ellen Graham titled Unscripted. For over six decades, Graham has photographed celebrated actors, musicians, fashion designers, athletes, models, and royals. The title reflects Graham’s approach to photographing in unposed and off-guard photos. A stunning black and white photograph of Viscountess Jacqueline de Ribes, 1983 caught my eye: The Viscountess is looking at a mannequin in one of Jacqueline's ready-to-wear dress designs, and the mannequin was made to look like the Viscountess. Graham instructed Jacqueline to look at her dress in the window of Saks Fifth Avenue on Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills. It reminds me of a time when elegant dressing mattered and when we still sought out clothes for quality and as timeless pieces. One can also see cars reflected in the window of this time period.

Palm Beach is New York in color

The following morning, we stopped in the much-loved Sant Ambroeus for breakfast. This restaurant has multiple outposts - Milan, Palm Beach, and various locations in New York. I am familiar with them. Thus, I knew it would be a delicious start to our day. I opted for a cappuccino and a Maritozzi (a delectable Roman sweet of brioche that uses olive oil instead of butter) filled with whipped cream. The brioche is only slit on one side and leaves the other side intact.

While dining, I took in my surroundings and noticed the well-mannered and preppy dressed families, their pooches, smartly dressed professionals - one nattily dressed in a colorful Pucci print dress, coming in for coffee and pastries on the go. I felt like I was in the Upper East Side of Manhattan except everyone was colorfully dressed. I admired the restaurant’s attractive coral umbrellas shading diners, and sophisticated shopping opportunities such as Hermés and the appealing gardens at the Royal Poinciana Plaza.

Winter Park

It was a delightful séjour in Florida, and before leaving, we stopped by The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art at The Alfond Inn. It is a surprisingly wonderful collection and once again I am drawn to sculpture and the garden. It was thrilling to see Jaume Plensa's sculpture, The Hermit XI, 2012, fabricated in stainless steel and stone. By chance, I have seen quite a few pieces of his work, and now I go and see Plensa's artwork if I hear one is nearby. Seeing different works of art by the same artist brings back memories of his Giant Head 2019 sculpture for Frieze, New York displayed at Rockefeller Center and Together 2015, for Venice’s Biennale at the Basilica San Giorgio Maggiore. Plensa's The Hermit XI frequently incorporates text work. In this sculpture, The Hermit XI, a sitting body entirely of text reminds me how much of our human experience is about language.

Before heading to Orlando International Airport, we popped into one of the lovely cafes along North Park Avenue for a glass of Prosecco and a macaron.