North and South Federal Highway in Dania Beach, Florida, is one of those typical American streets which seems to be endless, where most people drive through, on either side a variety of relatively low-rise buildings of undistinguished architecture, apart perhaps from the Congregational Church, and gaps used for parking or undergoing redevelopment.
It has some claims to fame: at one end near where north turns to south, are a variety of antique shops and warehouses, though it has to be said that we were the only visitors on a Monday in late February, and the Vintage Market and Salvage Company which we were looking for is closed and now a development opportunity. The other claim to fame is the iconic ice cream parlour Jaxons, which has been serving its unique variety of ice creams and other food since 1956
Then, an astonishing discovery: the Weiner Museum in Dania Beach, which doesn’t look much from outside – just another warehouse -, but once you enter the door and go past the immense Lladro chandelier and up in the lift, you find the most amazing collection of porcelain and ceramic art and glass sculptures, starting in England, then moving elsewhere in Europe, then to South Africa and ending with the contemporary glass of Dale Chihuly from the United States.
The strength of the collection is English porcelain and ceramics, starting from the early days of Wedgewood (founded in 1759) and Royal Doulton (established in 1815) and moving through different styles and artists such as George Tinworth for Royal Doulton and Clarence Cliff for Wedgewood, and then to other firms such as Moorcroft, Minton, William de Morgan, the Ruskin Pottery, the Martin Brothers and the Royal Lancashire Works, plus displays of 20th century artistry by Toots Zynsky from Hungary, Goldscheider from Germany, Royal Copenhagen from Denmark and Lladro from Spain, the latter linked into an extravagant Venetian carnival theme. The quality of the ceramics on show is outstanding, many of them show pieces of immense size, and, to bring us into the 21st century, there are two ceramic sculptures by the English artist Helen Nottage on the theme of ‘The Fragility of the Human Condition’.
Then, a change of pace. It is time for tea, almost an essential display where English and Chinese porcelain is concerned, moving then to a gallery of beautiful ceramic work by Ardmore, a collective of artists in the Natal Midlands of South Africa founded and supported by Fee Halstead, combining modern techniques with beautiful artistry that brings the traditions, animals and natural environment of South Africa into the most amazing and imaginative ceramic sculptures.
Finally, the swirling, colourful, twisting glass sculptures of American artist Dale Chihuly, giving the gallery that bears his name in St Petersburg, Florida, a run for its money, particularly as when I last visited it had relocated and had shrunk in size. Chihuly is always popular – in London he frequently shows at the Halcyon Gallery and an exhibition is promised later in the year at Artis in Naples, Florida.
All in all, an amazing find in Dania Beach.