The Margaritaville of Modernism

Chair: Miguel Arroyo, Pampatar Butaca Prototype, 1953. Courtesy Carlos J. Acosta
Painting: Alejandro Otero, Pampatar Board, 1953. Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros

Margarita Island is a slice of Jimmy Buffett escapism off Venezuela's Caribbean coast. In 1952 it became the adopted home of photographer and art historian Alfredo Boulton and wife Yolando Delgado Lairet. They purchased a colonial home in the oceanfront town of Pampatar and transformed it into a showplace of modern art and design. 

Through Jan. 7, 2024, the Getty Research Institute is surveying Boulton's influential career(s) in "Alfredo Boulton: Looking at Venezuela (1928–1978)." Three key objects from Casa Boulton are on loan, each commissioned by Boulton for the space. They include a 1953 mahogany armchair by Venezuelan designer Miguel Arroyo, conceived as a sleek update of the colonial butaque, and a 1954 abstract painting by Alejandro Otero. The vertical-format painting, Pampatar Board, uses the three primary colors of the Venezuelan flag. Its surfboard gloss seems to anticipate L.A.'s Finish Fetish. 

Mural of 1950s Fotografía Maxim photo of Casa Boulton

Otero's primary colors echoed those of the room's Alexander Calder mobile, Double Gong (1953). It now has a California connection, as it's part of the Fisher collection on long-term loan to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The Getty has hung the mobile high overhead, in the Research Institute's entrance lobby. (Look up when you enter; it's easy to miss.)

Margarita Island was named for pearl divers, not a cocktail. There was apparently no shortage of alcohol at Casa Boulton, however, as the Boultons published a Drinks and Dishes of the House recipe book for guests.

Alexander Calder, Double Gong, 1953. Doris and Donald Fisher collection, on loan to SFMOMA.. © Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York