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An Artistic Picture of Undersea Life

August 16, 1987|FRANK RILEY | Riley is travel columnist for Los Angeles magazine and a regular contributor to this section

MONTEREY, Calif. — From Big Sur to Maui and back to Monterey--that's the travel trail of what has become the world's largest Marine Art Expo.

The first annual Monterey Marine Art Expo 87, which opened here Aug. 1 and will continue through Sept. 30, has been drawing so many visitors that it may become an annual attraction like its counterpart on the island of Maui.

The setting for this Expo, which is dedicated to help preserve our planet's undersea life, is an artfully constructed turreted-tent pavilion beside the waterfront at the Monterey Plaza Hotel on Cannery Row, four blocks from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The latter has become known worldwide since its opening two years ago.

Gary Koeppel, founder and owner of the Coast Gallery at Big Sur, made his decision to introduce this summer's Monterey Expo after producing four successful Marine Art Expos on Maui.

After becoming known in the art world as the exclusive distributor both in the United States and Europe for the drawings, etchings and paintings of Henry Miller, Koeppel began to display the works of marine artists and photographers. His goal was to increase awareness of marine life and build public perception of the need for marine conservation.

In the summer of 1973 Big Sur's worst storm and flood of the century destroyed Koeppel's original gallery. He spent the night on a fragment of the roof while rocks and logs washed past him. The community helped him rebuild and, in effect, sculpture the Coast Gallery around two enormous redwood water tanks.

Original Gallery

The original Big Sur Coast Gallery has expanded to include Coast galleries on Maui and at nearby Pebble Beach.

With the support of visitors from throughout the world at his fourth annual Maui Marine Expo last February, Koeppel was able to donate $25,000 to the Cousteau Society for the continued exploration and protection of the earth's marine environment.

The Monterey Plaza Hotel was opened two years ago this October by A. Cal Rossi Jr., who also developed the internationally known Stanford Court Hotel on Nob Hill in San Francisco, and is now the proprietor of San Francisco's Italian-styled Donatello Hotel.

As soon as Koeppel saw the Plaza Hotel he recognized its potential as an Art Expo location. It was the first hotel granted permission by all governmental and environmental agencies to be built on Monterey's Cannery Row. It blends the architectural styles of peninsula history that include the Spanish and Far Eastern influences dating to the 17th Century, the Grand Mansion era that began around 1899 and the colorful Cannery Row period, circa 1945.

The Monterey Expo displays the works of 16 marine artists and photographers ranked among the best in the world.

The California sea otter, threatened with extinction before marine conservationists came to its rescue 30 years ago, is the hit of the exhibition as the official "Hailley's Urchin" Expo image, painted for a collector's item poster by artist Richard Pettit.

Free Admission

Admission to the Expo, open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., is free, but the sale of these posters and more than 500 pieces of marine art--the largest number displayed at any expo--will help raise funds for another contribution to the Cousteau Society. Prices are set to fit a wide range of visitor budgets, from art post cards at 50 cents to paintings at $3,000.

The latest Cousteau film, "At the Edge of the Human Tide," will have its world premiere at a Monterey Expo dinner on Sept. 12. Jean-Michel Cousteau, Jacques' son, will be the honored guest at the $500-per-plate dinner, another fund-raiser for the Art Expo contribution to the Cousteau Society.

The Monterey Plaza is making its own contribution to the Cousteau Society fund. From the Expo package rate of $125 for a bay view double room, the hotel will contribute $25 to the fund.

Among the most impressive of the Monterey Expo exhibits are the bronze sculptures of Randy Puckett, rated as America's top sculptor of the great whales of the world. His "Dyad" captures the essence of a whale in motion.

Gregg and Gayle Appleby create dolphins in gold and diamond jewelry. Michael Ward achieves a swirl of underwater impressionism with his unusual reverse glass paintings. "Within a Rainbowed Sea" is Christopher Newbert's award-winning book collection of underwater photographs.

For Gary Koeppel, showing the art of the marine environment here is a way of helping bring to reality the prediction of Jacques Cousteau: "People will protect what they love."

For more information on the Marine Art Expo, or for Monterey Plaza reservations, contact the Monterey Plaza Hotel at 400 Cannery Row, Monterey, Calif. 93940. Telephone toll-free within California at (800) 334-3999; outside California call (800) 631-1339.

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