Friday January 26, 2024 | by Andrew Page

IN MEMORIAM: Glass collector and major philanthropist Sheldon Palley (1933 - 2024) passes away at the age of 90

Sheldon Palley -- businessman, art collector, and philanthropist - passed away on Thursday, January 25, 2024, at the age of 90. He died less than four years after the death of Myrna, his wife of 63 years. Though Palley grew up in Detroit, Michigan, he made Miami, Florida, his home for 75 years. It was while studying for his law degree at the Univesrity of MIami that he met Myrna, who had graduated with a bachelor's degree in education and was teaching art at a junior high school at the time they met.

After discovering glass at an art fair in 1975, the married couple became avid glass collectors, often traveling to New York to attend openings at Heller and other art galleries. In 2008, the couple donated a large portion of their collection to the Lowe Art Museum, where the Myrna and Sheldon Palley Pavilion for Contemporary Glass and Studio Arts was built to house their gift of over 100 major works in glass. With major works by Dale Chihuly, Howard Ben Tre, Hank Adams, and many others, the appraised value of the artwork dwarfed the $1.7 million gift the Palleys gave to the Lowe. The couple also gave $1 million to the University of Miami to start a hot glass program.

The bright and airy Palley Pavillion at the Lowe Museum in Coral Gables, Florida.

Palley's generosity extended to artists as well as museums. New York artist Sydney Cashfirst met Sheldon when they attended one of his openings at Heller Gallery after a feature article in American Craft brought collectors from around the country to Manhattan. Cash says that their shared history growing up in the Jewish community of Detroit gave them a special connection, and the two became longtime friends. 

In a telephone interview, Cash told the Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet that Palley never used computers or cell phones because he didn't want to be bothered with new technologies. 

"I thought, that takes a lot of guts," says Cash. "He was an old-school kind of guy."

In February 2023, less than a year ago, Cash and his wife visited Palley and his daughter Lisa in Florida, where he insisted on driving them to the Everglades to see alligators. "It was actually quite fun and beautiful," Cash recounted, and shared a personal photo from that memorable visit.

Cash was commissioned by Palley to create a memorial artwork after Myrna's passing in 2020, just one of several commissions he received over the decades. He recalls that Palley always stood out among collectors for his careful eye and willingness to pay what a piece was worth. 

"We were like home-boys," says Cash.

A funeral service will be held on Monday, January 29th 2024 from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM at the Temple Judea (5500 Granada Blvd, Coral Gables, FL 33146). 

A graveside service will be held on Monday, January 29th 2024 from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM at the Riverside Gordon Memorial Chapels (5900 SW 77th Ave, Miami, 33143).

For more information about the funeral, or to sign an online guestbook:

Glass: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for more than 40 years.