The 48th Annual Winter Antiques Show, Jan. 20-27, 2002, at the Hilton New York, 1335 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y.
The winter's first snowstorm was no problem for the crowds lining up for the 48th Winter Antiques Show on its opening day, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2002. Their reward was a viewer-friendly array of exquisite furniture and other artworks, assembled by 70 top dealers and spread over two floors of the exposition halls at the Hilton Hotel on Sixth Avenue between 53rd and 54th Streets.
The Saturday night opening gala, which benefits the East Side House Settlement in the Bronx's Mott Haven section, as do the proceeds from daily admissions, was co-chaired by newscaster Katie Couric and architect Richard Meier, with New York State first lady Libby Pataki serving as honorary patron. Other high-profile attendees at the event included Martha Stewart, Mario Buatta and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. In 2001, the Settlement House received over $1,000,000 from the show, one-third of its philanthropic donations.
The show's new quarters at the Hilton -- ordinarily, the exposition is held in the Park Avenue Armory, which has been closed to such events since the Sept 11 attack on the World Center -- are slightly more intimate and lack the Armory's imposing arched ceilings. The Hilton also has a modern, well-put-together feel, with the heating and ventilation control a particular improvement. The location in a top hotel is also a convenience to out-of-town visitors.
Due to the circumstances, dealers had less time to set up, "but everyone wanted show to happen," said one participant. "All the dealers were on board, and overall the show had a cooperative feeling." As Robert Israel of Kentshire Galleries said, "It's a chance to open up your shop right next to your competitors. You're on your toes, you bring things you're proud of, you're in a fish bowl and you wait till someone's foolish enough to ask you to tell them about one of your favorite pieces."
It's not cheap. Galleries can spend around $30,000 to rent the booth, and another $15,000-$18,000 for lighting, trucking, publicity and the like. Transport and lodging for out-of-towners is considerably extra. Usually, dealers decline to put a number on how much business they do at the fair -- regular clients can use the occasion to make a purchase, or contacts made there can result in sales later -- but it goes without saying that the show is a significant part of their business.
For the average antique lover, a visit to the Winter Antiques Show can be intoxicating, with fabulous objects at every turn. Classic American folk art fills the booth of Olde Hope Antiques from New Hope, Pa. A wall of Tiffany lamps and other period art glass is on view at Macklowe Gallery from New York, while Rupert Ware Ancient Art from London, a new exhibitor a the show, boasts a Hellenistic bronze statue of what may be the god Poseidon. The booth of Carolle Thibaut-Pomerantz from New York and Paris is filled with impressive woodblock wallpapers from the 19th century that could teach today's figurative painters a thing or two.
One sobering note is sounded at the entrance to the fair, however, where Hirschl & Adler has mounted a wall of charcoal drawings by the American illustrator Edward Punnett Chrystie (1887-1960), showing historic lower Manhattan and some of the fire companies that served them. Originally commissioned by the fire insurance underwriter the Home Insurance Company, the drawings are $6,500 each, with 10 percent of the proceeds to go to the Uniformed Firefighters' Association Widows' and Childrens' Fund.
Among the things in Kentshire's packed booth is a pair of George II oval mirrors with white-painted frames from Boughton Monchelsea estate in Maidstone, Kent. According to Israel, the mirrors date to a very brief period, ca. 1755-65, when it was the style to paint furniture the same color as the walls -- thus the prevalence of bone, buff and off-white treatments. Made by an anonymous cabinetmaker, the Rococo pieces have deep 3D carving of molded rockwork and scrolling foliage. Price: $475,000 the pair.
At Associated Artists of Southport, Conn. -- yes, the firm, which was established a few years ago, took its name from the artist's collaborative founded by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1879 -- founder David S. Parker noted that collectors in 2002 are displaying a new refinement in their attitudes towards late-19th-century decorative arts. "Taste goes in cycles," he said. "What once was lumped together as 'Victorian' is now seen as several distinct moments -- Egyptian Revival, Modern Gothic, the Aesthetic Movement."
Associated Artists has several pieces by the Herter Brothers, including a gilded side chair made for the drawing room of the Vanderbilt Mansion at 640 Fifth Avenue. The gilded chair, upholstered in fabric with a Chinese dragon pattern, has mother of pearl intarsia to reflect light, since electric light was a novelty at the time. The price is $1.2 million.
As luck would have it, the Hirschl & Adler booth nearby boasts the Herter Brothers console table, ca. 1881-82, that sat right next to the side chair in the Vanderbilt drawing room. It is quite a flight of fancy, with its onyx top and gilded plaster base of grinning jesters and winged lions. The Vanderbilt Mansion furnishings were sold off in 1915 by William Vanderbilt's son's wife, who hated the style.
At the booth of Mallett, the distinguished English antique dealer with two shops in London (English things at Bond Street and Continental furniture at Bourdon House), the impulse was also to showcase anything with a special flavor, according to Mallett's Felicity Jarrett. Along with the Louis XVI commode with ormolu ram's heads running around its edge and the 1840 Jennens and Bentridge Victorian circular lacquer-top table painted with birds in flowering branches, one unusual item is a large standing brass telescope, made in France in 1900 with optics produced in Hong Kong. The price is $28,500. "You don't find them often," Jarrett said.
Barbara Israel, the specialist in garden antiques from Katonah, N.Y., had placed in the center of her booth a ca. 1880 composition-stone sculpture from England of a lion lying down with a lamb. This hopeful notion has wide appeal. "I wished I had two last night," said Israel, who was misting the plants accenting her booth as the show was about to open to the public. The sculpture was sold for an undisclosed price.
For fans of high design from the 1930s -- Art Deco, Secessionist and more -- Barry Friedman is the place look. At the show is a ca. 1901 stained beech desk by Josef Hoffmann. "The square decorations are proto-Cubist," Friedman said, pointing out a hammered brass candelabra from 1920 that is by Hoffmann as well. The desk is priced at $22,000. Also on view in the Friedman booth: an early Klimt drawing in blue pastel, Dozing Woman, ca. 1898-1900, and an Eileen Gray Transit chair from ca. 1925. "Business has been very good since October," Friedman said.
At Hill-Stone, a 26-year-old private dealer in Old Master drawings with offices on Park Avenue, the booth's top offering had sold, a drawing on blue paper by Claude Lorrain from 1670, titled Landscape with the Temptation of Christ. The price: $110,000. "The show is very good, it gets better every year," said Alan N. Stone. He was asked which was his most unusual item. A pen and brown ink drawing of knights and squires with a design for a sumptuous horse trapping, he said, done in connection with a 1565 tournament at the Vatican to celebrate a marriage. The work is attributed to the circle of Giulio Clovio and priced at $7,500. "Drawings of this kind of pageantry are very rare," Stone said. "It's full of life."