New trends in the antiques world, from the 2007 Winter Antiques Show to the Chelsea art district.
CHUNKY MARBLE CHAIRS
Go-go Larry Gagosian has long been a leader in the edgy contemporary art world and now he’s headlining his first-ever decorative arts exhibition in New York. On view at his West 24th Street Chelsea outpost is the latest limited-edition furniture of Australian designer Marc Newson (b. 1964). Cut from single slabs of Carrara marble, Newson’s massive chairs, tables and screens represent a new kind of artistry in the refined antiques world -- and they’re just the right thing for hip hedge-funder lofts. With half of the show purportedly sold by opening weekend, at prices ranging from $100,000 to $400,000, Newson could be the next Chippendale. Marc Newson, Jan. 25-Mar. 3, 2007, at Gagosian Gallery 555 West 24th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.
GRAND TOUR MOMENT
In the 18th century, members of the English aristocracy snapped up endless sketches and watercolors while making their requisite Grand Tour to Europe. Now, the American-born and London-based dealer Charles Plante, who has style with a capital S down to his fingertips, has recreated those period European travels with a special exhibition installed at Mallett on Madison Avenue, just south of the Whitney Museum. Hung salon-style throughout the gallery are 500-plus sketches, silhouettes, oil studies, drawings and watercolors from the 18th through the 20th centuries, all recreating "The Grand Tour in Watercolours."
Prices are approachable for even modest budgets, with a Regency watercolor of a gent wearing a billowy red coat tagged at only $500 (it’s still in its original mahogany circular frame). Somewhat more dear, at $78,000, is a 1796 sketch of Roman stone artifacts by Charles Percier, the French architect who with his pal Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine created the Empire style. The dense hanging of so many scenic works is enchanting, and the exhibition rates as the four-star antiques gallery event of the season. "The Grand Tour in Watercolours," Jan. 17-Feb. 17, 2007, at Mallett, 929 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10021.
Crystals are front and center in the trendy fashionista world, and now antiques dealer Louis Bofferding is showcasing a stunner that combines contemporary sculpture, glam couture and objet d'art. The item in question is a strapless evening gown done all in crystals by the artist Justen Ladda, who is perhaps best known for his mural of Marvel Comics’ The Thing charging out towards the empty auditorium in an abandoned school in the South Bronx in the 1980s.
Titled Dress, the new piece is set against an oval mirror that looks like a painting dipped in diamond dust. Adding still another layer of representation is Ladda’s 1989 painting New York Mirror, his rendition of an English 18th-century mirror, complete with an eerie body of armor as a reflection. Bofferding has long been ahead of the curve, early on showcasing works by the legendary Paris decorating firm Maison Jansen and pioneering interior decorator Syrie Maugham -- so Ladda is bound to be next hot thing among the style set. Justen Ladda at R. Louis Bofferding, 970 Lexington Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10021.
KNIT 2, PEARL 1?
With the debut of "Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting" at the Museum of Art & Design in Manhattan, down-market handiwork makes its grand entry into the hip 21st-century art world via works by 27 artists. "These are not your grandmother’s crocheted doilies and knitted leg warmers," says MAD curator David McFadden. Precisely. One crowd-pleaser is the video of David Cole’s The Knitting Machine, in which two backhoes actually knit a 35-foot-wide Stars and Stripes, a performance that took place at MASS MoCA two years ago.
Also on view is Cole’s Money Dress, woven from 879 U.S. dollar bills -- it’s size 8 -- and Erna van Sambeek’s socks and other clothing constructed from newspaper strips. Freddie Robins’ It Sucks afghan has that very contemporary expression knit right into the seemingly cozy textile. This fiber show is provocative, although some pieces are pedestrian. "Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting," Jan. 25-June 17, 2007, at the Museum of Art & Design, 40 West 53rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10019.
PINK MUSLIN PLAYHOUSE
Architectural historian, preservationist and designer Ralph Harvard wins hands down the award for the most captivating stand at the just-closed 2007 Winter Antiques Show. For the booth of Philadelphia-based miniatures dealer Elle Shushan, Harvard sketched the exterior and interior of Westover, the great 18th-century plantation in Virginia. He then had his sketch rendered on pink muslin and turned into a light and airy gazebo, within which Shushan could array her wares. Havard’s creation proved to be so appealing that Madison Avenue dealer Alexander Acevedo purchased it as a playhouse for his daughter. Elle Shushan, 1600 Arch Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19103.
THE BARONIAL LOOK
Speaking of the baronial look -- as in massive amounts of European armor à la William Randolph Hearst -- that décor is also back in style. Especially noted at the Winter Antiques Show was the booth of London arms-and-armor dealer Peter Finer, who gave pride of place to a Northern Italian suit of armor dating to 1590 and hailing from the workshop of Pompeo della Chiesa, whose work is featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Our collectors are looking for more sculptural examples to go with their contemporary art," says Redmond Finer, son of the gallery founder. The suit of armor costs $240,000, while an elaborate gilt presentation sword is priced at $580,000. Peter Finer, 39 Duke Street, St. James’s, England.
Also making an interesting splash at the Winter Antiques Show were 20th-century textiles. Manhattan dealer Cora Ginsburg in particular boasted an exemplary swath of Art Deco fabric, more than 11 feet of brocaded silk designed by Jean Beaumont for the Normandie (the ocean liner whose furnishings, many of them anyway, have ended up in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum). The creamy background of the fabric highlights its red wisteria pattern. The price is $40,000.
"These days, there’s a greater interest in 20th-century textiles on the part of major museums," says Titi Halle, who heads up Ginsburg. Among the gallery’s recent clients are the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which is now developing a gallery dedicated to textiles, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Cora Ginsburg, 19 East 74th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021.
CHELSEA AS THE NEW DESIGN DESTINATION
The biggest surprise in the now-booming design world is the emergence of Latin American paintings dealer Ramis Barquet as a mega-player in design. In mid-January, Barquet opened his second space devoted to this niche category in Chelsea, bringing in architect Enrique Norton to make sure his gallery has the right look. Plus, his inaugural show features the work of Marc Newson, along with an enormous inventory of 20th century and later material. With Barquet and Gagosian (see above), Chelsea will soon be a major-league stop for the decorating trade. Sebastian + Barquet Gallery, 544 West 24th Street, and the Sebastian + Barquet Showroom, 601 West 26th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.
BROOK S. MASON is U.S. correspondent for the Art Newspaper, and also writes for the Financial Times, the New York Sun and other publications.