OLD GREENWICH, CONN. — “Overall, the event was a success from the magnificent displays and efforts of the exhibitors, hard work and extensive promotion by us, the Bruce Museum and Greenwich Historical Society,” said Barn Star Productions’ show manager Frank Gaglio, reflecting on the Antiques & Art Avant Garde Greenwich show, which concluded on December 16 after a gala preview and two-day run at the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center.
Indeed, the show was a glowing, glittering jewel box with more than 40 exhibitors presenting fine art, period furniture, jewelry of all periods, along with midcentury and Modern furnishings, fine art and sculpture, Asian art and artifacts and more. It was billed as an inaugural event, but the spirit of Antiquarius, a predecessor show that ran for more than 50 years, was evident. Dampening the festive mood, however, was the school shooting tragedy in nearby Newtown, Conn., on the day of the gala preview for collectors and society elite, and a somber weekend of searching for answers and solace no doubt affected attendance and sales at the show.
With a fresh and contemporary look and feel, the show was designed to appeal to every level of collector, as well as decorators and home design enthusiasts. A special events program featured designer Alexa Hampton, antiques expert and auctioneer Leigh Keno and show decorator Lynne Scalo, all addressing standing-room-only audiences with a book signing, panel discussion and booth chat.
“Exhibitors reported outstanding sales in the decorative arts, jewelry, fine art and European furniture, Bakelite jewelry, patriotica and silver,” said the Rhinebeck, N.Y.-based promoter Gaglio after the show concluded. “Attendance on Saturday and Sunday was moderate; however, sales seemed to soar on midday Sunday, with several exhibitors asking me to keep the show open beyond the scheduled 4 pm closing time as long as there were customers on the floor, to which I happily agreed.”
The gala brought some of the executives from the Bruce Museum to Dana Kraus’s jewelry showcases. Doing business as DK Farnum Estate Jewelry, the Lakeville, Conn., dealer featured several objets from the collection of Evangeline Bruce, who was known as a style icon and socialite. “From the Bruce estate, I have a solid gold minaudiere, several compacts and some jade letter-openers that Mrs Bruce owned,” said Kraus, adding, “A few of these items sold.
“We had some important Schlumberger items,” she continued. “I worked at Tiffany and love the older pieces, so we feature them when we can. We sold a very unusual Seaman Schepps cuff bracelet that features slices, Asian snuff bottles, a fabulous ‘globe’ chain by Rebecca Koven who is an emerging artist and whose work is featured at the Cooper-Hewitt museum, and a wonderful pair of earrings made for Babe Paley by Verdura. We also sold some Angela Cummings, some Ligne Vautrin and some Hermes.
“All of which is to say that there is a level of sophistication in Greenwich. People found us and bought unusual, special one-off pieces, which is what we are known for. It was a very good show!”
Glittering jewelry was also on offer from Sue Brown of London, who specializes in rare and interesting items of antique jewelry, such as memento mori jewelry, cameos and Georgian jewelry. Two standouts in her cases were a Nineteenth Century cat’s head brooch created with diamonds, rubies and enamel, along with a frisky frog pin that showcased green garnets and ruby eyes.
A more modern take was seen among the decorative arts of the Twentieth Century assembled by Poirier-Schweitzer of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in the form of a stunning Art Deco enameled necklace. The firm also displayed a pair of modern Sevres vases from the 1920s–30s and an Italian sculpture from the 1950s.
Aileen Minor, the Centerville, Md., dealer specializing in garden antiques and classical American furniture, was back in her spot on the left front side of the main floor, with a pair of Nineteenth Century terracotta sphinxes with Egyptian headdresses maintaining a sense of power and vigilance in the booth, which also channeled antiquity via a Baltimore “Grecian” sofa, circa 1815–35, based on the ancient Roman “fulcra.” Of beautifully carved San Domingo mahogany, the sofa featured deep reeding, scrolled arms ending in carved medallions, saber legs with leafage carving and large brass paw feet on casters.
The star of Minor’s booth was a New York mahogany D-shaped card table attributed to classical furniture master Duncan Phyfe, circa 1830–40. “I actually had quite a few sales,” stated Minor after the show. These included a Chinese lacquered cabinet, a convex mirror, an exceptional English umbrella stand, blown glass and brass curtain pins, fireplace fenders and tools and mercury glass items. “So in spite of the Newtown tragedy, which I do think definitely affected the show, good customers came and bought.”
Minor, who said she was very happy to be doing a show in Greenwich again and seeing old customers, added that many customers similarly expressed that they were happy that the show had returned to Greenwich. “I like that building for a show, everyone knows its location and the repair work on the building has revived it,” said the dealer. “Frank did a great job presenting the show with some great dealers with beautiful booths and even a classy café. It worked and he will only make it better next year.”
A varied assortment of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century furniture and accessories, paintings and porcelain awaited show patrons at the booth of Zane Moss, New York City, including a massive Nineteenth Century partners pedestal desk with tooled leather writing surface, drawers and cabinets that could be arranged to suit, as well as a pair of large English leather chairs with ball and claw feet and brass nail heads that were so comfortable that Moss himself was seen “taking ten” in one of them during the show’s run. Interesting decorative items on offer included a rare pair of Nineteenth Century English ship’s lanterns with fittings by Viking. “Some of the things I sold were a regency étagère, a pair of Staffordshire dogs, a mahogany luggage rack, an oak rum barrel with ‘God Bless The King,’ a Tommy stick, a Black Forest fox, plus some other smalls,” said the dealer.
Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge, known for antique porcelain and pottery, engravings and sailors’ woolies, had all of those, but dealer Paul Vandekar captured the show’s avant-garde spirit, too, by creating a space filled Twentieth Century design, including Gio Ponti designer plates, two sets of 12 Piero Fornasetti plates depicting Adam and Eve, circa 1954–64, a Fornasetti Plexiglas occasional table decorated with sun and moon motif, circa 1965–70, as well as plates with cut fruit, musical instruments and a bull fighter.
Among the dealer’s sales were an important sailor’s woolie, early English delftware and China Trade pictures. Disappointed somewhat by the lighter attendance due perhaps to the tragedy in Newtown, Vandekar nonetheless said, “Those that did come seemed to be buying.”
Gleaming period brass and antique copper cookware, chandeliers, sconces and lanterns provided a homey glow at Eve Stone Antiques, as Eve and her daughter, Susan, presented their inventory. “Frank put together a very well-rounded show,” said Susan Stone afterward. “Most of the traditional dealers had done the old Antiquarius, so it was a wonderful to be with them again and the customers commented on that.” The resurrected show allowed the Woodbridge, Conn., dealers to do “all right. We sold a very nice nursery fender, 1790, English, and a fantastic Prince of Wales Feathers copper mold, as well as other decorative brass.”
Fine art was represented in spades at the show, with striking displays by The Cooley Gallery, Framont, Quester Gallery, Solomon Suchard, Fletcher/Copenhaver and David Brooker, among others. The Old Lyme, Conn., dealer Jeff Cooley showcased standout works anchored by Leonard Ochtman’s (1854–1934) “Mianus River, Cos Cob, CT,” 1897, an oil on canvas measuring 24 by 36 inches. According to the gallery’s website, Ochtman settled with his wife and former student Mina Fonda Ochtman (1862–1924) along the Mianus River in Greenwich in 1891. The work on view at the show shows Cos Cob in repose. The buildings harmonize with their environment as the brightly hued hills and tall grass blend with the suburban topography.
Cooley said he had hoped for some “be backs” over the weekend after the amount of enthusiasm he felt at the Friday night preview. “Alas,” he said afterward, “it was not to be. So we ended up blanked — a first for a show in a while for me. I got the sense there was some business being done here and there, but the attendance didn’t seem great. My little Weir pastel and the Ochtman of Cos Cob were among the favorites, but they are, sadly, safely back here in Old Lyme.”
The main floor’s stage was bifurcated with tableaus exemplifying the show’s Colossus of Rhodes-like straddling of traditional antiques and Modernism. Westport, Conn., dealer Glen Leroux, who has been dealing in Midcentury Modern and Twentieth Century decorative arts for nearly 30 years, represented the Modern with sleek furniture, mirrors, lighting and accessories, while neighboring Lawrence Farms Antiques of Chappaqua, N.Y., displayed a wide range of merchandise in a beautifully displayed booth. Dealer Jill Frankel, owner of Lawrence Farms, said she recorded several sales of Nineteenth Century ceramics, including a French majolica oyster plate and a large pair of Chinese export ginger jars.
“I also sold an important late Nineteenth Century cast iron garden ornament.” She said there was much interest in a circa 1920 French postal bag from Lille that she had mounted on stretchers for hanging. “The French Provencal fruitwood writing table received lots of attention, with many requests for measurements and photos. I also had a very unusual majolica garden seat, circa 1895, with an amazing glaze in lime green, signed James Wardle, Staffordshire, England. In addition,” she said, “the collection of French Provencal pottery and Quimper are always of interest to my customers.”
A blend of old and not-so-old characterized an interesting room setting by Bridges Over Time, Newburgh, N.Y. The dealers, Ed and Betty Koren, had recently pounced on an opportunity to purchase Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century furniture from a warehouse, and thus augmented their usual Twentieth Century décor with a hefty pine table, Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century, and 14 chairs from about the same time, three pairs of French tapestries, a fruit wood chair and a carved Scandinavian console with whippets. Visually, all of this comprised a delicious pairing with colorful collage on canvas artwork by William A. McCloy (American, 1913–2001).
The trade’s resident bad boys of eclecticism could very well be Tim Brennan and Dave Mouilleseaux, who with gusto present a mix of vintage decorative items, Modernism, period and continental furniture, garden ornamentation and Americana. The Northfield, Conn., dealers were quite excited about a “marriage” they had brokered between an extraordinary bronze half armillary sphere, circa 1900–10, and a bronze pedestal from 1880, sitting on a soapstone plinth.
“I’ve never seen a better one,” said Brennan of a “dog” chair from the Midwest, circa 1870, which featured superb dog’s head carvings on the arms. “It’s definitely a lounge chair.” A Modernist accent was added by eight Jetsons-esque cast aluminum dining room chairs from the 1950s stacked in a corner of the booth.
Majolica expert Charles Washburne of Solebury, Penn., brought the colorful whimsy associated with such wares with his display, which included a rare Alfred Renoleau (French, 1854–1930) majolica Palissy plaque with crustaceans, fish and mollusks on a faux bed of straw. “What’s so very interesting about this piece,” said Washburne, “is that you’ll note that he’s combined both warm- and cold-water species in the same tableau, something that would never occur in nature.” A Wedgwood majolica turquoise fish platter, 1870, was so realistic one could ascertain the individual scales, and an English figure of a studious fox, a book open on his lap, seemed more wise than sly.
Nineteenth Century Staffordshire, pearlware and other ceramics were amply exhibited by Old Westbury, N.Y., dealer Elinor Penna. “I’m glad the show is back and hopefully more people will come next year,” she said. “I had lots of interest in Staffordshire, pearlware and bocage figures, circa 1820.”
The Spare Room dealers Marcia Moylan and Jacqueline Smelkinson filled their booth with their trademark collections of Georgian and Victorian jewelry, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century English ceramics and collectible and decorative objects. In business since the late 1970s, the women said they were pleased with the outcome of the show. “We renewed some old relationships and established some new ones — exactly the formula for a successful show,” they said. “We look forward to returning next year.”
So do we. For information, www.barnstar.com or 845-876-0616.