NEW YORK CITY — Cold weather seems to know when it is time for the antiques shows to come to the Big Apple, but it does not seem to have any bearing on the attendance at these popular events. On Wednesday evening, January 22, the bitter cold did not hold back 1,500 people who attended the opening preview of The Metro Show at the Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th Street. And for the next four days, visitors visited the 37 galleries that presented an eclectic and colorful range of objects.
The show drew a good number of the top designers, as well as curators from the Deerfield Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Smithsonian, The Wadsworth Atheneum, Brooklyn Museum of Art, American Folk Art Museum and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
One of the largest portraits in the show, and attracting a great deal of attention, was “Afternoon Soaps” by Alfred Leslie, an oil on canvas painted in 1983 and measuring 7 feet high by 5 feet wide, in the booth of Hill Gallery, Birmingham, Mich. An interesting piece of folk art was “Stacked Tower,” a fraternal lodge teaching object, painted wood, circa 1900, that came from the Midwest. It measured 48 inches high, 24 inches wide and 24 inches deep. The firm’s sales included a series of six John Walker Seal Point Maine Series and five photographs by Bill Rauhauser.
A carousel horse, an outside row stander, attributed to Charles I.D. Looff, circa 1880–1890, stood just outside the booth of Samuel Herrup, Sheffield, Mass. This figure came from a Brooklyn carousel and retains the original park paint. Against a side wall was a pair of Swedish armchairs, signed by the maker John Tesch, Lanneskede, Sweden, dated 1897, with pinecone finials. In addition to a cupboard filled with rare redware, folk art included a horse and sulky weathervane attributed to Jewell & Co., Waltham, Mass. The vane, dating circa 1860, retained the original yellow sizing and traces of gold leaf and measured 33½ inches long. “There was a great crowd on opening night and visitors during the run of the show were enthusiastic,” Sam commented.
As usual, Amy Finkel brought more samplers to the show than she had wall space, but that did not matter, as business was good and as one sampler came down for a client, another one went up. So it was that the M. Finkel & Daughter booth always looked full. A Philadelphia sampler by Ann Simmons, dated 1792, Ann Marsh School, with a couple shown in an oval in the center of the needlework, was sold early in the show, as was a fine linsey-woolsey sampler by Betsy Wells, Salem, Mass., and a Pennsylvania Quaker sampler by Rachel E. Kirk, 1831. Shown for the first time was a coat of arms silk embroidery by Elizabeth Lewis, Hartford, Conn., circa 1805, from the Misses Patten School.
Of interest was a wrought iron boot scraper with a piece of iron to clean the boots, about 15 inches off the ground, and a tall iron post on the right side to steady oneself. “A scraper like this was used after the hunt when there was lots of mud,” Amy said.
Douglas Dawson Gallery of Chicago showed seven large vessels at the front of his booth, including a ritual vessel from Cameroon and a storage vessel, Twentieth Century, from Nigeria.
Arne Anton of American Primitive in New York City, who returned to Metro after a year hiatus, said, “Rather than just filling my booth with objects, I had to make choices as what to bring and not to bring for my stand.” He ended up with a Carnival of Earthly Desires, and it was well accepted, with the sale of an anniversary tin umbrella, a snake shovel by Howard Jones, a primitive arcade rooster, a trolley sign, an Odd Fellow skeleton, boots by Howard Jones and a pair of fun house mirrors. Of interest was a full figure of Little Red Riding Hood, wood construction, about 3 feet tall, that was found in a yard in Kansas.
Stephen Score of Boston showed a colorful pennant quilt that was made for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, 1915. It was of cotton and wool, 67 by 87 inches, and some of the pennants were from Portland, Chicago, Salt Lake, San Diego, Seattle and Hershey. A hooked rug, found in Boyertown, Penn., dated 1921 and measuring 76½ by 90 inches, depicted a “Friendly farm” and a large Gothic Revival birdcage, circa 1870, French origin, measured 65 inches high and 43 inches wide. One of the signs sold read “No Liquor Allowed” and came from the Plymouth Court House, circa 1920.
Many flags and several pieces of folk art filled the large booth of Jeff Bridgman American Antiques of York County, Penn. After a slow start, sales picked up nicely for him and among the items sold were a Lincoln mourning ribbon and a Lincoln mourning flag; a vertical banner made for the celebration of the nation’s 100-year anniversary of independence, 1876; a Centennial Stevengraph (woven silk picture) with an image of George Washington and the Philadelphia Exposition; a banner weathervane made by Harris, circa 1880–1890; and a 34-star flag in a Great Star pattern, made at the opening of the Civil War, 1861–63.
A life-size bike with rider, once a sign in the Philadelphia area for a bicycle shop, circa 1920, was front and center in the booth of Gemini Antiques, Oldwick, N.J., featuring a large collection of folk art pieces. In the booth next door, cases and many shelves held a vast selection of cast iron still and mechanical banks, cast iron toys and hundreds of tin toys for which Gemini dealers Leon and Steven Weiss are well known. A cigar store Indian brave, carved by Samuel Robb of New York City, circa 1895, stood tall among a number of smaller carved figures. Among the pieces sold by the Weiss brothers were a cast for a Great Western press drill, manufactured by J.D. Laman & Co., 1880; an Indian riding horse silhouette weathervane, circa 1890; an American industrial mold for doll’s legs, circa 1940; and soldiers marching in formation, circa 1890, made by Carl Rossignol.
“This was by far our best fair ever,” tramp art specialist Clifford A. Wallach of Manalapan, N.J., said. Against the back wall, a place not to be missed, Clifford hung a folk art eagle plaque by Don Westenhaver, signed with his inmate number, Folsom Prison, Aug. 1948. He was serving three life terms and in 1969 was pardoned by Governor Reagan. Against the side was a polychrome mantel clock adorned with abundant figural carvings, a piece made in 1935 for the Canadian National Exposition. Objects sold included a tramp art Odd Fellows presentation frame, 1890; a blue painted tramp art pedestal box and a tramp art remembrance frame with expressive decorative elements, signed by Peter Zietz, June 18, 1921, Rhinebeck, N.Y.
David Findlay Jr of New York City showed an oil on canvas by John Ferren (1905–1970), Untitled I, 1957; David Richard Gallery, Santa Fe, NM, featured an oil on canvas by Deborah Remington, “Memphis,” 1969, measuring 60 by 53 inches, and Carl Hammer Gallery of Chicago brought six works by Bill Traylor that dominated one wall. Across the aisle from Carl Hammer, Just Folk from Summerland, Calif., offered a collection of 24 works by Bill Traylor.
“This show is fresh and finally coming into its own. Where else would one be able to see folk art collectors buying a contemporary painting by Philip Pearlstein?” Roger Ricco, who operates a gallery in New York City with Frank Maresca, said. Mounted on one wall was the bust of Uncle Sam, once a complete U.S. Strength Tester made by F.S. Howard & Co., 1904, that challenged you to “Shake with your Uncle Sam.” Of cast iron, the piece measured 29 inches high and 19½ inches wide. Among the things sold was a collection of original hand lettered sign painters samples, artist unknown, Paris, circa 1930.
Fair director Caroline Kerrigan-Lerch, who conceived this year’s concept of Metro Curates, was encouraged by the positive response from the exhibitors as well as from the attendees. And according to her, 80 percent of the dealers have signed on for next year’s edition of The Metro Show. The Metro Show is produced by The Art Fair Company, Inc., Chicago.