Antique Garden Furniture Fair: Great Gate, Great Stuff, Great Sales

BRONX, N.Y. — “It was the most amazing event that I have ever participated in,” Karen DiSaia said one day after getting her feet wet as the new manager of the Antique Garden Furniture Fair, which was presented April 24–27 at The New York Botanical Garden. And she continued to bubble over with information about the overwhelming attendance, especially at the preview on Thursday evening and on Friday, the opening day, the nonstop buying, the truckers who made deliveries every day of the show and the constant restocking of the booths by the exhibiting dealers.

“I sold a ton of stuff,” Bob Withington of York, Maine, said, and when Bob says he sold a ton, he means it both literally and figuratively. A circa 1900–1920 dolphin fountain in marble, reportedly sold to decorator Bunny Williams, weighted close to a ton alone and had to be set in place with an engine hoist. “It took about four hours to set the fountain,” Bob said, as it was on a large skid, supported by rows of cement blocks, and the pan was filled with water to keep the dolphins spouting during the run of the show.

A lead heron fountain, mounted in a Fiske base, also functioning, was sold, and of the 75 flower frogs offered, one-third sold. “Unlike some years, every day of the show was good, we did business, and kept busy restocking the booth from our truck,” Bob said. Because of having to take apart his fountain display, he was one of only two dealers to finish packing out on Monday, while all of the other dealers were on the way home Sunday evening.

A galvanized pine tree, made from flower pots and various other objects, stood tall in the booth of Howard and Linda Stein, Solebury, Penn., and among the cast stone pieces offered was a pair of foxes, circa 1940. Firehouse Antiques of Galena, Md., new to the show this year, showed a Nineteenth Century French birdhouse in the form of a large and elaborate chateau. It was apparently built for high-end birds as it had a lock on the door for protection of the inhabitants. A second birdcage, in the original blue paint and dating circa 1940s, was designed by Victor Weinberg, an artist known for his birdcage designs.

New England Garden Ornaments, Sudbury, Mass., hung part of the back wall of the booth with a selection of seven sieves, English and dating from the Nineteenth Century, which were originally used for sifting grain. Of French origin was a primitive wellhead, dating from the Eighteenth Century and measuring 30 inches in diameter and 28 inches high. This piece was of Pyrenees stone and was one of three wellheads available at the show, and all of them sold.

“We sold each day of the show, and to a broad base of people who really liked gardens,” Bruce Emond of Village Braider said. He added, “We had lots of large pieces this time, and we have found that is what many people like.” Among the objects he had to bring into the show on a pallet jack were an Italian wellhead of carved Verona marble from the Sixteenth Century and a large pair of cast concrete planters that date 1934 and were made for the World’s Fair. A large pair of limestone pots and a pair of foo dogs, Chinese carved granite, circa 1900, all ran the scales up, and were all sold.

John Danzer, owner of Munder-Skiles Garden Furniture, was at the preview Thursday evening and walked away with a pair of wood and iron chairs, as well as a few pots, from Bruce. Martha Stewart, usually a regular at the show, happened to be in China on business and sent members of her staff to the show to have a look. One of them zeroed in on a large pair of glass-shaped urns, sent the image to Martha, and presto, the urns were also sold early during preview.

Jeff Cherry of Cherry Gallery, Damariscotta, Maine, a dealer known for his Adirondack wares, was at the show for the first time and said, “We really enjoyed doing it, met many new people, and it was fun and very good for us.” In fact, one of the nearby exhibitors mentioned, “Jeff had a smile on his face from the moment the show opened.” A hickory porch glider of woven rattan cane, made by the Indiana Hickory Furniture Company, Colfox, Ind., was sold early in the show, much to the disappointment of another man who really wanted to purchase it. “I have another in the truck,” Jeff told him, and another one of many sales was made.

Other pieces that went out included an Adirondack chaise lounge, rockers and benches, wicker table, a pair of owl paintings, and numerous smalls. Among the few pieces that did not sell was a 4-foot-long canoe, a salesman’s sample for the Old Town Canoe Co., fully lettered on both sides.

A cast stone figure of a squirrel, about 30 inches tall, sporting an old painted surface and once residing on a large Long Island estate, found its way into the show and took a seat at the corner of the booth of James and Judith Milne At Home Antiques, Kingston, N.Y. “The figure did not sell on preview night, but we had six designers call us the next morning for clients,” Judy said, “and the first caller bought it.” An early Twentieth Century statue signed by G. Varlese, Naples, dated circa 1900, and several sets of cast iron urns were offered. A staircase-type display case held a collection of cast stone animals, including an owl, dogs, cats, rabbits and ducks.

“We had no lag time at this show; people were buying every day, and it was good for us,” Judy said. Listing some of her sales, she mentioned planters, urns, bronze statue, a horse weathervane and a train weathervane, plus many smaller objects. “What is left goes back to our shop in Kingston, where we have more garden mixed in with our antiques,” Jim said.

White cast iron furniture highlighted the booth of Dawn Hill, New Preston, Conn., including a set of four chairs, shown near a garden bench of twisted wire with old white painted surface. A banded white foot tub, 19 by 12 by 8 inches, circa 1850, was made at Faiencerie Jemmapes.

Francis J. Purcell Inc, Philadelphia, always has a working fountain in the booth, and this year a circa 1876 Fiske example was set up, surrounded by many pieces of cast iron furniture, including two chairs, a bench and table in the fern pattern, and a pair of benches in the laurel pattern, with high relief and good detailing. In total, there were four sets of furniture and several sets of urns, varying in size and design.

From Pennington, N.J., Jeffrey Henkel brought a bronze dolphin fountain by Joseph Kiselewski (1901–1986), American, and a pair of cast lead penguin fountains. A neoclassical plaster bust of a woman, draped gown and holding an urn, American, dated from the Twentieth Century.

Barbara Israel Garden Furniture, Katonah, N.Y., was at her regular spot at the show with a large landscape backdrop setting off the pieces in the booth. “We sold well at the show, better than last year, and a number of large things,” Barbara said. She also commented on the preview Thursday evening, noting that it was a very “energetic opening.” A pair of composition marble falcons in the Egyptian Revival style, English, circa 1940, 26 inches high and 22 inches long, was at the front of the booth and found an immediate buyer. Several other people came along and, “We could have sold the falcons several times over,” Barbara said.

A rare figure of a winged psyche with Cupid’s bow in hand, circa 1895, measured 61 inches high, and a carved Portland stone cherub figure, representing summer, was of English origin, measuring 43½ inches tall. It was sold, as well as a pair of stone benches and several other figures. “I was surprised that my pair of eel fishing boots did not sell,” Barbara said, referring to a pair of zinc boots with wood soles applied to prevent the eel fishermen from slipping on the rocks in the water. “They would have made unusual flower vases or one could just put them in the hallway by the door and make people wonder what use they might have,” she said.

Brennan & Mouilleseaux Antiques, Northfield, Conn., had a large, handsome garden table fashioned with baluster legs and a slate top, and at the front of the booth offered a pair of circa 1930 Chinese carved marble foo dogs. The Sugarplum, Wilmot, N.H., offered a large English birdhouse that was shown on an English cast stone squirrel design bench, and it appeared as if they had cornered the market on small cast figures of animals and various-shaped plant containers. They seemed to have an endless supply, and sales were numerous, including a pair of planters in unusual form — tea kettles.

Aileen Minor Antiques, Centreville, Md., has been a regular at this show for many of its 23 years and Aileen commented, “This show is unique with its complete garden focus and Karen did an outstanding job of running the show, right down to the very smoothly run pack out.” Centered in her booth was an outstanding carved marble bird bath, circa 1900, with a bowl measuring 30 inches in diameter, and resting nearby was a pair of handcarved Vincenza limestone reclining hound dogs with weathered surface, 28 inches long, that came out of an Albany, N.Y., collection.

Aileen said, “I had a great show” and reeled off a list of sales that included a large classical zinc statue of a goddess, a pair of cast iron garden benches, the marble birdbath, a lead fountain, lots of planter pots, a large zinc swan planter, an acorn hitching post, iron window flower boxes and interesting smalls, including wrought iron tables and plant stands.

Chicago dealer Finnegan Gallery again came with a heavy load, including a Twentieth Century French or Belgium console table with wrought iron base and onyx stone inset top, and a monumental English Victorian terracotta urn, egg and dart rims, circa 1890, measuring 29 inches high and 27 inches in diameter.

“I thought Karen DiSaia brought a breath of fresh air to the show and the preview party had the vitality and energy that I have not seen for the past three years,” Joan Bogart of Oceanside, N.Y., said. She mentioned that a designer snapped a photo of her cast stone lions on his iPhone, sent the photo to one of his clients, and “told me two minutes later that they were sold.” She also offered a large stone monkey urn and, “I could have sold it again and again,” she said. A cast iron and zinc fountain named “Out of the Rain,” showing two children under an umbrella, was attributed to Fiske, circa 1900, measuring 50 inches tall. She brought her usual collection of doorstops, including a sailboat, elephant, horse, ducks, monkey and parrot. And direct from a Long Island estate was a set of four cast stone obelisks, 80 inches high, dating from the Twentieth Century.

Schorr & Dobinsky, Bridgehampton, N.Y., showed a French flower garden fountain from the early Twentieth Century, a faux bois garden bench from the same time period and a French garden birdcage in wire, with arched doorway, large finial on the roof, and circa late Nineteenth Century.

A set of eight staddle stones lined the front of the booth of Balsamo Antiques, New York City, and they sold, as did another grouping of three of various sizes. A garden table with two benches, with backs, Italian, circa 1940, were of composition stone. Karen DiSaia mentioned that it was lucky Balsamo had its own delivery service at the end of the show or the booth would have been empty by Sunday evening.

Antique American Wicker of Nashua, N.H., brought 16 pieces of wicker to the show, all with the same fabric covering, and highlighted by a couple of parrot-design pillows that made their way from the couch against the back wall of the booth to the pair of matching armchairs at the front of the booth. The pieces, which could be bought separately or the lot, were by Heywood-Wakefield, Bar Harbor style, rattan, circa 1910–1925. Right in the middle of the booth, properly set on a table, was a watering can with the lettering “Botanical Garden.”

A Nineteenth Century Neapolitan bronze, after the original in Naples, stood in the booth of R.T. Facts, Kent, Conn. Of interest was a wrought iron sphere on a carved marble baluster from the state capitol building in Washington, D.C.

“The buying at this show was similar to what happens at the New Hampshire Antiques Show, and it was great to be a part of it,” Karen DiSaia said. A few changes were made this year, including a new floor plan, but “we plan on more changes next year to make the show better for both the dealers and the visitors.” This year the gate was up at the preview, and attendance increased over the three following days.

It is really a fun and interesting show to attend, the place to be for serious and beginning garden enthusiasts, and the show to mark on your calendar for 2015.

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