Published: April 10, 2007
Contrarian antiques dealer Bruce Emond sold his entire display of vintage 1960s disposable paper dresses on the weekend in which Old Man Winter got in his last licks.
“March Madness” †typically the start of the NCAA spring college basketball season, but in this case an early Saturday coating of icy slush and snow and midtown gridlock in the form of the annual St Patrick’s Day parade on the weekend of March 17‱8 †was only partially successful in hindering Stella Show Mgmt Co.’s popular Spring Pier Show. Inside Pier 94, Stella Management and its army of dealers were busy throwing design into the mix and those who made their way to the show despite the obstacles were amply rewarded.
Emond, who trades under the aegis of The Village Braider, Plymouth, Mass., was sanguine about the weekend’s results. “We did fine,” he said. “The show was definitely affected by the snow, the [St Patrick’s Day] parade on Fifth Avenue and a lack of parking, but we did okay.” In addition to the colorful paper dresses, which were sold in their original boxes, Emond and his colleagues sent packing a large Anglo Tunisian table that was 10 feet long and 52 inches wide, a large gothic sideboard circa 1870s, steel molds, lighting and a variety of paintings.
Formerly known as Triple Pier, the Stellas’ eagerly anticipated event is now staged under one big roof, but it retains its eclectic mix of Americana, classical and formal furniture, Twentieth Century design furniture and accessories, vintage fashions, paintings, prints, art objects, quilts and textiles, jewelry, ceramics and much more †presented by more than 500 exhibitors.
Leanne Stella, president of Stella Show Mgmt, acknowledged that the start of this spring’s show on Saturday morning had slightly less attendance due to the weather, “but it picked up later in the day, and Sunday was busy, too,” said Stella. “People get out in New York City. They were really enjoying the show, and we saw more smalls going out and people walking out with bags.”
The entertainment factor is always high at the Pier Show, with some displays almost carnival-like in their appeal. Such was the case with Leanne Lipston’s Inddesign, based in Upper Black Eddy, Penn. An enormous drill bit from a lathe, a gleaming Arc film projector, a monumental fan blade and a carnival car in cast aluminum made her booth seem like a props department on the lot of a movie set, while colorful industrial artwork in the form of Eastern European teaching posters hung on the wall.
“The show went very well,” said Lipston. “Having all the exhibitors on one pier is very productive, allowing customers and dealers a wider experience of people and things. My best sales were a large cast aluminum car from a carnival ride and an early Twentieth Century smoke mask similar to one that had been in a Museum of Modern Art show on masks.”
LooLoo Design Portsmouth, R.I., which specializes in antique plumbing for kitchens and baths, showed an Aesthetic six-arm chandelier out of New York, circa 1880‸2, aglitter with crystals and bronze mounts that, according to co-owner Web Wilson, was originally designed for gas operation. He and his wife, Jill, also brought a fanciful English sculpture of Ariadne astride a panther, a 42-inch soapstone sink with 60-inch grooved drainboards on each side and a pair of china Deco-style porcelain bath tables, circa 1900. Early on the first day, the couple had already sold a white four-seat wrought iron table and chair set.
“The Pier show was successful for us,” said the Wilsons. “We sold all the large items we brought, although some of the strongest sales were late Sunday afternoon. The Saturday crowd was down, but people had problems with the weather, lack of parking on the streets due to the parade and snow on the roof. We sold almost all the lighting we took, plus some nice artwork. We also sold the pair of china Deco-style bath tables and the large soapstone kitchen sink. The single pier format is good for us as it means all shoppers will see the entire show and so we meet new customers we might not otherwise see.”
“The show went well for us, a surprise as we thought the snow storm would dampen the buying enthusiasm,” concurred Jerry and Janice Bonk of Hellertown, Penn. Under the banner of Bonkey’s Treasures, the couple set up a “garden” display with water pumps, some concrete pieces and an iron gate. “We sold the gate to an art gallery in SoHo,” said the Bonks. “Not sure how they will use it, but they were very excited about it. We sold an entire collection to a decorator in California who is having the items shipped to her. We are shipping more product to a repeat customer in Texas. The Stella people are great about getting old customers back in, and also at tempting new customers. The people were great, and we thank those who braved Saturday’s weather to visit with us.”
Always in vogue is the show’s Fashion Alley, which showcases some 50 exhibits of vintage fashion for men and women in a special area of the show. Racks upon racks of slinky cocktail gowns, designer dresses, men’s suits, hats, ties, handbags, costume jewelry †even one display devoted to vintage cuff links †were getting a lot of notice by show patrons.
Shelia Strong was sharing booth space with Rob Grano of Hackensack, N.J. She showed many items of Bakelite, such as a rare pair of Josephine Baker pins, one from the 1930s and a smaller version from the 1940s, while Grano wrestled with a monumental fiberglass Hostess baker sign from the 1950s that had once adorned the inside of a bakery in Buffalo, N.Y.
Diane and Bob Petipas of Mood Indigo, New York City, were able to substantially reduce their inventory of 1940s through 1960s barware and sold a few important pieces as well. These included a 1970s “Aurora” clock with original box, which sold for $400, and a Chase Coronet coffee set with tray, which went out at $800. They also sold a Czechoslovakian ceramic cat pitcher, and a pair of 1930s bronze Art Deco nude lady lamps went to a decorator for $350.
“Unfortunately the excitement of the show was sorely diminished the next day by the news that our dear friend and longtime Pier show exhibitor, Steven Gelfand, passed away the day following the show,” the Petipases related. “Steve was one of the original Pier show dealers, having been an involved participant there since its inception. He specialized in perfume bottles, but had a great knowledge of all types of antiques. He was a great friend, a professional. The Pier shows will never seem the same without him.”
Jef and Terri Steingrebe of New London, N.H., showcased a late Nineteenth Century kneehole desk from France made of fruitwood. A pair of torchieres, circa 1890, that had been electrified were also on display, as was a fanlight that had come out of a Federal house in New Hampshire.
Whimsical as always was the merchandise shown by Praiseworthy Antiques, Guilford, N.Y. A grouping of medicine balls corralled within the embrace of an iron horse hay feeder, a “time bomb” clock, circa 1980, and a high value vintage camera repurposed into a working desk lamp were just a small sampling of the tongue-in-cheek wares guaranteed to bring a smile.
Bob Withington of York, Maine, fronted the show’s Americana section with a display that featured both industrial design and more traditional items. An industrial steel three-drawer dresser, well ventilated, was an example of the former, while a Matisse-like portrait of a woman †”Sarah Katzman” was written on the back of the 36-by-30-inch painting, although Withington was not certain that was the sitter’s name †hung on a nearby wall. Other items included a 12-foot industrial worktable with removable legs, a pair of Bradley & Hubbard lyrical-form andirons, a Venetian mirrored tray, a copper spire, circa 1900, and a set of 12 framed botanical specimens.
Famous for its American flags, Jeff Bridgman American Antiques, York County, Penn., had plenty of those on hand, but reserved a little space for a couple of early American hooked rugs. One of them, which the dealer said was probably Amish, depicted a wise looking cat and dated to around 1930. A great folky dog hooked rug, circa 1890s, with an unusual linear border was placed just below the cat.
Beautiful art pottery, especially pieces from the Arts and Crafts era, can always be found by the intrepid Saturday Evening Girls collectors Meg Chalmers and Judy Young of Crones Collectibles, Brewster, Mass. A special piece the pair brought to this show was a Rookwood vase by Cincinnati artist William Hentschell, circa 1915.
Midcentury Modern design, which seems to be taking up an increasingly larger footprint at shows these days, is well represented at this show. Michael Smith, owner of Depression Modern in SoHo, was on hand presenting a sampling of what patrons could find at Adelaide, a new store he has opened with Mary Corliss, former assistant curator at The Museum of Modern Art. The store, at 702 Greenwich Street, showcases a vintage mix of classic Twentieth Century design from the 1930s to the 1960s.
Smith brought a sleek living room set from the 1930s designed by Gilbert Rohde, an ingenious bar with swivel top and lift-up wine caddy from the early 1950s, designer unknown, its contours covered in ultrasuede, and a coffee table in the style of Donald Deskey.
Also steeped in Modern, Linda Coffey of XX Century, New York City, was busy writing tickets. Early on Saturday morning, she had sold tags affixed to a pair of walnut chairs from the 1970s covered in chenille fabric with caned backs and sides, as well as on a two-tier Lucite table from the 1960s‷0s.
The show continued its trend of presenting Twentieth Century industrial design †castoff items from shuttered factories, warehouses, science labs, defunct department stores and the like that have been reengineered and reimagined into new roles.
One of the kings of this idiom is Harry Greenberger, aka HG Limited, Bogota, N.J., whose innovative collections of welders masks, dog muzzles and garden hose nozzles never fail to amuse.
For this show, Greenberger brought rare hammered aluminum vases and wastebaskets, ranging from 9 to 17 inches tall. In addition to wastebaskets in hammered aluminum from Arthur Armour and Wendell August, there was also an unusual Wendell August vase fitted with a pottery insert. The collection of dog muzzles went early to another dealer.
Leanne Stella confirmed that the monopier show concept at Pier 94 will remain in force for the near future. “We’ll be there for awhile,” she said. “Dealers and customers seem to be happy, and we’re getting [the show] to a point that it works.”
The next Pier show is set for November 17 and 18. For information, www.stellashows.com or 212-255-0020.
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