Published: February 7, 2001
NEW YORK CITY – Now it its second year, the New York Ceramics Fair is one of the brightest new additions to the spectrum of antiques events coinciding with the Winter Antiques Show.
This year’s fair, mounted at the National Academy of Design from January 18-21, was in most respects better than the last. Based on the show’s runaway success in 2000, exhibitors persuaded prominent colleagues to join them in 2001. Not only was the quality of this year’s fair exceptionally high, but the show has clearly struck a chord with collectors, who packed into the borrowed space at Fifth Avenue and 89th Street throughout the weekend.
Organizers Caskey-Lees/Sha-Dor put attendance at 5,300, despite the snow that may have rebuffed some out-of-town visitors over the weekend. A blanket of white covered the city on Sunday morning, but attendance was brisk between noon and 6 pm, when the New York Ceramics Fair closed.
Throughout the fall, the softening US economy has worried many antiques dealers. Some ceramics fair exhibitors thought their show had been affected. Lindsay Grigsby said not many of his large pieces had been claimed. “We sold considerably more expensive, but much smaller pieces: medallions and plaques, almost all from the Eighteenth Century,” noted the Chadds Ford, Penn., dealer. Added Southport, Conn., dealer Peter Warren, “This year’s audience was larger but perhaps a bit more conservative.” He chalked up some of last year’s buying frenzy to the novelty of the show.
Problematic as a venue for most antiques show, the National Academy of Design lends itself to the display of ceramics. Forty-three exhibitors set up on several floors of the narrow building whose small rooms and narrow corridors are reached by stairs or elevator. The Academy’s beaux-arts grace adds charm to the show, whose scholarly tone was underscored by lectures underwritten by the Chipstone Foundation and Ceramics In America, the Chipstone-sponsored journal that will debut in July. Speakers included some big names in the field: Roderick Jellicoe, Patricia Halfpenny, Jonathan Rickhard, Bly Straube, Leslie Grigsby, Ellen Paul Denker, Linda Roth, Gaye Blake Roberts, Blake Kemper, Janine Skerry, Leslie Ferrin, Letitia Roberts, Ronald Otsuka, Anita Ellis, Jenny Wolfson and Prudence Carlson. Additionally, several essays were published in the handsome color catalogue accompanying the fair.
One of the New York Ceramics Fair’s great virtues is its diversity. “The show claims a thousand years of ceramics and I believe that’s probably right,” said Peter Warren, whose own booth was a tempting assortment of English creamware, Staffordshire, Whieldon, Prattware, Basalt and redware. A pierced and footed pearlware basket of circa 1790 was $4,475.
First-time exhibitor Guido Bellinkx of Berber & Islamic Art, brought with him a collecting specialty few in the U.S. know much about, Moroccan antiques. A European who has resettled to Essaouira, Morocco, Bellinkx offered Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Moroccan pottery and weaving.
At the cross-section between folk pottery and art wares, Art Deco-era Quimper is the fascinating specialty of Blake Kemper of Solomon Suchard Antiques. The Shaker Heights, Ohio, dealer lectured on the Art Deco influence on country French pottery. A highlight of his booth was an oversized Quimper pitcher of 1925, decorated by Margarite Soudane, $4,500.
It hasn’t escaped notice that a number of New York Ceramics Fair exhibitors are veterans of the Winter Antiques Show, the Haughton International Fairs, or both – Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge among them. Paul Vandekar recently gave up his place at the Winter Antiques Show to exhibit at the New York Ceramics Fair and the Palm Beach International Art & Antique Fair. Vandekar sold his centerpiece, a Derby two-handled urn exquisitely painted with shells by Joseph Bancroft.
Fenichell-Basmajian Antiques of New York offered as its showstopper an incredible Italian creamware figural group of the Nineteenth Century. The rococo rendering depicts Prosperina being abducted by Pluto while the three-headed dog Cerebus guards the way to the River Styx. Fenichell-Basmajian’s color brochure lists the group’s price as $18,000.
While American pottery was not in abundance, Hunter & Margolin of Yorktown, Va., retailed some fine pieces of domestic stoneware; William Kurau of Lampeter, Penn., offered a wide selection of Staffordshire for the American market; and the Stradlings were present with glass, Tucker porcelain, and a Shenandoah redware washbowl and pitcher with multiglaze decoration. The circa 1880 piece is attributed to J. Eberly & Co., Strasburg, Va. Sales at Hunter & Margolin included a decorated Baltimore stoneware jar and a Bellarmine jug.
One of two exhibitors of contemporary material, Michelle Erickson is acclaimed for her superb reinterpretations of antique American and English pottery. Erickson, who shows her work at Period Designs in Yorktown, Va., can also be found at www.perioddesigns.com. Her pieces range from exacting replicas to imaginative, one-of-a-kind works, such as large figures inspired by characters from Edward Hicks’ “Peaceable Kingdom” paintings.
The other practicing ceramist in the show, Leslie Ferrin of Ferrin Gallery, Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., is less traditional. Though still inspired by antique English and Chinese wares, her often-humorous works spoof traditional themes. “Behind the Quiet Veils of the Blue Willow,” $10,000, poked fun at the harebrained exoticism of Blue Willow china.
Not everyone thought sales were down at the New York Ceramics Fair. Aurea Carter, a specialist in Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century pottery, doubled her take. “I sold the finest stuff, including an excellent Wedgwood punch pot and a fine pair of Prattware mugs,” she reported. Majolica specialist Nicolaus Boston was also pleased. “This year, at least half our sales were to new customers, which is the best thing about a show for us.”
Welsh dealer John Howard, of Howards of Aberystwyth, said he covered his expenses on the first day and sold steadily thereafter. Jill Fenichell noted an interesting trend: sales of Regency porcelains were down, while sales of Aesthetic and Japanesque wares were up. Japanese specialist Susan Tosk of Orientations Gallery, New York, sold a Japanese cloisonné enamel vase made, circa 1909, for Prince Fushimi, cousin to the Emperor Meiji.
“Both in the quality of its material and in the caliber of its exhibitors, the New York Ceramics Fair is a show of singular importance to North America’s most discriminating buyers,” said Paul Vandekar, undoubtedly speaking for buyers and sellers alike.
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