By Steve Sundlof
NEW YORK CITY Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire and was known for his sharp attention to stage production. Using this analogy we see that Stella has set the stage and we, as attendees, may take our own streetcar or subway arriving downtown at 28th Street. Walk two blocks to Lexington enter the Armory and live out a fictional world buying up props that each tell a story of days long forgotten. Which is not to say anyone in this “cast” resembled Stanley Kowalski, no, these folks were refined and didn’t really yell a whole lot.
The curtain rose on Friday, February 15 to a small crowd who wanted to be first to view this assembled cast performing at the 69th Regiment Armory at Lexington Avenue at 26th Street. 76 dealers projected their interpretations of Antiques and Fine Art creating their own set designs – tweaking lights, arranging backdrops and awaiting the audience during the February 15-17 run. Sunday brought a large audience and most dealers reported brisk sales and keen interest from an ever-growing crowd. Stella Mgmt. was there with practiced eye, managing their cast behind the scenes, insuring the show went smoothly.
Jeff R. Bridgman of Jeff R. Bridgman Antiques, York County, Penn. reflected, “The Gramercy Park Antiques and Fine Arts Show is an interesting, eclectic mix of dealers from several specialties. This year saw the addition of Gold Goat Antiques, [Rhinebeck, N.Y.] who always have an interesting booth of American folk art. It also included the return of some prominent dealers, such as Tramp Art guru, Clifford Wallach, and the Kembles who are outstanding early Americana and weathervane experts from Ohio. I am always glad to be in such fine company.
“The gate of the show is unintimidating, unlike the onslaught we all see at the Piers. This lends itself better to the upscale clientele that attends. My sales this year topped that of last year by several thousand dollars, and I was very happy with the results and would have been very happy if my sales met last years figures, so I did better than I expected.”
Bridgman added, “I sold rdf_Descriptions from a variety of categories, including an unusual drop-leaf farm table in blue paint, and a number of American flags, including a hand sewn Civil War example in a small, rare size. Also, a very early Lancaster, Penn. folk watercolor of George Washington, a folk pastel of horse, a charcoal on paper of a dog, and a fractur-style folk watercolor of a dog, amongst other rdf_Descriptions. Needless to say, I look forward to next year’s event.”
Ed and Betty Koren comprise Bridges over Time of Walden, N.Y. and Ed replied, “The show was a success for us. Got off to a great start on Friday and although Saturday was a little slow attendance wise, Sunday was very good. We sold quite a bit of furniture and by late Sunday the booth was largely empty. We even sold the Chinese rug that we had used for display. It was great to have another show in the city and if this show is any indication, the balance of the spring shows will be great.”
Nili Gitig from Long Island, N.Y. specializes in American silver and reflected, “The show got off to a slow start but by Sunday it was incredibly busy. Friday brought out the usual dealers, decorators, and bargain hunters. I had several sales but nothing exciting. Saturday was disappointingly slow and everyone was getting nervous. Sunday was a gangbuster day for me.
“The gate was strong and my sales were strong. Several of my regular customers came over the weekend and I picked up several new customers. Having repeat business is always nice and ego boosting. I get to know my customers and usually they don’t even look at the cases they just ask ‘What do you have for ME this time?’ Picking up new customers is really what I look for in a show.”
Gitig continued, “Some people who won’t come to the Pier will come to a show like this because it is smaller and less overwhelming. This show was small, elegant, and very classy. As usual, the promoters did a great job in achieving the proper ambience. I always enjoy working with the Stella organization because they are so professional and well organized. Set up and pack up go quickly and easily.
“As far as buying trends, I am not sure that there were any specific ones other than a general cautiousness about spending too much money. Several people expressed a desire for rdf_Descriptions but said they would have to wait until after taxes were paid to make sure they could spend the sums they intended. Since the November Pier Show was cancelled I think there is quite a bit of pent up demand.”
Marion Harris of Simsbury, Conn. stated, “One of the strong points of the Stella shows is that each one has it’s own identity – garden show, decorative arts, three piers etc. Perhaps because this one is the most general, it is the hardest to characterize for both the exhibitor and those attending. The flip side of it varying from other shows is that it allowed me to meet new decorators and clients for the first time which already, just a couple of days later has led to positive follow up.
“It is interesting how each show, even at the same location, has its own personality. It was the first time I had exhibited at this particular show and it seemed different to me than any other show I’ve done at the downtown Armory. I think steady might be the best way to describe it. It didn’t start with the huge high energy rush of locust type buying that I was used to from the January show, but then again, sales continued consistently without petering out.”
Harris added, “I sold an unusual automaton of two monkeys dining at a table, several pieces of Nineteenth Century Scottish jewelry, a rare Seventeenth Century German carving of an ivory skull, and a collection of 50 glass eyes made as prosthetics for injured soldiers during the first world war. I always buy these glass eyes when I find them in Europe, as I find them curiously appealing in a quirky way and they are exceptionally finely crafted. They make quite a graphic display so I am used to hearing various and unusual comments about them, however, one of the most amusing and surprising remarks was at this show when a customer asked if they were real!”
Cory Margolis and Philip Liszovics of Mantiques, New York City brought an eclectic mix and Cory reflected, “I felt it was a beautiful show and everyone really worked hard on their booths. The attendance was steady all weekend long and Sunday was surprisingly active. It is difficult on Friday openings to get a true vibe of what the flow of traffic will be.”
Margolis continued, “I was pleased with the outcome of the show and added some dramatic polished metal objects such as a 1930s theatre lamp and an outboard boat motor. These are generally the types of rdf_Descriptions I save for the Pier shows. I thought it would be interesting to get feedback on such rdf_Descriptions at a more sophisticated show as the Armory. These rdf_Descriptions were very well received.”
Isabelle D. Seggerman of Bonsal-Douglas Antiques, Essex, Conn., I sensed that approximately. 10 percent of the dealers had extremely good shows. My gallery had a descent show, but by no means was it our ‘Best Ever.’ For this I only fault myself – and next year that situation will be corrected! It appeared that the gate on Sunday was the biggest.”
Seggerman concluded, “The Show had a number of extremely well planned and interesting booth displays, which made it fun to wander through. The Bonsal-Douglas booth was surrounded by some of the nicest neighboring dealers ever. They were professional, courteous to their clients, and helpful to each another. And, as always, not enough can be said about the Stella Show Management; they are terrific!”
Gordon S. Converse of Gordon S. Converse Clocks & Company, Stratford, Penn. replied, “The gate seemed less than busy, although steady throughout the entire three days. I displayed fine arts – paintings and hanging art along with a small, but hopefully representative selection of clocks. Also, furniture and decorative rdf_Descriptions rounded out the booth.”
Converse continued, “As is often the situation in NYC, New Yorkers seemed eager to buy smaller rdf_Descriptions. Many of the larger ‘case pieces’ went unsold. Though I did a brisk overall trade, nothing over $2,000 sold. My perception is that sales were unremarkable – not especially weak or strong. No one complained that they had a bad show.”
“Irene Stella was seen borrowing rdf_Descriptions from exhibitor’s booths on Sunday morning to photograph them for promotional purposes. Most thought this was a good gesture towards the dealers; a manager/promoter going out of her way to document her exhibitor’s best rdf_Descriptions and promote them.”
Five pm Sunday brought the house lights up, illuminating these 76 miniature stages and found many were sparser of objects than before. The stagehands were ready to take down the lights, sweep up the remnants of the previous three days, and get ready for “another town, another show.” The audience had left to discuss what they had witnessed and to tell friends of the scene created beneath a curved darkened expanse that transformed an armory into an amphitheater. Voices were heard, clearly indicating a fine show in a familiar setting.
Leanne Stella, President of Stella Show Mgmt. Co., stated, “We were very pleased with the show; it was not a blockbuster attendance like January but it was an educated crowd that bought nice things. Most of the dealers did very well and sold important pieces. I also think the quality of the show was very good and the juxtaposition of the art dealers and the traditional antiques dealers was very interesting and pleasing to the eye. I look forward to building attendance and interest in this show.”
William Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…” – this stage transported us back to the riches of yesterday and in unique arrangements of creativity, awakened glimpses of by-gone days and illustrated the rewards of an experienced management crew working with quality dealers. Stella Mgmt. has simply given men and woman, these players, a stage upon which to stand and allow for 76 unique visions to be seen.