Published: March 11, 2003
By W.A. Demers
NEW YORK CITY – Stella Show Mgmt. Co., amid an “Orange Alert” level in the national terrorism threat rating system, anxiety about the start of the Muslim hajj holiday, the eve of a massive antiwar rally in New York City and other forms of the world behaving badly, put on a brave Valentine’s Day of a show at Gramercy Park February 14-16 at the 69th Regiment Armory at Lexington Avenue at 26th Street. Quipped one of the dealers: “We’re in the armory, for Pete’s sake. It’s probably the safest place to be in town.”
Show visitors had to walk a gantlet at the entrance, but it was a gantlet flanked on one side by bright floral paintings by Austrian Christian Nesvadba and on the other side paintings of fields of corn and lavender by Christian’s father, Gerhard, displayed by Gladwell & Company, London, one of the show’s 65 exhibitors. And while the paintings’ titles, like “Stunning Bouquet” and “Floral Explosion,” had a disturbing connotation during this time of high national anxiety, the effect of the art was to at once calm and excite the senses.
Sunday seemed to bring the largest audience, according to most dealers, who said that Friday’s lighter than normal opening was followed by also smaller than normal crowds on Saturday, apparently due to the antiwar rally that was occurring in the city over that weekend.
For Isabelle Seggerman of Bonsal-Douglas Antiques, Essex, Conn., the show traffic seemed steady. “I felt that there were consistently customers on the floor –no crushing crowds, but a steady flow of people,” she said. “We sold several paintings, as well as a French chalk drawing of a terrier [this was Westminster Kennel Show week] to the owner of a Westhighland named ‘Lilly.'”
Also featured at Seggerman’s booth were original illustrations from award-winning children’s books, including several by Will Hillenbrand, author of Fiddle-I-Fee and Counting Crocodiles, among others. “This is the first time I’ve shown these. I needed it,” said Seggerman of the colorful, whimsical art displayed on her walls.
Decorative arts dealer Pascal Boyer, Wappingers Falls, N.Y., speculated that weather, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day weekend, and tensions over terrorism, Iraq and the economy were to blame for the thinner than normal weekend crowds. “Spending was hard,” he said. “People tend to be reluctant to spend as they used to, and purchases tend to happen after the show.” In fact, Boyer added that he had just recently wrapped up a big-ticket sale that originated at the Gramercy show in October 2002.
Boyer’s gallery was rich in French Deco furniture, including a large selection by Jacques Adnet and a mahogany and lapis cabinet by Re-nee Kinsbourg. “At my level, people tend to go for names,” explained Boyer. “It helps them in the purchase decision. I did well with Jacques Adnet leather stitched furniture and accessories. I sold a pair of Adnet floor lamps, an interesting sale because I sold them to a French woman.” Boyer characterized the show staff and organization as “perfect,” adding, “I just wish the dates were different. Stuck between Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day weekend is not very good for attendance. Our core customers, designers, tend to leave town for the occasion.”
Also remarking that Sunday’s crowd was significantly more active than Friday’s and Saturday’s was Jeff Russak of Bradford House Antiques, Litchfield, Conn. “Sunday was up considerably,” he said. “Retail customers were there to buy mainly big-ticket rdf_Descriptions; I think folks are buying antiques they consider to be investment grade, thus combining entertainment and portfolio diversification,” said Russak. Bradford House, which specializes in fine art, silver and antique and estate jewelry, displayed among its wares a 1929 Gorham punch bowl with matching tray.
“We in fact sold the Gorham punch bowl to a collector who was very happy to get it,” reported Russak. “We also had a couple of interesting multiple sales where the customers seemed very taken with our eye, whether silver jewelry or objects.
“Gramercy Park is an artistic balm for the soul, a quiet oasis of gentility in a world lacking grace,” said Russak. “It’s the one show I make sure my wife comes in for so we can walk around it together and just enjoy. It’s always successful for us. I feel that this is the best general show in New York City to spotlight nonfurniture merchandise.”
Dale Jones of B and D Antiques and Art Pottery, Shepherdstown, W.Va., was attending the Gramercy Park Show for the first time with a an extensive selection of art pottery pieces, including Rookwood and Roseville vases.
Commenting on the size of the gate, “It is not necessarily the size of the gate that counts, but how many attendees are buying. I had a very good show, so much so, that I have asked to be put on the waiting list for the October show,” said Jones. He reported that one customer was so pleased with his booth when she stopped by on Friday that she came back on Saturday and purchased more merchandise.
Vietnamese art was the focus of East Meets West International Fine Art, Tarrytown, N.Y. Owner Stephen Segal displayed original signed paintings by three contemporary artists from central and southern Vietnam whose work combines French and Chinese influences with traditional Vietnamese subjects and techniques. He also had oil on paper paintings by a Kazakhstan artist.
Segal said that although many dealers he spoke with were upset about the crowd-dampening effects of the “Orange Alert” and antiwar rally on Saturday, “we did okay. I sold seven paintings, half within the $2,000 to $3,000 range, half between $500 and $600. Stella Mgmt puts on a very good show.” Next up for Segal is a buying trip back to Vietnam in April, including a first-ever trip to Hanoi.
Opening a new gallery at 67 Gansewoort Street in New York City in March, Ted Wolter of Lucca & Co. displayed furniture with a European focus, including a carved wooden Nineteenth Century French folk art bed, circa 1860-70, an imposing Eighteenth Century English doorway/cupboard and a French Empire gueridon, circa 1820. “My clients like a mixture of pieces,” said Wolter. “They like beautiful woods, clean forms that are sophisticated but not stuffy.”
Stella Show Mgmt. Co.’s next event is the Triple Pier Antiques Show, March 15-16, at Passenger Ship Terminal Piers 88, 90 and 92. For information, 212-255-0020 or www.stellashows.com.
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