Anyone who has not been to Antiques & Fine Art at the Armory — which in 2006 was presented at the Seventh Regiment Armory December 7–11 — owes himself a visit.
This recent introduction from Wendy Management is a bright addition to New York City’s calendar — upscale, glamorous, original and diverse.
Wendy’s presence at the Park Avenue venue dates to 1977. It was not until Meg Wendy took the reins five years ago that the Westchester-based firm reevaluated its December show, repositioning itself upmarket.
“Shows are entertainment. We have to excite our clients and give them something special,” observed Meg Wendy. Each of her events, including the Palm Beach Design Fair, the New York Design Fair, Art on Park and the Spring International Art & Antiques Show, has a distinct personality.
“From my perspective, this is our most traditional show. We don’t want it to be too modern,” said Lou Marotta, a designer and Elle Decor columnist who is creative director for Wendy Management.
Antiques & Fine Art features a broad range of antiques for classic homes, as well as an impressive selection of fine art. Dramatic in its content and presentation, the 75-dealer expo has a European flair enhanced by exhibitors from five countries.
The display gets off to a heroic start with Steinitz, Paris dealers known for magnificent paneled rooms and Eighteenth Century French furniture and accessories. Stanford White, the Gilded Age architect who incorporated elements of chateaus and palazzos into his Fifth Avenue commissions for the Vanderbilts and others, would have loved Steinitz’s carved and gilded columns and arched entranceway leading to a two-room suite with 14-foot-high ceilings.
M.S. Rau’s booth offered just a taste of its 30,000-square-foot New Orleans showroom, a leading source for Nineteenth Century silver, fine art and furniture. Third-generation dealer, William Rau featured works by Georgia O’Keeffe and William-Adolph Bouguereau (1825–1905), among others. He sold a monumental Bouguereau allegorical portrait, $5 million, of Mother Earth and her children.
“It sold to an important collector who wanted the very best and was able to get it,” said Rau, reached after the show in London.
Another monumental painting depicting the allegorical figure, “Fortune,” $85,000, fronted Anderson Gallery of Beverly Hills’s display. The Belgian artist Fernand Toussaint painted the circa 1900 canvas for the Monte Carlo casino.
Marks dazzled with stately English and Continental silver. Glass walls along three sides of the Mayfair dealer’s booth were stocked with works by Paul de Lamerie, Paul Storr, Tiffany, Gorham and Faberge. Dating to 1861, a Russian cistern by Carl Bojanowski of St Petersburg was $235,000.
Silver and jewelry specialists provided holiday season sparkle. London dealers N&I Franklin showcased a pair of circa 1820 ormolu wine coolers after a design by John Flaxman. The Silver Fund featured all things Georg Jensen. Michael Haber arrayed gold jewelry by Buccellati, and Sherry Grau of Fort Lauderdale was headquarters for South Sea pearls in extraordinary natural colors. One of the freshest displays belonged to New York’s Larkspur & Hawk, whose lapis blue and white stenciled walls resembled a Mexican tissue paper cutting.
“Everything today is about quality, but quality comes in many price points,” said Meg Wendy, noting the success of The Spare Room, Maryland dealers in English ceramics in Japan patterns, Georgian and Victorian jewelry, American silver flatware and objets d’art
“This show has it,” The Spare Room’s Jacqueline Smelkinson said happily. “We sold jewelry, lots of ceramics and lots of smalls.”
Antiques & Fine Art at the Armory contains at its center a display by the Fine Art Dealers Association (FADA). Founded in 1990, the small organization includes many top dealers in American regionalist painting, along with specialists in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century European art.
The quality of the FADA presentation was high. At Spanierman, an arresting N.C. Wyeth oil on Masonite depicting a scene from Wagner’s Die Walkure, $380,000, hung alongside two small oil on canvas views by the popular Connecticut landscape painter Peter Poskas, whose works can still be had for under $15,000.
Nedra Matteucci Galleries, a Santa Fe star, showed jewel-like village scenes by Leon Gaspard, a Russian who settled in Taos in 1919. Other work offerings ranged from the Anna Hyatt Huntington bronze, “Yawning Panther,” $36,000, to “Taos,” a semiabstract canvas by Georgia O’Keeffe, $700,000.
What Matteucci is to Santa Fe, Charleston Renaissance Gallery is to the South. Charleston, S.C., dealer Robert M. Hicklin Jr featured “Watermelon Still Life,” $125,000, of 1839, by Thomas Bangs Thorpe; two Tybee Island scenes by different artists; and two intimate Civil War-era oil sketches by Xanthus Russell Smith. “The Bombardment of Fort Fisher, NC” was $65,000; “Canandaigua and Connecticut Chasing a Blockade Runner,” $58,000.
Cincinnati Art Galleries hung Walter Clark’s “Gloucester Harbor,” $175,000, a National Academy of Design gold-medal winner of 1902; and Edward Potthast’s “The Morning Dip,” $550,000. But it was Firmin Baes’s pastel “The Sphinx,” $150,000, of a vixenlike, bobbed-headed nude of the 1920s that stopped visitors in their tracks.
Two other lionesses were across the aisle at Fleur, Mount Kisco, N.Y., garden ornament dealers who paired mid-Nineteenth Century Avignon stone lions, $24,000, with mossy green noses with an amber-colored Murano glass chandelier, $8,000; a pair of parchment-covered Jansen lamps, $6,500; and a French 1940s mirrored table, $14,500.
“The elegant setting worked to our advantage. We sold well,” said gallery manager Margot Travers.
Revamping the fair brought back Lynda Willauer Antiques, which cut back its once busy show schedule to focus on its shops in Greenwich, Conn., and Nantucket, Mass. The Willauers’ well-honed specialties are Chinese Export porcelain and majolica, needlepoint and Aubusson pillows, samplers and ship woolworks, tole, Staffordshire and floral watercolors. The pieces are beautifully displayed with English and Continental furniture in the English country house style.
“It was a lot of fun being back in the armory,” said Andrew Willauer. “We were thrilled with the show’s quality and presentation. We had very good sales, about 50 percent of them to new customers. It was a wonderful crowd.”
“December is a perfect time for a show in New York,” said Ruth Zager of J. Gallagher, North Norwich, N.Y. “We sell mostly fireplace equipment these days, but a gentleman came back to the show a second time to buy our inlaid cherry New York Hepplewhite chest of drawers.”
“We sold ten windup bird boxes,” said antique timepiece specialist Larry Dalton. “Customers love this show. We had a very good response.”
Speaking of eclectic, the dateline began with a Roman marble nude at Royal Athena Galleries, continued on to a 1475 map of the Holy Land at The Nineteenth Century Shop, progressed to a pair of rare opposing Amphora portrait vases, $50,000, at James Infante, and finished with a made-to-order travertine marble table at Odyssey Fine Art of London.
“It’s going to be filled with shells and coral,” said Marion Harris, who included a marked desk from the Cawston Hall Fishing & Shooting Estates Office in her booth filled with antiques for writers and naturalists.
Barometers were the ticket at Derek and Tina Rayment; animal portraiture at Hamshere Gallery; and a bench carved with an assortment of bears, $39,500, turned heads at Black Forest carving specialist John Orban of Cadiz, Ohio.
A preview party on Wednesday, December 6, benefited The Boys Club of New York.
“Attendance was excellent. Opening night was really lovely and a lot of people came back. Saturday and Sunday were fantastic. Monday was important because New Yorkers go away on weekends,” said Meg Wendy.
She added, “This success of this show is very gratifying for me. I’ve worked nonstop over the last five years to bring my shows to a higher level and attract the best customers I can for my dealers.”
Next for Wendy is the Palm Beach Design Fair. Benefiting the Historical Society of Palm Beach County, it opens January 11 at the Kravis Center for Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Fla., continuing through January 14.
For information, Wendy Management at 914-437-5983 or www.wendyshows.com.