Published: January 5, 2016
BY LAURA BEACH
NEW YORK CITY — In 2007, a few months after assuming the post of president and CEO of the Seventh Regiment Armory Conservancy, Rebecca Robertson described in detail her two-fold plan to conserve the landmark facility while transforming it into a performing arts center. At the time, promoters were alarmed to learn that they might lose Manhattan’s best — and, some say, only — venue for upscale art and antiques shows.
Since then, the Park Avenue Armory has struck a balance between performing arts and commercial fairs. Now it appears that the détente may be at an end. Palm Beach Show Group President and CEO Scott Diament recently learned that the nonprofit has cut his New York Art, Antique & Jewelry Show, planned for November, from the 2016 schedule. The facility is needed for rehearsals, Diament was told. Neither Robertson nor Peter Gee, the armory’s chief financial and administrative officer, have been available for comment.
Diament expressed dismay that Robertson would evict a show whose roots date to 1977, when Wendy Westchester Management moved the fair from the 34th Street Armory. Westchester Management ran five shows a year in the uptown facility, said Meg Wendy, co-producer of the New York Ceramics & Glass Fair.
“It really came as a shock when I requested my dates and was told that they are phasing out our show,” Diament said from Florida last week. “Rebecca told me that there was nothing they could do about it, that they liked the show but needed to make way for performances. They did not offer me alternative dates. We offered to work around rehearsals. I build everything in a 32,000-square-foot facility in Florida, so I can set up very quickly.”
Fairs are an important source of revenue, both for the armory and for the city, said Diament. Since launching his show business in 2001 and acquiring the New York Art, Antique & Jewelry Show from Avenue three years ago, Palm Beach Show Group has invested heavily in its production and promotion. The investment is one that pays off over time, says the promoter, noting that the 85-exhibitor New York Art, Antique & Jewelry Show drew 12,000 visitors between November 20 and 24, 2015.
“I guarantee the armory a steady source of income. I pay rent, I brought in Le Cirque as an attraction and a sponsor, I employ a lot of people, and exhibitors and the public like what we do,” said Diament, whose shows in New York, Florida, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles are an important source of livelihood for nearly 1,200 dealers nationwide. He hopes Robertson will change her mind and says that, to that end, dealers have launched a letter-writing campaign.
Though other promoters confirmed their schedules for the coming year, only the Winter Antiques Show is known to have firm dates beyond 2016.
“The Winter Antiques Show recently renewed a new, multiyear lease with the Park Avenue Armory. The Seventh Regiment Armory Conservancy has been clear about its goals to restore the building, provide year-round programming and retain the top art and antiques shows,” said the Winter Antiques Show’s executive director, Catherine Sweeney Singer.
“Our dates for 2016 are secure and we are looking forward to an excellent third edition of Spring Masters New York, which will be held May 6–9,” said Jeff Rabin, principal and co-founder of Artvest Partners LLC, which owns Spring Masters New York.
The AIPAD Photography Show is planned for April 14–17, with an opening night party on April 13.
Operated by Haughton International Fairs, the International Show returns to the armory from October 20 to 27.
Sanford Smith & Associates owns or operates four shows at the Armory: the ADAA Art Show, March 2–6; the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, April 7–10; the IFPDA Print Fair, November 2–6; and the Salon of Art + Design, November 10–14.
“From the very beginning, it has been the conservancy’s goal that the Park Avenue Armory would become a performing arts center. Whether or not they maintain a schedule of art and antiques shows after 2016 is something I don’t believe the conservancy knows at this point. It depends on their programming,” Smith told Antiques and The Arts Weekly.
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