Published: March 29, 2011
As opening night antiques and art lovers embraced the appearance of Avenue Show’s Antiques & Art at the Armory, an international doyenne found her place by one of John Jaffa’s jewel-filled cases. Without ever taking her eyes off a shelf of classic diamond-encrusted bow brooches, she recalled the best advice of her grandmother: “Good taste never goes out of style.”
No show producer could better have summed up the focus of the 49 international dealers at the spring show’s inaugural run. Or as Barbara Goodwin, show director, stated in the catalog welcome letter, “In an increasingly tech-centric, time-crunched universe, we still find significant value in bringing audiences face-to-face with the most extraordinary items.” The previewgoers seemed to agree.
Jeff Bridgman, York, Penn., a perennial favorite for his historic American flags and folk art, once again gave the audience what it wanted. From a small 13-star flag by Rachel Albright, Betsy Ross’s daughter or granddaughter, to a 13-star flag that traveled with the Liberty Bell to the 1896 Cotton States expo in Atlanta and was framed with a piece from the bell, the booth was pure Americana. Even America’s favorite pastime was on display, too, in the form of a classic board game decorated with lithograph paper, circa 1912.
Meanwhile, The Manhattan Rare Book Company, New York City, offered John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do you for you” inaugural speech, signed and dedicated to Arthur Schlesinger. Bound in white cloth and embossed in gold, the eight-page manuscript was one of a handful presented to Kennedy’s friends. In a nearby vitrine, a highly prized first printing of Albert Einstein’s special Theory of Relativity created quiet contemplation.
The mood changed from the cerebral to purely fun at Newel’s (New York City) double booth. Here Vanity, Envy, Lust and Decadence headlined. Within each category were such items as a French lacquered two-door credenza trimmed with bronze rope (Vanity) and a monumental bronze Art Deco etched glass lantern made for the Philadelphia Municipal Auditorium/Convention Center (Envy). A monumental silver gilt sunburst Piedmontese mirror and a set of 32 gold trimmed crystal glasses, French, Nineteenth Century, set the tone for Decadence. As for Lust, Newell got it right with a pair of Russian mahogany bergères with molded arched backs and scrolled arms and a Picasso “Bacchanale” etching, 1955, among other desirable items.
Mark Helliar 20th Century Design, Los Angeles, caught many a wandering eye with a pair of Bullicante glass fish. The bubbles within the pale trumpet blue glass gave a water effect that was carried out in the matching sculptural bowl. The set was designed by Flavio Poli for Archimede Seguso, circa 1937. Nearby, a modernistic Italian silver, five-light candelabrum centerpiece dominated, telling a different sculptural story. In the case, the wavelike center sculpture gave rise to 15 inches of silver candlesticks. It was designed by Arrigo Finzi, Milan, circa 1960. A silver sculptural swan centerpiece, also by Finzi, was of the same era.
At Percy’s Silver, London, the standout item was a massive Victorian centerpiece that featured St George slaying the dragon under the canopy of a branching tree. Yet the item that one previewgoer was animatedly admiring was a sleek silver vase that could be used as a wine cooler.
The Silver Fund, San Francisco, offered a pair of 1880 Tiffany cut glass claret jugs in the Japonesque style. Michael James said the 10-inch cut glass jars with narrow necks and handles are the first he has seen in 25 years in business. The jugs themselves feature insects and dragonflies molded in relief on the glass and the silver tops are lap over edge.
Lobel Modern, New York City, stunned shoppers with an Italian liquor cabinet from the 1950s. The four doors, inlaid with people engaged in such leisure time activities as tennis, golf, ballet and music, sat on a sculptural base. It was made of zebra wood veneer and the door panels were backlit.
Over at Cosulich Interiors and Antiques, New York City, four hand blown Venetian glass vases stood out like brightly colored Lifesavers in a booth dominated by the neutral hues. The large vases by Zillo were made for exhibition and bore not only the maker’s signature but also planetary signs. They made the perfect accessory for a set of Forma tan leather armchairs with white lacquer frames.
Michael Pashby, New York City, on the other hand, reached as far back as the Seventeenth Century for a Charles II oyster veneer chest with 20 drawers. The highly functional cabinet, Pashby said, is very similar to one in Ham House in London. He suspects the lacewood used on the case piece was brought from South Africa by the Dutch trade. Tucked into a corner, an early Nineteenth Century Chinese black lacquer and gilt tilt-top table with carved dragon-form feet fairly begged to be taken home. The addition of a large contemporary painting, something we have been seeing more and more of, made its point well.
Gallery 47, New York City, was crowded early in the preview as buyers poured over a Czechoslovakian crystal perfume bottle featuring a glass nude within. Humorously, the nude covered her body atop and below with her arms, lest the viewer get the wrong impression. Or perhaps it was merely Heinrich Hoffman’s wit at work. Equally charming was a Josephine Baker box in an aisle-facing vitrine.
At Alexander’s Antiques, New York City, which always presents a range of tasteful objects, a porcelain pair of elephants made a different statement. “Driven” by Nubians, the elephants carried large white containers from which spilled classical warriors engaged in battle.
Ophir Gallery of Englewood, N.J., filled the booth with Twentieth Century decorative arts and French Art Nouveau furniture. A fine collection of leaded glass lamps and other Tiffany designs once again showed their continuing popularity.
Speaking of figural oddities, Stephen Kalms, London, presented a chess set that had once been the property of Leona Helmsley. Cast in silver, one side coated in gilt, the set pitted the English against the Americans.
At Gallery Afrodit, Ankara, Turkey, art was woven into the fabric of antique rugs and textiles. An outstanding textile wall hanging called a Suzani, circa 1860‱870, of silk on cotton was a noted rarity. The major offering, though, was a Zareth Penyamin Kum Kapi silk and metal thread prayer rug from northwest Anatolia. Slightly more than 5 by 3 feet, the rug carried the provenance of Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University.
Among the graphics and painting, Rumi Galleries, Mississauga, Canada, showed a 1984 Helen Frankenthaler acrylic on canvas, from her Canadian period. It looked beautiful above an ebony inlaid writing table. And for pure contemporary fun and investment, a Michael Mavian collage titled “New York, New York” comprised 2,000 bits of vintage newspapers.
Quirky or serious, one of the best booths to visit is always that of Marion Harris. From vintage and antique artist figures to the collection of glass eyes she displayed, body parts-as-art filled the cases. Of particular interest was a collection of heart-shaped objects.
Giraffics Gallery, East Hampton, N.Y., featured Rene Bouché nudes and fashion prints, as well as Eloise in Paris studies by Hillary Knight. And then, a large poster of a water skier in a blue and white polka dot bikini, a Nivea ad, reminded viewers that spring is nigh.
Can the pleasures of summer then be far behind? The huge fiberglass cherry popsicle at the Dean Project, New York City, cinched the reverie. Titled “Here today, gone tomorrow,” and paired with two denuded popsicle sticks, the Tim Berg and Rebekah Myers sculpture, 2010, was available in five flavors: cherry, grape, lime, blue raspberry and orange.
Avenue’s next scheduled show is September 21′5. For information, 646-442-1627 or www.avenueshows.com .
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