Published: February 5, 2008
Two sculptures in Greg Kramer’s collection †a pair of 10-foot-long carved and painted sea serpents made by Marcus Illions for “Fabulous” Feltman’s Coney Island carousel †are so imposing that they usually travel by forklift.
“I don’t even know if six men could pick them up,” the Robesonia, Penn., dealer said on opening night of The American Antiques Show, which returned to Manhattan’s Metropolitan Pavilion January 16′0.
The larger-than-life creatures seemed a fitting mascot for the exuberant show, which also produced a pair of Lee’s blue jeans with a 12-foot inseam. The advertising display item hung from a ceiling pipe via a Goliath-sized hanger at The Herrs.
The seven-year-old show is directed by Caroline Kerrigan Lerch and managed by Karen di Saia on behalf of the American Folk Art Museum. “On gala night, we made more ticket sales at the door than ever before. Our public days were stronger than we’ve seen. We were pleased,” said Barry D. Briskin, an executive chairman of the show and, with Joan M. Johnson, co-chair of the opening evening.
The American Antiques Show, a major fundraising and cultivation event for the museum, is steadily broadening its scope. Relatively small with only 45 exhibitors, it this year enhanced its position in both Native American art and in American classical furniture and accessories.
“We’re angling to be the best of all things American,” DiSaia said after the fair’s close on Sunday.
Briskin elaborated, “We won’t become a fine art show, but we will take a broader look at other categories that might be a natural fit for us. Our patrons come from all over the country and want collecting fields of interest to them.”
Dealers sold across the board in a range of specialties.
“We kinda got caught,” said Allan Katz, who with Donna Schneier brokered the seven-figure sale of the Briskin family collection of folk art to dealers Marcy Carsey and Susan Baerwald of Just Folk in Summerside, Calif., in early January. Katz, who had anticipated bringing Briskin property to TAAS, did brisk business anyway. His sales included a carved bust of an Indian, a clam digger weathervane, a piece of Anna pottery, a trade sign for a portrait painter and a collection of canes carved by Henry Barnes of Sellersville, Penn., circa 1920.
Ricco/Maresca rolled out a collection of Martin Ramirez drawings, selling a quartet of them on opening night. These large works on paper were discovered in California near the psychiatric hospital where Ramirez was treated. The pictures were unveiled during a Ramirez retrospective at the American Folk Art Museum last year.
“His familiarity with bird anatomy enabled Crowell to create carved wood sculptures that bear exceptional likeness to their species. To these carvings, he applied unsurpassed painted feathering to complete some of the finest wood carvings known to collectors today,” Stephen O’Brien writes in Select Carvings by A. Elmer Crowell (1862‱952), the catalog to accompany a show currently at his gallery. To TAAS, the Boston dealer bought a few gallery highlights, among them a flying green-winged teal, circa 1931, inscribed by Crowell to his friend J.B. Chase.
Pennsylvania folk art dealers George Allen and Gordon Wyckoff had a banner show, selling a circa 1800 Hackensack-style innkeeper’s cupboard with hidden compartments and seven dolls’ quilts.
“They are true miniatures of full-size quilts, made between 1830 and 1851,” said Allen.
“It reminds me of Bert Hemphill,” Stephen Score said of the whimsical circa 1920 “Locomobile” wood and tin sculpture that he sold opening night from a booth that also included the vibrant Bowmansville, Penn., crib quilt last seen at the Shelley sale and a Snakes and Ladders game board from the Meryl Weiss collection.
Folk art specialists James and Judy Milne’s opening night sales included a cigar store Indian princess, a carved dog and a cast iron carnival clown.
At Odd Fellows Art & Antiques of Mount Vernon, Maine, vernacular photography found ready buyers.
American classical design got a boost at Artemis Gallery and at Charles and Rebekah Clark. New exhibitors from Woodbury, Conn., the Clarks anchored their elegant display with a circa 1830 glazed double-door Baltimore bookcase, $37,000, and a Boston sofa, $17,500, inspired by a Thomas King pattern.
Tucked into a niche on Amy Finkel’s outside wall was a stamped Kinnan & Mead step back chest of drawers with dressing mirror. It dated from the 1820s. Better known for samplers, the Philadelphia dealer brought desirable Indiana and Nantucket pieces. The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently added two Washington, D.C., samplers to its collection, acquired from Finkel.
Also new to the 2008 show was Ned Jalbert. The dealer brings the number of North American Indian art specialists to five at TAAS, enough to form a critical mass.
“We took a joint ad in American Indian Art magazine,” said Ted Trotta, noting the group’s consolidated effort to attract collectors. Trotta-Bono emphasized artifacts dating to before European contact. Outstanding examples included an Eighteenth Century Southern Plains/Comanche painted hide shield and shield cover and a Seventeenth Century New England burl bowl with two bear effigies.
At Brant Mackley Gallery, a Plateau woman’s dress, circa 1900‱0, was $18,500. David Cook’s centerpiece was a subtly beautiful Navajo chief’s blanket. Both Cook and Trotta-Bono brought some Spanish Colonial art, as well: furniture at Trotta-Bono and colcha embroidery at Cook. With jewelry, pottery and weaving, Marcy Burns was swarmed with buyers on opening night.
An exceptional Penobscot “treasure” basket, $5,900, dated to circa 1880 at Jewett-Berdan Antiques, Newcastle, Maine.
“It’s the largest I’ve ever seen,” Jeff Bridgman said of his 34-star Civil War parade flag, one of many examples of patriotic folk art at TAAS. Another highlight of the Dillsburg, Penn., dealer’s stand was a Confederate first national flag, captured by the US Navy at the Battle of New Orleans.
A 13-star-and-eagle American ship’s swallow-tail pennant flag, circa 1840 and measuring 14 feet long, flew proudly at Woodard & Greenstein.
The Cooley Gallery of Old Lyme, Conn., carried the flag for formal American painting, featuring canvases of New York appeal. Winter views by Guy Wiggins and Arthur E. Schneider joined Ogden Pleissner’s arresting portrait “Vezin,” depicting the painter’s instructor seated at his Brooklyn easel with Manhattan skyline and docks in the distance.
“He is considered a Southern artist,” Charlton Bradsher said of Will Henry Stevens (1881‱949), a collection of whose works on paper lined the Asheville, N.C., dealer’s back wall.
Newbury, Mass., dealer Joan Brownstein featured primitive portraits attributed to Milton Hopkins, $78,000.
Several exhibitors said they had raided their homes to bring their best to New York. Straight from Russ and Karen Goldberger’s kitchen was an apothecary chest in red paint with dovetailed drawers in graduated sizes, $28,000.
“The rarer ones are the views of New York City,” said Jesse Goldberg, who culled his private collection of prints.
Garthoeffner Gallery paired two tiny foot stools upholstered in hooked wool with a rare pair of matching children’s ladder back chairs.
Nathan Liverant and Son showed its folky side with a quirky New York State curly maple and cherry secretary desk. Country classical, the unusual piece had chip-carved ornament, 15 hidden drawers, ivory pulls and lion’s paw feet.
Furniture specialist Peter Eaton wrote up a Philadelphia Pembroke table and a Rhode Island Queen Anne flattop highboy. Other offerings included a Sheraton bow front chest by Spooner and Fitts of Athol, Mass.
“There is some chance that they could be Samuel McIntire,” Don Heller said of two ship gangway boards carved with eagles and shields, $48,000.
Cherry Gallery, dealers in rustic furniture, did well with an Old Hickory dining table, $6,500, and a Southern burl lattice set of shelves, $7,800.
“It is the best one yet in terms of freehand decoration and in perfect condition,” Greg Kramer said of an exceptional four-gallon stoneware covered with cobalt blue floral decoration. Attributed to Parr, the Mid-Atlantic vessel was $65,000.
San Herrup featured a Norwalk, Conn., sgraffito decorated redware plate, $22,000, inscribed “Sins The Misery of Man and Woman.”
Delft was in store at Mark and Marjorie Allen, who offered a rare set of circa 1760 Dutch calendar plates signed by Justus Brouwer of De Posteleyne Byl.
Exhibitors speak of Barry Briskin’s enormous contribution to TAAS over the past few years. Briskin assures readers that he remains devoted to the fair. “I truly have a vested interest in the show, which benefits the American Folk Art Museum, collectors and dealers in so many different ways,” said Briskin.
For information, 212-265-1040 or www.folkartmuseum.org .
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