Published: February 1, 2011
Say Bohemian National Hall and some people imagine quaint guild halls and raised mugs of Pilsner Urquell. Instead, the New York home of the Czech Center and Consulate General is a stylish showcase for the hip, post-Soviet Czech Republic, complete with vanguard art and design.
Renovations to the National Academy of Design forced the 12-year-old New York Ceramics Fair, which completed its six-day run on January 23, to move to Bohemian National Hall from its traditional home at the academy on upper Fifth Avenue.
“A contact at the academy put us in touch with a broker for rental spaces in Manhattan. This is what we came up with,” explained Liz Lees, who manages the fair with her husband, Bill Caskey.
The move was a good one for California-based Caskey-Lees and the show’s 28 exhibitors. Yes, booths were shallow. Yes, the compact floor plan meant a few less dealers. Yes, cases were a bit cramped. No more prestigious Central Park address.
What the 321 East 73rd Street quarters provided instead was an easy setup with two full-size elevators; proximity to Sotheby’s, just two blocks away; natural light; a clean, sleek ambience; and amenities like a coat check and lecture space.
Plus, the “buzz factor” was big. The show’s compact setting †consisting of a small ballroom, stage and galleried mezzanine where an additional six exhibitors set up †turned out to be an asset as collectors mingled in the aisles and dealers exchanged frequent updates. Management’s attendance figures confirm that the gate, about even with last year, increased over 2008 and 2009.
Collectors of ancient and contemporary pottery, glass and porcelain poured in for the preview party on January 18, kicking off the first of Americana Week’s five antiques shows. Visitors through the run of the fair included directors, curators and other representatives from major museums, such as the Corning Glass Museum, Winterthur, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Saint Louis Art Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, the Reeves Center at Washington & Lee University, Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Museums of Fine Art in Boston and Houston.
Many headed to Garry Atkins, a fair fixture. The London dealer in early English pottery sold a good bit of English delft, creamware and salt glaze. “It was a little quiet during the week, but it picked up again on the weekend. That’s expected,” said Atkins.
Dutch delft received a boost from specialist Leon-Paul van Geenen, a first-time exhibitor from Holland.
Known for his large stock of Staffordshire figures, Woodstock, UK, dealer John Howard sold a 43-piece table service of Eighteenth Century English creamware. “I sent out 2,000 email invitations in advance and got a great response,” said Howard.
“This show is always well attended by collectors,” said Alan Kaplan, whose firm, Leo Kaplan, Ltd, parted with a circa 1750 salt glaze bowl with Littler’s blue cobalt decoration and a pierced border.
Jacqueline Smelkinson and Marcia Moylan of The Spare Room in Baltimore, Md., sold their catalog piece, a Bristol Factory soft paste biscuit porcelain bird’s nest with eggs. Made in England, it dated to around 1770.
Jill Fenichell’s love of historic design prompted her to build two businesses related to her first enterprise, antique porcelain. Started in 1996, her Bespoke Porcelain Company supplies custom-designed china. Bongenre produces casual melamine dinnerware in an array of colors and patterns. For her first Ceramics Fair in five years, Fenichell featured a Teplitz biscuit porcelain bust of Sarah Bernhardt by Stellmacher in Bohemia. “She was the Lady Gaga of her time,” Fenichell said of Bernhardt.
Gary and Diana Stradling are the go-to source for rare American pottery and porcelain. They showcased an early Albany, N.Y., area stoneware sugar pot dated 1802 and attributed to Egbert J. Schoonmaker, who inscribed the pot with the name of his birthplace, Hurley, N.Y., and the initials “MK,” possibly for Matthew Kipp.
Glass specialist Ian Simmonds, who shared a stand with the Stradlings, featured a pair of mid-Nineteenth Century Brooklyn Flint Glass Works compotes, as well as two decanters and 20 pieces of cut-glass stemware made for Johns Hopkins (1795‱873). Other examples from the service are at the Dallas Museum of Art.
Christopher Sheppard, a UK dealer whose inventory ranges from ancient Roman to 1920s Venetian glass, sold a Twelfth Century glass window to Corning Museum of Glass. A Bohemia glass cup of 1680 was marked $9,800.
“The set has been together for 300 years,” Alberto Santos, a premier specialist in Chinese Export porcelain, said of a circa 1700 blue and white five-piece garniture decorated with tall Chinese ladies in a pattern known as Long Elisa. London-based Santos recently released volume III of its five-volume series, Portugal in Porcelain from China: 500 Years of Trade.
Early in the fair, Santos sold a pair of Tobacco Leaf plates, a pattern favored by Americans. Five lots of Tobacco Leaf tablewares brought $58,000 at Sotheby’s sale of important Americana from a private collection on January 22, attesting to the strength of the market.
The New York Ceramics Fair is a hospitable place for showing contemporary ceramics. Michelle Erickson, who draws inspiration from the past to create uniquely contemporary works of art, unveiled a new line of reverse slip decorated pottery dishes and chargers embellished with loosely liquid skeletal motifs. The Yorktown, Va., potter was recently honored by the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, Va., with “Tradition & Modernity,” a widely ranging exhibition of her pottery creations.
The Ceramic Fair’s 2011 loan exhibit, “1380°C ,” included pieces by current and former students of the Ceramic Design Studio, an atelier in north Bohemia where majolica and porcelain have been produced since the mid-Nineteenth Century.
Sponsored by Chipstone Foundation, the annual lecture series offered presentations by Jonathan Rickard, Leslie B. Grigsby, Don Carpentier, Ronald W. Fuchs II, Angela Howard, Robert Hunter, Angelika R. Kuettner, Jacqueline Smelkinson and Marcia Moylan.
Caskey-Lees returns to New York March 24′7 with Arts of Pacific Asia, at 7 W New York. For information, www.caskeylees.com or 310-455-2886.
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