Published: January 30, 2007
On Tuesday afternoon, January 16, Don Carpentier and Jonathan Rickard, old friends and colleagues drawn close by their mutual interest in English pottery, were putting the final touches on the loan exhibition, “Another Man’s Treasure,” at the National Academy Museum.
The New York Ceramics Fair was set to open that evening. Already, advance reports on the loan show — featuring late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century shards dug up last year in Staffordshire by Carpentier, director of Eastfield Village in Upstate New York — were stirring excitement among the show’s 37 exhibitors.
So it is with the New York Ceramics Fair, the eight-year-old event that annually harnesses the enthusiasms of a small but focused group of connoisseurs. On a per capita basis, Americana Week’s lead-off fair may draw the most zealous opening night crowd in town. Visitors line up in twos from Fifth Avenue to the foot of the National Academy’s elegant marble staircase, waiting for the show to open.
Many of the guests make a beeline for the show’s upper floor. Among others, they seek out Garry Atkins, the London dealer in early English pottery; Roderick Jellicoe, with English porcelain; Leo Kaplan, Ltd, a New York antiquary with a broad but choice selection of English, American, French, and Russian pottery, porcelain and glass; and Philip Suval, Inc, best known these days for Chinese Export porcelain.
The newly merged firm of Sampson & Horne, also dealers in early English pottery and delft, and The Stradlings, with American rarities, are in an adjacent room. Up a short flight of stairs in a tiny roundabout are the Kuraus, with Historical Staffordshire and other Anglo American specialties, and Michelle Erickson, the brilliant studio potter whose imaginative sculptures are practically tailor-made for Americana Week crowds. Equally compelling exhibits are on the lower level.
Organized by Bill Caskey and Liz Lees of Topanga, Calif., this year’s Ceramics Fair saw increased opening night attendance. The total gate for the week was 5,067, up from a year ago but down from 2004. Despite the decline, the bustling show was productive throughout, with curators from most of the country’s leading museums making their rounds.
As identified by Chipstone Foundation’s Ceramics in America , sponsor of the annual lecture series, ceramics lovers fall into several complementary groups. These camps form the major divisions of the show, which is strongest in English pottery, Chinese export porcelain, and contemporary studio pottery. In an ideal world, many other categories — Pueblo pottery, Portuguese azulejos and Peking snuff bottles, for instance — would also be included.
Notwithstanding gaps, the Ceramics Fair offers collectors many happy distractions. John Jaffa admirably carried the flag for antique enamels and Christopher Sheppard did the same for European glass, to name two of the show’s less well represented categories.
Formerly with Jonathan Horne, Simon Westman made his solo debut at the fair, featuring a rare London delftware polychrome teapot and cover of circa 1720–30. The London dealer reported brisk sales of Eighteenth Century Staffordshire.
Known for Staffordshire figures, John Howard of Woodstock, UK, sold more than 60 objects to American and English customers.
“It’s the world’s largest terra cotta pug,” said Elinor Penna of Old Wesbury, N.Y., who marked the 1898 figure $5,000.
Exhibitors trade among themselves as well as with collectors. William Kurau snapped up a pearlware tankard, circa 1795–1800, decorated with the Farmer’s Arms from Garry Atkins. The Lampeter, Penn., dealer and his wife, Teresa, had a good show, selling Historical Staffordshire platters for New Jersey and Michigan, along with a Liverpool pitcher embellished with the seal of the United States.
Wilton, Conn., dealer Peter Warren included an English blue and cream-colored pearlware punch bowl decorated in the Chinese taste, nearly identical to one illustrated on the cover of the 2004 edition of Ceramics in America .
English ceramics in the Asian taste filled The Spare Room’s stand. The Baltimore dealers stocked a hanging shelf with Coalport Regency and Money Tree pattern china ranging in price from $375 for a cup and saucer to $2,200 for a compote.
Janice Paull, an Algarve-based specialist in colorful English Imari-pattern wares, unveiled an extraordinary Mason’s Ironstone fireplace surround, $38,500. Paull, who keeps much of her substantial inventory in New Jersey, had one of her best Ceramics Fairs ever.
Some of the world’s top dealers in Chinese porcelain for the Western market also participate. One of them, the London dealer Santos, filled case after case with rare porcelain figures of people and animals in singles and pairs.
Accompanying Cohen & Cohen’s recent catalog, Double Dutch: On With The Dance, Let Joy Be Unconfined, were standing Qianlong figures of dancers, made for the Dutch market around 1760. The London dealers sold an important pair of Kangxi blue and white vases and covers, circa 1690.
Meticulously decorated in a palette of raspberry on white, a pair of Qianlong period imperial jardinieres and stands from Imperial Oriental Art, New York City, adorned the show catalog’s cover.
Cedric Curien from Marseilles, France, retailed a 99-piece famille rose part-dinner service, possibly for the Portuguese market, $170,000, and an Imari charger inscribed “Zeelandt” for the Dutch market, circa 1720, $60,000.
Fredericksburg, Va., dealer John Suval highlighted a circa 1800 five-piece garniture with basket-weave ground made for the Philadelphia market. A comparable group for the Chew family was shown in “Philadelphia and The China Trade” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Marcia Feinstein’s porcelain inventory can now be seen at Sumpter Priddy Antiques in Alexandria, Va. The Potomac, Va., dealer brought Chinese, French, English and German wares to the show, selling a Famille Rose armorial deep dish of circa 1745. The dish is embellished with the arms and crest of Downes of Cheshire.
Paul Vandekar’s sales included a large Qianlong punch bowl. Also known for English porcelain, the New York dealer offered a Chelsea “Red Anchor” period tureen and a green-ground Worcester dessert service of circa 1770–75, $21,000.
Known for rare American specimens, Gary and Diana Stradling of New York included two pottery pocket flasks. The first, of salt glazed stoneware, was fashioned as a man’s head and once belonged to Samuel Parker, the first missionary in Oregon Territory. The second, a green-glazed Morvian fish dating to about 1800, was from Old Salem, N.C. The Stradlings exhibited the piece with the Winter Antiques Show’s loan show from the Museums at Old Salem in mind.
The Stradlings shared their booth with Ian Simmonds, an up and coming specialist in early American glass from Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. A transplanted Englishman, Simmonds offered several rare pieces of Midwestern glass.
Cavin-Morris Gallery of New York offered Japanese and Japanese-style pottery in heavy, tactile glazes by Australian Gail Nichols, American Jeff Shapiro and Ryoji Koje of Japan. All three potters blur the line between abstraction and functionalism in their work.
Yorktown, Va., studio ceramicist Michelle Erickson combines a connoisseur’s appreciation of antique ceramics with an artist’s sensibility and a craftsman’s knowledge of technique. With three Hicks paintings on the block at Christie’s, her “Peaceable Kingdom” series, featuring modeled and glazed lions, lambs and other Hicks subjects, was especially timely. Inspired by the salvaged Nanking Cargo porcelains, her “China Junk” series combined Yixing-style pottery with oyster shells rendered by the artist in porcelain agate.
Among the studio potters, Paul Katrich sold 24 vessels in his signature luster glazes.
Part swap meet and part think tank, the New York Ceramics Fair wrapped up on Sunday, January 21, with collectors bereft of disposable income, perhaps, but richly stimulated by all they saw and heard. Even the loan show provided more food for thought. Essays on Don Carpentier’s Stoke-on-Trent dig and on a trove of Spode artifacts that Carpentier acquired from the company in 2006 are planned for an upcoming issue of Ceramics in America .
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