Published: May 11, 2016
Review And Photos By Andrea Valluzzo
NEW YORK CITY — By 8 pm on opening night, when things are usually winding down at the New York Botanical Garden’s Antique Garden Furniture Fair, show manager Karen DiSaia was seeing red.
She was not mad though, and was quite pleased to be seeing red. Red sold tickets, lots of them, appeared all over the show in just about every booth. “The show looked like it was covered in measles,” she said after the show’s April 29–May 1 run that kicked off Thursday, April 28, with a gala preview that was well-attended by garden antiques collectors, celebs, designers and supporters of the Botanical Garden.
The show is always a gorgeous event to behold, but this year it was nearly an over-the-top experience — from a wooden canopy bed outfitted with a “mattress” of delicate moss in Hamptons Antique Gallery’s booth to a colossal, 12-foot-tall urn in front of Village Braider’s display to the equally gigantic, rattan-woven bee skep that held pride of place in the center courtyard of the show. The latter work was the vision of renowned San Francisco-based interior and event designer Ken Fulk, the show’s design chairman, who is known for creating “experiences.” The sheer size of this piece would be noteworthy alone but eliciting many oohs and ahhs were the hundreds of fresh flowers that had been individually — and painstakingly — interspersed among the skep’s woven strips to cover the entirety of its interior wall.
Fulk’s attention to detail, befitting the show’s 25th anniversary this year, was evident on preview night as his bee-theme continued with a yellow and black striped carpeting that ran from the conservatory building to the front entrance of the show, past two assistants dressed as beekeepers handing out honey-themed drinks to guests and into the show where DJ Kiss, wearing a black and yellow dress, played songs from the 1960s and 70s for an appreciative crowd.
“Everyone was in such an upbeat mood, this was just so much fun,” DiSaia said of the party. “Normally everyone is out of there by 8 o’clock.” The party guests stayed longer and more importantly, bought more. One couple from South Carolina reportedly bought 47 objects from 14 dealers at preview and nearly every dealer reported doing well. The show was noticeably busy Friday and Saturday and only slowed down during Sunday’s heavy rains.
Bruce Emond of The Village Braider, Plymouth, Mass., whose aforementioned 12-foot aluminum urn sold during preview, called the show “red hot” and said that it “was mobbed the instant it opened,” adding that his sales were not just good but “unbelievable.” “I wrote 27 receipts and sold more in the first two hours than I sold at Chicago [the week before], and Chicago was a good show.” And it was not smalls that Bruce was selling, but big and heavy (expensive) things. Ironically, the urn, which weighed somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds, almost did not make it to the show. A landscaper associate was tasked to deliver the urn to the fair and en route, he was stopped by police who, questioning his permits, nearly impounded the vehicle together with urn, Emond related. Fortunately, the situation was resolved and the urn arrived in time to make its debut.
The antiques trade has taken some hits in recent years and it is quite rare to see a show today where nearly every dealer does well, but from all accounts, nearly everyone here had some sales and about 90 percent of the dealers did quite well. DiSaia said she works hard to keep the show focused on garden antiques and garden room furniture, rather than it becoming a general interest show, and that has certainly helped drive the show’s success. Focused events, whether they are devoted to garden antiques, stoneware or ephemera, seem to be defying the antiques slump and are encouraging to dealers.
Among the dealers reporting strong showings was New England Garden Ornaments, Sudbury, Mass. “We had a wonderful show. Many of our large and unusual pieces sold — especially the very rustic pieces. One of my favorite pieces was an antique stone table with beautiful carved capitals for supports. It sold within ten minutes of the preview opening!” said dealer Gray Baldwin. The table had ornate Corinthian capitals that came out of a chapel in Batley, England, built in the 1870s and demolished in 1987. Two antique farm watering troughs and a very old wellhead also sold during preview. “Rustic and naturalistic seemed to be the favorite this year,” Baldwin noted.
Also going home with a much lighter load at pack-out was Balsamo, New York City. “The show was very good for us. The preview party is most important to us as we do most of our total business during the party,” said dealer Steve Abeles. He was fortunately able to acquire three sets of staddle stones dating from the Eighteenth Century to bring to the fair and sold two sets of four stones and one set of six, all within the first half-hour of the show. “Matching sets are extremely rare and hard to find and I think our clients know that and that’s why they jumped to make a purchase so quickly,” Abeles said, who also wrote up a 9-foot-diameter fountain surround with a large urn and matching plinth that was shown in the center of the surround, as well as a curved stone garden bench with lion detail legs.
Other sales were reported by Blithewold Home, Mount Kisco, N.Y., which noted owls were a hit in its booth, with the quick sales of three cast stone owl garden figures in varying styles; a Robert Kulicke still life oil painting from 1962 and a ceramic Chinese roof tile in the unusual configuration of a koi that sold from the shared booth of Garvey Rita Art & Antiques in West Hartford, Conn., and The Cooley Gallery, Old Lyme, Conn., and at Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge, Maryknoll, N.Y., who was making his show debut here, a dessert service featuring geraniums was a good sale.
The show will return here next April. For more information, www.disaiamanagement.com or 860-908-0076.
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