Published: April 30, 2019
Review and Photos by W.A. Demers
BRONX, N.Y. – Winter-weary denizens in the tri-state area threw off the gray, sodden remnants of that tenacious season when the New York Botanical Garden Antiques and Art Fair blossomed with a gala preview party, augmented by a collectors’ plant sale, on April 11. The event continued through April 14 inside a 10,000-square-foot tent at the New York Botanical Garden. On opening night and throughout the weekend, the space was the scene of landscaping inspiration and commerce, with dealers offering everything from classic furniture and garden antiques – some with a modern twist – to fine art, sculpture and decorative accessories. A central hub of the show was an arbor created by Manscapers NY, an exterior design and landscaping firm located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, accented by a large, elegant metalwork settee, fashioned by upstate New York metal artist David DeSantis.
Attendance at the fair, Thursday to Sunday, totaled 5,564 visitors, including the preview party, according to the garden’s director of public relations Nicholas Leshi. “Overall, more than 23,000 people visited the New York Botanical Garden during the Garden Furniture & Antiques Fair,” he said.
It’s a boutique show. Manager Karen DiSaia counted 21 dealers that she had assembled, including many of the regular exhibitors and a few new faces.
Sold stickers blossomed throughout the evening on opening night, including on several large pieces, such as a cast stone table with three half circle benches, a large urn and armillary at Reading, Penn., dealers Schorr & Dobinsky; a pair of Canova-style cast stone lions, early Twentieth Century, and a bronze fountain with Pan figures at The Village Braider, Plymouth, Mass. Another early sale was a cast iron urn with elephant head handles that was not only rare but “very, very rare,” according to the information tag placed on it by the Period To Mod guys, also known as Tim Brennan and Dave Mouilleseaux, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. The urn could have been English or French and it was from the Raj period, circa 1870-90.
In addition to the large metal urn, Period to Mod displayed a set of cast iron tower clock numerals, probably English, circa 1880, a hand-carved wood lion rampant bas relief, circa 1930, and a monumental hand-carved bull mastiff carved from a single log, circa 1950 – the last two items proving that not everything garden-related has to be of metal or stone.
Garden antiques specialist Barbara Israel, Katonah, N.Y., said she was impressed with how the center of the show had been reworked with input from Carrie Barrett, new director at the Botanical Garden. “The U-shaped bar right in the center became a beehive of activity [on opening night],” she said, which “had great energy.” She added, “I had a really good show, three times better than last year. The fact that the porters pick up the sold pieces and deliver them ASAP has long been one of the delights of the show. Buy it Thursday night, get it Friday morning! Other than with Amazon, when does that happen?”
Highlights in Israel’s booth included a rustic-style settee made of natural bittersweet vines; a low, wide round composition stone planter by Willy Guhl for the Swiss firm Eternit, circa 1970; and a rare zinc figure of “Diana de Gabii,” American or German, circa 1880. The latter piece was one of many replicas derived from the original that was excavated by Gavin Hamilton in 1792 at the Borghese estate in Gabii, Italy.
Israel pointed out another change in this year’s show – with an accompanying tent providing local vendors offering ethnic food, healthy juices, wonderful baked goods and unforgettable caramels. “Each day different vendors came and went,” said Israel, “one with Eco hats and local pottery, Greek food, New York state single malt whiskey and a honey liqueur that had me stashing little bottles to take home.”
For Rayon Roskar, a dealer originally from Switzerland who was doing this show for the second year, it was an opportunity to showcase his examples of Swiss design, including a monumental limestone “hand,” which seemingly was about to grasp the contents of a stone planter filled with foxtail fern and three types of mosses. Created in 1995 by Swiss sculptor Thomas Blumer (b 1964), the monumental limestone “hand” in the booth of Roskar, Brooklyn, N.Y., can be repositioned in a myriad of ways.
“We love the Botanical Garden show,” Roskar said. “Our second year here was not as financially profitable as the first but that has nothing to do with the show. Sometimes the timing is off. This is a phenomenon we have learned to live with as a microbusiness and for antiques dealers in particular. We will definitely do the show again when granted a spot at the venue next year. Positive opening night sales are crucial to a show’s success.”
Roskar said his booth overflowed with smartly dressed ladies and celebrities – “a very exciting evening of food, cocktails and talk. I even met Sigourney Weaver, one of my all-time favorite ladies. And always a pleasure chatting with Kevin Sharkey and Martha Stewart.”
It had only been a week since Kingston, N.Y., dealers Judith and James Milne had packed up from a successful show at Lyndhurst Mansion. Here, a delightful pair of cast iron mermaids from a Connecticut estate were seen lounging seductively in their booth, along with more traditional figurative critters like cast stone frogs, turtles, lions, dogs, rabbits and the like. There were plenty of cast stone planters and vases, including a pair that were filled with Nineteenth Century tin flowers in old paint and patina. An unusual lawn game of skittles featured six jolly penguins with numbers painted on their chests.
Similarly, More & More Antiques, New York City, had a quick turnaround from the previous weekend’s show at Lyndhurst, filling its space with monumental pieces like a cast stone fountain and surround that took up a great deal of the booth’s real estate, a recumbent white marble abstract sculpture, a carved Italian marble bird bath, circa 1890, and a pair of copper and carved wood pedestals. A provider of American and European antiques to New York City and the surrounding suburbs, the firm is a great source for interior designers and homeowners looking for antiques, with an inventory that ranges from chandeliers to Old World Christmas decorations.
New faces at this year’s show included a trio from the United Kingdom. Jeremy Stopford and Max Kuipers were representing David Harber Ltd, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom, best known for his outdoor sculptures that grace public and private spaces around the world. Inspired by the interaction of light and reflection, Harber uses materials such as brass, copper, bronze, stainless steel and stone to create pieces that invite the viewer to question what they see and to usher them into another dimension. On view front and center in the booth was “Torus,” a 6-foot-by-6-inch-diameter metal sculpture using brilliant mirror-polished stainless steel, convex curves and knife-edge seams and combining them with a central portal hole to contrast and connect with its environment. The firm also makes scaled-down versions of the original, which can be mounted on a surface or a wall. “We enjoyed exhibiting at the show primarily as a marketing exercise and the Thursday evening provided that,” said Stopford, after the show.
Sharing space with Stopford and Kuipers was Elizabeth Goodrich, whose business, Italian Terrace, is a supplier of terracotta pots that can be found among English stately homes, New York city roof terraces, Parisienne courtyards, Spanish villas, glasshouses in Sweden and poolside verandas in Los Angeles.
Garden show veteran Jeffrey Henkel returned this year, lining his booth walls with what at first glance resembled a satellite testing chamber but in reality was a collection of vintage balloon making molds from an Indian factory that closed about 30 years ago. The Pennington, N.J., dealer turned them into unique industrial salvage wall art, with the wooded lollipop-style molds attached to a wood base with original paint remnants. In making balloons, the molds were dipped into the liquid rubber or latex, then pulled out and the coating cured in an oven so that the rubber sets could then be peeled from the form. Today – and especially grouped the way Henkel had them displayed, the molds create a dÃ©cor that is both industrial and primitive.
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