By Laura Beach
NEW YORK CITY — “We were thrilled, frankly. Attendance was up a little more than nine percent over last year,” said Liz Lees, half of the California-based husband-and-wife team Casey-Lees that manages, with Sha-Dor of Maryland, the New York Ceramics Fair.
The jewel box of a show opened at its boutique setting, the National Academy of Design, on Wednesday, January 15, continuing through Sunday, January 19. One of the first customers through the door was Stiles Colwill, a Baltimore dealer and decorator who had staked out a place near the entrance to the second floor, where English pottery specialists Malcolm Magruder, Bill Kurau and Robert Hunter were set up.
Now in its fourth year, the New York Ceramics Fair enjoys an avid following among specialty collectors, plus considerable attention from generalists in town for New York’s other major January shows.
“The people who come through on opening night are serious ceramics and museum people,” explained Lees. “We get more casual shoppers on the weekend. On Saturday and Sunday it was jamming.”
Part of the appeal of the New York Ceramic Fair is its three-pronged emphasis on English pottery, Chinese porcelain and contemporary studio ceramics. From a commercial view, English pottery seems to sell the best, in part because top English dealers bring rarities seldom seen here.
“Four years ago, at the first New York Ceramics Fair, we set a show record later surpassed at Olympia. This weekend we broke that record,” said Jonathan Horne, a London dealer known for English delft, Staffordshire and early pottery.
Staffordshire sales were particularly robust. A playful melange of animals, including desirable jungle creatures and literary figures animated John Howard’s booth. Merchandise ranged from a collection of Scottish carpet balls, circa 1855, $2,250 for the set, to Jumbo, a Staffordshire elephant, $5,000, of about 1880.
“It was far and away the most successful fair I’ve ever taken part in,” said Howard, a Woodstock, UK, dealer who sold one of his most important rdf_Descriptions, a pair of lions and lambs by Shelton, circa 1835.
Another London dealer, Garry Atkins, parted with a huge Toft-type slipware charger of about 1675. The piece was similar to one in the loan exhibition, “Tea Pots, Tygs, and Toasts: Ceramics From The Historic Deerfield Collection.”
Lindsay Grigsby, an Eighteenth Century English pottery specialist from Chadds Ford, Penn., accented his wall with black basalt. A portrait medallion of Viscount Adam Duncan, circa 1798, was $2,100 (it was one of a quartet of portrait medallions); a large plaque depicting the “Marriage Feast of Perseus and Andromeda,” about $9,200; and an unglazed black stoneware press-molded bust of a woman dated to 1775-80.
A cream-colored earthenware punchbowl with trailing vine decoration around its exterior, circa 1760 and priced $23,000, was a highlight at Maria and Peter Warren Antiques, Wilton, Conn., the vessel resembles one in the collection of Winterthur Museum.
Known for her extensive collections of decorated English ironstone, much of it in the Imari palette, Warwickshire dealer Janice Paull decorated the walls of her stand with brightly patterned cream pitchers, jugs and mugs, priced from $135 up. After parting with a major collection on opening night, Paull sold ten pairs of vases and Mason’s potpourri before the show closed on Sunday.
Majolica dealer Charles Washburne of Chappaqua, N.Y., had on the market for the first time a 26-inch-tall Minton classical table centerpiece decorated with cherubs. The colorful sculpture dated to circa 1865 and was priced at $27,875.
Jill Fenichell, a New York dealer in antique porcelain, built her display around the theme of home and its familiar comforts, and its inverse, the exotic. Outstanding rdf_Descriptions included a fantastical Egyptian Revival vase by Schiller & Sons of Bohemia, circa 1870; a Belleek porcelain Japanesque vase, $3,100; and six Wedgwood plates decorated in the Aesthetic style around 1880.
Solomon Suchard Antiques of Shaker Heights, Ohio, the show’s only expert in antique French faience, offered a Porquier Beau planter of circa 1870, $6,500, and a large, ornamental platter from the De La Hubaudiere Faiencerie, $15,000.
Glass dealer Mark West of London described customer interest as “very high.” A highlight of his stand was two pairs of English mirrored glass sconces dating to about 1870 and a pair of Bohemian blue and white vases cut in flower pattern, circa 1880.
Traditional Chinese ceramics were well represented by the Vallin Galleries of Wilton, where dealer Peter Rosenberg offered an early Tang dynasty prancing horse, circa 618-906 AD and 12 inches tall, for $15,000.
Cohen & Cohen of London arrayed four Chinese export punch bowls, priced from $16,000 for one in the famille rose palette to $40,000 for another, circa 1750, decorated with a view of “The Triumph of Bacchus.” Another highlight was a pair of large pistol-handled Chinese urns and covers, $72,000, with sepia landscape panels on an iron red ground. The ground was added around 1800, after the vessels were imported into Holland.
“It was a fine fair for the current economy,” said Eva Cohen, whose sales included Qianlong period porcelain priced in the low six figures.
“I’ve sold a great deal of famille verte,” said London dealer Monique Mardellis, whose transactions included her catalog piece, a rare biscuit laughing boy, Kanxi, dating 1660-1720.
Some monumental examples of Chinese porcelain turned up at Imperial Art. The New York dealers featured a large pair of iron red and gilt covered jars from the first quarter of the Eighteenth Century and a glazed figure of a seated louhan. The Ming piece dated to about 1577.
“Our sales were considerably better than we had expected given business in the past few months,” said John Suval, a dealer in Chinese and English ceramics. One of his best pieces was a paneled punch bowl with a valanced rim and 15-inch diameter, dating to circa 1730. “It’s one of the best pieces of famille rose I’ve ever owned,” said the Fredericksburg, Va., dealer.
Paul Vandekar, a New York dealer in Chinese export porcelain and English pottery and porcelain, sold two garden seats, a number of English pottery animals, and two major pieces from a collection of ceramic cups, ink wells and bud vases in the form of tulips.
Santos, London purveyors of top quality Chinese export, unveiled two large leaf dishes and a handsome charger, all in the blue and white palette.
New to the show, Antoine Lebel of Paris featured an armorial charger decorated with the arms of Peter Godfrey, a supercargo at Canton in 1728.
An exquisitely decorated Japanese cloisonné enameled vase by Ando Jubei, combining wireless and silver-wire decoration and dating to about 1915, was $38,000 at Orientations Gallery of New York City.
American fare was choice, if not ample. New York City dealers Gary and Diana Stradling featured some interesting Southern pottery, including a miniature face jug made by a slave potter before the Civil War. Measuring 43/4 inches tall, the ash-glazed vessel was in marked in the five figures.
Robert Hunter is a specialist in English pottery and porcelain, American stoneware, and Continental ceramics who is also a professional archaeologist and, for the past several years, the editor of Ceramic in America, published by the Chipstone Foundation. Hunt-er’s varied offerings included two Niagara Falls pitchers made by the US Pottery Company; German stoneware; work by Peter Voulkos, the late master of the contemporary studio ceramics movement; and a creamware jug illustrated with a portrait of Alexandre Petion, Haiti’s first president, $6,500.
William and Teresa Kurau, well-known dealers in historical Staffordshire from Lampeter, Penn., offered a nine-inch tall jug decorated in grisaille with “The True Blooded Yankee” on one side and “Arms of the United States” on the other. “It’s always a pleasure to do a show that attracts so many knowledgeable collectors and so much good material,” said Bill Kurau.
“For this show, we try to bring things that have direct ties to historical ceramics,” explained Leslie Ferrin, director of the Ferrin Gallery, which represents 50 contemporary ceramists. A highlight was a large wood-fired stoneware vase with fluted rim, $2,800, by Mark Hewitt. The English born artist, whose father and grandfather were directors of Spode, uses the ancient technique of imbedding glass in the surface of the vessel before firing to create a subtly varied glaze.
One of the show’s most popular exhibitors is Michelle Erickson, a studio potter from Virginia whose original designs are inspired by antique forms, decorations and glaze and clay recipes. New to her stand this year were several sculptures created for “Blue + White = Radical,” an exhibition last year at the Garth Clark Gallery in New York. Two of the works were tributes to New York and the tragic events of September 11. Erickson’s sales included a teapot, purchased by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass.
Contemporary Asian ceramics were on view at James Singer of San Francisco. Sueharu Fukami’s pale blue porcelain “Bou II,” $16,500, resembled a languid tsunami.
Known for early English pottery, Virginia dealer Malcolm Magruder has also made a splash with contemporary stoneware rocking horses by Louise King.
Four days of lectures sponsored by the Chipstone Foundation made this year’s New York Ceramics Fair one of the best places to be during Americana Week in Manhattan. Both management and exhibitors are looking forward to returning next year.