Published: December 19, 2006
The gusts of suddenly wintry wind chasing patrons into the festively lit, inviting shelter of the Civic Center came right on cue for the start of the Antiquarius preview party on December 1.
The Greenwich Historical Society’s principal fundraiser, Antiquarius has long been regarded as the true herald of the holiday season, leading a weeklong celebration of style and design that not only showcases antiques and fine art, but also presents a holiday house tour, design lectures and a gift boutique. This was the 49th year for the show, and changes were afoot.
For one, there was a new manager in the house — Keeling Wainwright Associates, led by Josh Wainwright and Sandy Keeling Wainwright, who produce other top-shelf shows such as the Ellis Antiques Show in Boston, the Philadelphia Antiques Show and the Charleston International Antiques Show.
There was a new mix of merchandise among the show’s 42 exhibitors, including couture, textiles and modern furniture and decorative pieces — some of them plucked from Keeling Wainwright’s dealer roster, such as Katy Kane, New Hope, Penn., with vintage and couture clothing; Calderwood Gallery, Philadelphia, with decorative arts from 1900–1950 and vintage photography; and Stella Rubin, a Darnestown, Md., dealer in antique quilts, decorative arts and design jewelry. Twenty of the show’s 42 exhibitors were either new to the show or returning after a long hiatus.
The show even had a new name — The Greenwich Show — giving it the geo-commercial heft of an event that might appeal as much to young, flush-with-cash hedge fund managers as to seasoned prowling collectors. “We want people to think of the show as a special gem in the heart of Connecticut,” said Josh Wainwright when contacted after the show. “It should be regionally important, as our dealer base could go anywhere in the country and measure up in terms of quality.”
So how did the show’s spruce-up fare? Selectively, it was very strong, with some of the more established dealers posting exceptional results. One dealer who wished to remain anonymous remarked, “The wealthy are spending on great stuff.”
Pared back from its traditional three-day format, the show opened with a gala black and white themed preview on Friday night that was attended by an enthusiastic swarm of Greenwich socialites, as well as the show’s honorary chair, fashion industry titan Tommy Hilfiger. None of the exhibitors complained of being hurt by having just the preview night and Saturday and Sunday to sell, but several remarked that while Saturday’s session was very well attended, Sunday seemed a bit “pokey.”
Celebrating their best show in Greenwich — and anywhere else, for that matter — were Spencer Gordon and Mark McHugh of Spencer Marks, the antique silver dealers from East Walpole, Mass. Their success was palpable even before the preview party opened on Friday night. They had advertised a rare Tiffany “Wild Rose Vase,” which had been created for and exhibited at the 1893 Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago, indicating that they would offer it — first come, first served — to the buyer who showed up at their booth at 6 pm. The sterling silver and enamel masterpiece designed by John T. Curran, priced at $79,000, was sold immediately.
“We had a very good show, selling objects from the early Eighteenth through mid Twentieth Centuries,” said Gordon. While [the Tiffany vase] was our most interesting sale, we sold other wonderful objects, including a pair of George II tea caddies, an Art Deco seven-piece tea and coffee service on tray, an important Gorham covered nut dish designed by Erik Magnussen and was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum’s 10th annual American Industrial Art Exhibition of 1926, wonderful Tiffany flatware and more. One interesting sale was to a California collector of Twentieth Century silver who started buying Eighteenth Century silver as well. We love great design from many periods and it’s nice when that catches on.”
Cooley Gallery of Old Lyme, Conn., had brought the fewest number of paintings ever to the show, presenting a spare but elegant booth that was highlighted by Connecticut landscapes. Two works by Wilson H. Irvine (1869–1936), “Road to the River” and “Glimpse of the Connecticut” were attracting attention to the artist’s Impressionist yet scientific approach to the study of light. “We had an especially good show this time around,” stated Jeff Cooley, the gallery’s owner. “Our most notable sale would have to be the [James Carroll] Beckwith of Evelyn Nesbit in a kimono with the wonderful trompe l’oeil painting by A. Mayer a close second. We sold a second fine Beckwith and the little Matilda Browne painting of pigs — which was a favorite.”
Westport, Conn., dealer George Subkoff was back for a second year with an attractive display that included an Irish Chippendale mahogany gallery top tripod tea table, circa 1760, on three shaped cabriole legs ending in ball and claw feet. “The Greenwich show went well for me,” said Subkoff. “I made several sales, all to new customers.” Sales included a large regency console, German marquetry chest and several small items. After the show, he sold a large terrestrial globe that he had displayed. “Obviously, I am quite pleased,” said Subkoff. “I have done other shows with the new managers and feel they are extremely competent and responsive to the dealers and the charity’s concerns, which make them a hit with both parties.”
Guarding the entrance to Cecelia B. Williams Antiques were a pair of rare and stately iron canines from the Nineteenth Century — an Italian whippet with original paint and glass eyes and a terrier, also with glass eyes, sitting on an iron base. “It’s a wonderful example,” exclaimed Williams of the whippet, so realistically rendered its ribs were showing. The New Market, Md., dealer said it had come out of a doctor’s estate in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Fruit-shaped tea caddies and other antique containers are always a strong suit at Sallea Antiques, New Canaan, Conn., and owner Sally Kaltman had plenty on display. A highlight in the booth was an English royal game compendium of wood and ivory, circa 1850, complete with game pieces and original playing cards. “December is my time to kill,” said Kaltman. “We personally had a successful show and sold a mixture of merchandise. Our sales doubled over last year.”
Nathan Liverant and Son Antiques was highlighting a pair of Nineteenth Century portraits with a Greenwich connection. The likenesses of Colonel Thomas A. Mead and Hannah Seaman Mead, a local couple from early Greenwich families, had been captured in oil by an unknown artist sometime between 1833 and 1835. “For the quality, it is unusual that they were unsigned,” stated Colchester, Conn., dealer Arthur Liverant. “They were obviously done by a skilled artist, possibly in New York City. We’d like to see them stay in Greenwich.”
The Civic Center’s Holley Room, an area to the right of the main Bush Room, presented a strong gantlet of exhibitor booths, including Greg Nanamura, Running Battle Antiques of Newagen, Maine, Scornavacco Antiques, Earl D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge and Artemis Gallery, North Salem, N.Y.
Helen and Hamilton Meserve of Running Battle Antiques enjoyed a good response both at the preview party and on the weekend. “There were a number of sales, even at the preview, which is unusual for a charity event, which is primarily a social gathering,” said Helen Meserve. “Saturday, the show was crowded all day, and we had both old and new customers in our booth. We sold a 1690 English oak low dresser, a 1750 walnut veneer petit slant front desk, two Eighteenth Century oak corner cupboards, a Seventeenth Century oak coffer, an early Eighteenth Century library table and a large clipper ship painting on Sunday.” The latter item sold to a prior customer from Nova Scotia who saw a photo in an Internet advertisement for the Greenwich show and had his wife drive over from Long Island to buy it.
Among dealers experiencing their best show ever were Joel Fletcher and John Copenhaver, the Alexandria, Va., fine art dealers. They had brought a fresh acquisition — more than a dozen illustrations by French artist Paul Renouard (1845–1924) and works by Zoum Walter (1902–1974), a Belgian who took French citizenship when she married a Frenchman in 1928 and moved to Paris. Her work was greatly influenced by the Bloomsbury painters, according to Fletcher. The dealers sold two of Walter’s works at the show, along with two paintings by Morisset, one by Robert Andre, several Renouard drawings, a Moses Soyer drawing, an Alix Aymé drawing, a painting by Mussa, a painting by Fontainas and several other pieces.
“We greatly enjoyed working with Josh and Sandy, the new management team, and think they have put the show back on the right track,” said Fletcher. “We have done the Charleston International Show with them for three years and already knew from observing them there what superb, thoughtful, energetic show managers they are. The new energy of the show was palpable and a very positive development. As it has been for us for almost the last 20 years, it was a great way to end a year.”
Pulling together a compelling lineup of merchandise at the last minute is always a challenge, but Joan Bogart of Rockville Centre, N.Y., did just that when health issues forced one of the dealers to cancel out of the show. Her first exposure to the Greenwich market was full of memories as she renewed her friendship with Josh Wainwright. “The Wainwright management mixed well established dealers with dealers new to the show to give it a fresh and bright look. The show had the widest range of material I have ever seen at a small antiques show — there was merchandise for all tastes.”
Bogart said she sold mainly to an established Madison Avenue dealer and good clients, but was also able to connect with several customers who did not know about her new gallery 45 minutes from Greenwich.” I am optimistic that the landscape architects and designers I met there will be visiting me. I am already sending photos to some of them,” said Bogart.
Always ready to share a good show anecdote when she has one, Bogart served up this: “At the preview party, a well-known Manhattan designer was enamored with one of my pug dogs. She entered my booth during the party carrying her stylish high heels. The booth was so busy then that she seemed to disappear into the crowd. Late Saturday afternoon, she returned in more sensible shoes, telling me that she had not been able to sleep all night because she had left the dog sitting on my couch and she really wanted him. She told her adoring husband, ‘This will be a Christmas surprise. Just wrap it for me.'”
As for what kind of surprises patrons can look forward to when the Greenwich Show celebrates its 50th year in 2007, said Wainwright, “There will be some modifications made to the roster where it’s appropriate.” For information, 203-869-6899 or 301-263-9314.
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