Published: December 23, 2016
Review and Photos by W.A. Demers
GREENWICH, CONN. — On the evening of December 2, nearly 200 guests stepped through the doors of the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center to preview the Greenwich Winter Antiques Show in support of the Greenwich Historical Society and to kick off a weeklong series of events under the Antiquarius umbrella. The entrance to the center was decorated in high style for the holidays with a festive red canopy, hinting that the usual plain vanilla box that formerly housed the Electrolux Corporation had been cheerfully wrapped and filled with exquisite treasures.
The signature red belongs to Alessandra Branca, a native of Rome, Italy, who, as the show’s honorary design chairman, was the creative force behind the Tyrolean-inspired atmospherics this year that drew much praise from everyone in attendance. For her, red is “a color that brings joy and in good measure… There is an exuberance about red that makes me and many others happy,” she said.
The event’s roster of dealers like red, too, preferably in the form of sold stickers they get to affix to the merchandise that they bring to this show in hopes that it will find a new home in this tony and affluent enclave. Presented by the Greenwich Historical Society and Barn Star Productions, the much-anticipated, traditional holiday showcase has been a staple event for more than 50 years.
At the preview, supporters were treated to a sumptuous cocktail reception, live music and personalized tours of the show that featured an array of antiques, jewelry and fine art by more than 40 dealers — all set against a charming “Tyrolean Holiday” backdrop created by Branca.
Antiquarius is the historical society’s premiere annual fundraiser, with a dazzling program lineup that this year included the antiques show preview party, a lecture and book signing by Branca, the annual Holiday Boutique and the Holiday House tour, featuring an intimate look at six spectacular Greenwich residences. Proceeds benefit the society’s many education and preservation programs.
The Greenwich Winter Antiques Show was back to its two-day run this year, December 3–4, with its gala preview conducted on the Friday evening before. It is part of the society’s Antiquarius roster of events that support special exhibitions, preservation initiatives and education programs focused on the Greenwich community and the Bush-Holley Historic Site. The ancillary house tours, luncheons, lectures, boutiques and other events extended the festivities to December 7, but, for collectors, the centerpiece remains the antiques show, which is ably managed by Barn Star’s team led by Frank Gaglio, Lynn Webb and Ryan Pickering.
Several of the dealers, while praising the committee’s successful efforts in filling the center on opening night and the promoter’s earnest attempt to advertise the show, nevertheless had one additional holiday wish — that the momentum achieved on Friday night carried through the weekend with purchases by members and friends of the society.
Not that there weren’t some notable sales. It was Bruce Emond’s first outing at the Greenwich show, and the Plymouth, Mass., dealer who does business as Village Braider noted that while results may have been spotty among Gaglio’s cadre of exhibitors, “there was real business being done by a handful of people.” Case in point — the massive Nineteenth Century handcarved horse found in the Long Island residence of a Hungarian diplomat, which Emond was offering among his usual quirky trove of Americana, folk art and industrial decor. The horse was receiving most of the buzz at the show, and “the interesting thing,” he said, “it did sell to a local Greenwich resident.”
He said that a couple had checked it out at preview and had returned to the show the next day to purchase a rug from Emond’s dealer neighbor, Shaia Oriental Rugs, and then circled back to purchase the steed. It was his best but not only sale, as he also wrote up a console, three paintings, rugs and two separate pairs of chairs.
Another majestic carving could be seen in the booth of Sandwich, Mass., dealer Leatherwood Antiques. It was a magnificent stag or fallow deer carved by a Swiss craftsman from honey-colored walnut. The late Nineteenth Century carving measured a hefty 40 by 18 by 9 inches and was just one of many interesting items on offer by Mo Wajselfish and Johnny Young. Wajselfish also pointed to a great pair of cast iron theater performance time indicators — one to show the start time and one to mark the performance’s end. They were English and from around the early 1900s. There was an elaborate carved and gesso-gilded double tazza in Venetian shell form — so-called “grotto decor” — as well as an American folk art Chinese-inspired table/stand from the early 1900s, an unusual rack with the top galley adorned and decorated with carvings, including hooks carved as duck heads and from England, circa 1900s, a stylish painted wooden pull toy horse ridden by an equally fashionable pig.
“We had a good show and a lot of interest,” said the Wajselfish, “so I think it will get even better. It was good to see a few customers I have not seen in years.”
A Japanese teak wood elephant, probably Meiji period, graced a mantel at antique hearth specialist J. Gallagher, North Norwich, N.Y., drawing interest into the booth that was bristling with a selection of antique fireplace equipment and accessories as well as Nineteenth Century American furniture.
Gifts that glitter were in no short supply. Estate jewelry specialist Dana Kraus of DK Farnum commanded prime real estate at the entrance in the main hall. Here she offered a Marguerite Stix shell and cabochon minaudière handbag, a Cartier “Sputnik” earrings and pin set made to celebrate the launch of the first US Space Shuttle and a Schlumberger lighter in the form of a fish, among other items. The latter was signed and could stand on its tail and become a chic table accessory and conversation piece as well as a pendant. It featured 18K gold with ruby and emerald eyes.
The Lakeville, Conn., dealer, however, may have herself been wearing the crème de la gems — a pair of Art Deco earrings, 1935, by the house of Rene Boivin, founded in 1890 by the expert goldsmith and engraver. The stunning Juliette Moutard design for la Maison Boivin in the 1930s is as fresh today as it as it was then — the “real deal,” according to Kraus. “We doubled the size of our booth and we were front and center this year,” she said. “We also had some real standouts, most of which sold. It was the best show we have had yet in Greenwich and we are still selling. A steady flow all weekend of loyal and discerning clients — all good. Bravo to Frank!”
Georgian and Victorian jewelry combined with Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century English ceramics in The Spare Room, a wonderful collection displayed by Baltimore dealers Jackie Smelkinson and Marcia Moylan. The pair trace their participation back to this show’s early days under the management of the storied Russell Carrell. In addition to jewelry and ceramics, they also carry whimsical figural collectibles and had one of the best in show in the form of a fox carved from fruitwood and serving as a tobacco (snuff) box. The circa 1880 piece in their collection was made in England. Said Jackie after the show, “Marcia and I are happy to report that all went well. We were most pleased by the gate, the quality of the attendees and our sales. Jewelry and collectibles were the big hit!”
Folk art specialist Marion Harris of New York City was showing the work of the artists known as the Connor Brothers in her booth. Satirizing pop culture from Shakespeare to modern romantic novels and under the pseudonym of twins Brendan and Franklyn Connor, the artists developed an invented biography of having been brought up in a controversial Californian cult in the 1980s isolated from the world, and then, after escaping as teenagers trying to make a normal life for themselves.
Their fictitious background informs their work, which found acclaim in 2013 and resulted in sold-out shows in Australia and California, as well as placement in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection. Harris sold out the entire selection of the Connor Brothers works at preview to an important collector, she said, as well as several pieces of Nineteenth Century Scottish agate jewelry, a French paste ring, circa 1840, an unusual pair of Russian rock crystal cuff links dated 1910 and other small decorative items. “It was a very nice-looking show, although fewer booths than last year, it didn’t seem to matter overall. A very nice mix of dealers. Saturday and Sunday attendance was less than preview, but the right people seemed to be there,” said Harris.
Some show newcomers did well. For Avery & Dash Collections, in particular, a rebranding of the former Harbor View Antiques Center of Stamford, Conn., it was a chance to generate excellent local exposure. “We were able to highlight our products to key customers and engage with members of the interior design community who are especially connected to the objects we offer,” said the firm’s president Nick Savard. “We were delighted by the response to our midcentury offerings. The Arne Jacobson Egg chair was a hit. That and other pieces in our midcentury collection sold. We also received many inquiries regarding what else we had on our floor at our Stamford location. And when the doors opened on Monday and Tuesday, we had customers visit who had learned about us at the show.”
“Overall, the show was a success,” said Gaglio. “The preview had an increase in attendance, new dealers were well received and, although attendance was moderate over the weekend, the attendees were the right ones. Art and jewelry, as always, were big sellers and some furniture sold as well.”
The promoter added that he and his staff are already working on next year’s show with a possible date change to move it back to its mid-December time frame. For information, www.barnstar.com or 845-876-0616.
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