Review and Photos by W.A. Demers
OLD GREENWICH, CONN. — The sleek gray DeLorean greeting opening night preview party patrons at the entrance to the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center on December 3 hinted that maybe this was not your grandfather’s antiques show. Inside, however, there were the staple roster of dealers and quality merchandise that have made this show, presented by the Greenwich Historical Society and Barn Star Productions, a much-anticipated, traditional holiday showcase for nearly 55 years.
The Greenwich Winter Antiques Show ran for three days this year — December 4–6, instead of the usual two. It is part of the society’s Antiquarius roster of events designed to raise funds supporting special exhibitions, preservation initiatives and education programs focused on the Greenwich community and the society’s Bush-Holley Historic Site. There were house tours, luncheons, lectures, boutiques and other high-style events that extended the festivities from December 3 to 9, but the centerpiece has always been the antiques show.
So, briefly back to the DeLorean, aka the “time machine” featured in Back to the Future, the 1980s sci-fi classic starring Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox. The iconic car appropriated a patch of grass outside the civic center. Appropriating the stage in the main hall under the direction of preview party design chair Samantha Knapp of Tiger Lily, a local interior design studio, and accompanied by pop-rock mashups served up by a DJ, a theatrical presentation of the film flickered as a backdrop to 42 exhibitors offering a broad range of antiques, fine art and jewelry. Knapp, 35, told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that the retro-though-not-stodgy opening night theme was chosen as a way to reach out to her generation with the message of supporting charities and “paying it forward.” “I believe in this town,” she said, “and I believe in supporting its charities.”
Another way Barn Star and the society attempted to market the event in an outside-the-box way was with an innovative series of ads that highlighted not only the “merch,” but also the expertise of the antiques dealers who bring it. In a full-page four-color ad designed by Norwich, Conn.-based Miranda Creative, for example, Paul Vandekar and Deirdre Healy of Earle Vandekar of Knightsbridge, Maryknoll, N.Y., pose with a Swedish urn and cover from 1948 by Oskar Dahl (1902–1966) with a New York cityscape design circling it. The subtext is “Antiques you desire. Advice you admire,” and the intent is to show that antiques — apart from their historical context — lend drama and brightness to one’s home, and a trusted dealer becomes a knowledgeable resource for them.
Similar ads featured Old Lyme, Conn., gallerist Jeff Cooley and mother and daughter brass and copper specialists Eve and Susan Stone, Woodbridge, Conn. Said Paul Vandekar, following the show, “The ads were good stuff. They certainly did not take away from anything and I’d love to see more.” They did not make a big difference, however, he believed, in sales results, although, “We had a very good show, with a combination of new and old clients this year and sold Chinese Export, woolies and English pottery, particularly creamware,” he said.
Vintage poster dealers Nancy and Morris Steinbock were busy flipping stock for show patrons on preview night. Among the highlights shown by the Chestnut Hill, Mass., specialists was a rare 1927 example signed “Robt E. Lee,” which, according to Morris, was the first poster advertising the Air Express Service by the American Railway Express. It depicted a single-wing airplane in flight against a rich blue sky. Another rarity was a 1902 poster for Sunset Magazine, which even back then was extolling the virtues of life in California and Western America.
A tartan-decorated tea caddy drew interest in the booth of J. Gallagher, North Norwich, N.Y. The British caddy, circa 1840, exhibited the colors of the Stewart clan and featured compartments for both tea and bowl and rested on ball feet. From the same period was a signed American four-string banjo, and since the firm is known for its hearth-related antiques, it would be remiss not to mention a wonderful pair of New York City ball-top andirons with spur and ball feet, circa 1800.
The newest item shown by Eve Stone Antiques, Woodbridge, N.Y., was a striking Art Nouveau log carrier, circa 1890, with a central gilded lion medallion. Probably English, according to Susan Stone, its Art Nouveau styling stemmed from its intricate linear design and beautifully rendered rays from the sun in the corners. A set of graduated English Nineteenth Century flagons, circa 1850 — an original set of six, Stone pointed out, not assembled — was displayed along with a pair of brass pulpit sticks, which the dealer said was great for decorating for the holidays. “The show financially was better than last year, but the gate was off,” said Susan after the show. “We saw a lot of our customers and they came and bought. As well, we made a great new copper collector. The advertising was fresh and exciting. All in all, it’s the best show of its sort in the tri-state area.”
Childhood literary nostalgia was evoked in a grouping of 12 original art illustrations for an edition of Black Beauty by A.C. Rao, 1980. These were among the sales by Phyllis Carlson and Tin Stevenson of Manchester Center, Vt. There was much original art to be found in their booth, including a set of six illustrations for Busy Town by Bill Dugan, 1969; a set of 16 watercolors, circa 1960, that could be described as Modernist figural pieces and were found in Gloucester, Mass.; and six American watercolors, two of which were signed J.J. Wilson after G. Caitlin of Native American subjects, such as a sweat lodge ritual and corn dance.
Gifts that glitter were in no short supply. Greenwich institution Betteridge Jewelers had prime real estate at the entrance in the main hall, and DK Farnum Estate Jewelry, Lawrence Jeffrey Estate Jewelers and other offered bling that was both timely and eternal. At DK Farnum, owner Dana Kraus showcased impressive pieces like a Hammerle pair of sapphire earrings with black diamonds surrounding the stones, some Angela Cummings pieces, such as a seafoam pattern 18K gold bracelet, earrings of mother of pearl inlaid into yellow gold, and for the gents a Patek Philippe white gold officer’s Ref 5054g wristwatch, circa 2000, with presentation box. The Cummings bracelet was among Kraus’s sales over the run of the show to a “loyal following” of Greenwich clients. “If you have nice things, people will buy,” she said. “Also, Frank does a great job in promoting the show.”
Just for fun, Westport, Conn., antiques dealer George Subkoff stationed a fishnet-stockinged leg lamp ala The Christmas Story to entice showgoers into the booth, which, booth-magnet aside, was more traditionally stocked with items like a Regency center table, a Regency mahogany duet music stand, circa 1810, a French wallpaper panel of an English horse race at Epsom Downs, mounted on Masonite, 48 by 56 inches, an early Nineteenth Century Chinese huanghuali horseshoe-form traveling chair and a gilded bronze key cabinet in the manner of Edward Caldwell, circa 1910.
Usually found set up on the stage in the main hall, Glen Leroux, also from Westport, was not lamenting the fact that his stand was now in the annex area to the right of the center’s entrance due to the evening’s entertainment. Leroux deals in Midcentury Modern and Twentieth Century decorative arts and has been at it since 1983. He was the featured dealer spotlighted in the show catalog where in an interview he professed his love for all things Hollywood, whose glamour he said is “the epitome of chic.” To back that up, among the great items in his booth was a Milton Greene photograph of Marilyn Monroe. “Through some determination and good luck I managed to do fairly well, selling some diamond jewelry, an Art Deco diamond bracelet, a Van Cleef and Arpels pendant, Chanel pocketbook and a pair of red cinnabar elephants,” he said.
Folk art specialist Marion Harris of New York City was showing the work of Alan Macdonald, who was born in 1962 in Malawi, Central Africa, and now lives and works in Scotland, as well as an interesting piece by Stephanie Wilde, known for her “Golden Bees” series of work created in response to the disappearance of the Western honeybee. On view was Wilde’s “Mother of Thousands,” an oil and gold leaf on board. Harris reported that she thought the quality and interest level of the buyers was high. “Sunday was a strong day for many of us. I sold two interesting antique canes — one carved with a whistling bird on the top and one with a seated monkey — to different first-time clients.” Harris also sold Scottish jewelry and collector’s items, including an unusual set of turn-of-the-century artist pigments. It was bought by an Australian visitor to be a Christmas present for her sister who is an artist working here.
Some show newcomers did well, according to Barn Star’s president Frank Gaglio, citing sales by silver dealer Vincent Callahan, folk art dealers Mo Wajselfish and Johnny Young of Leatherwood Antiques, David Smernoff of From Here to Antiquity and Richard Davis Asian Art. “Jewelry, art and folk art did well. Furniture remains a soft category,” said Gaglio, adding, “The show looked sharp, clean and attractive over other shows we’ve done in the past. The dealers really put in an extra effort this year.”
For additional information, www.barnstar.com or 914-474-8552.