Review and Photos by W. A. Demers
OLD GREENWICH, CONN. – The Latin word “antiquarius,” pertaining to antiquity – and all those who love antiques – was surely appropriated many years ago by the organizers at the Greenwich Historical Society as they attempted to come up with a collective yet festive term to encapsulate the myriad of events that usher in the holiday season here. Indeed, the calendar of events burgeons with boutiques, house tours, luncheons and lectures, all designed to celebrate the holidays in high style.
And for as many years as the society has undertaken this holiday tradition, the antiques show has been its official kickoff and main fundraiser, with a glittering opening night gala hosting hundreds of festively attired guests streaming into the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center to preview the merchandise of approximately 40 top dealers, followed by a weekend of shopping the show. “I thought the show was beautiful,” said the society’s executive director and chief executive officer Debra L. Mecky, reflecting on this year’s event. “I especially enjoyed visiting the dealers who designed their booths to provide a vignette that you could imagine in your own home.”
Mecky reported that nearly 200 people attended the opening night party on November 30. The evening’s backdrop, decorated by honorary design chairs David Monn and Alex Papachristidis, momentarily and magically transformed the beige box that is the civic center into an extravagant winter wonderland. Monn is internationally known for orchestrating noteworthy parties, from White House state dinners to the Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Papachristidis, a member of the Architectural Digest Top 100, is one of today’s foremost tastemakers, recognized for his eclectic and sophisticated flair.
From there, with the holiday tradition proving strong at the opening, traffic through the displays over the following two days was quiet, described by most dealers and show promoter Frank Gaglio as light. The show was open to the public from 10 am to 6 pm on December 1 and 11 am to 5 pm on December 2. “The show looked great,” said Gaglio afterward, adding that some dealers made some sales, with the gate definitely down on Sunday.
“I thought there was good energy at the preview party, but sadly, that enthusiasm did not carry over into the gate on Saturday and Sunday,” said Ann Wilbanks of Find Weatherly. “It was a good looking show – everyone’s booths looked beautiful.” Among the finds at the booth of the Westport, Conn., dealer who specializes in marine and folk art as well as Eighteenth-Nineteenth Century American furniture was a Nineteenth Century English ship chandler’s figure in the form of a ship’s captain holding a quadrant and a pair of shadowbox pictures of a tugboat and steam-sail vessel against painted backgrounds, both from the Nineteenth Century. Just for fun, Wilbanks had a Nineteenth Century hot peanut street vendor’s stand in brass and copper from Boston with terrific original trade signs inside and out, copper steam whistle and kerosene heater. And on a more scholarly note, there were three ship’s carpenter’s chests in original blue paint once owned by Edward Trowbridge, Thomaston, Maine, with his name and the year 1884 inscribed on the smaller trunk.
Jewelry is a holiday shopping staple, and the show presented no fewer than three such dealers, one of which, DK Farnum, was stationed at the front of the main room. Its owner, Dana Kraus, observed that “in spite of uncertain times both politically and in the retail universe, we had a good show. We’ve been doing this show for so many years now and have built a nice franchise with friends and customers in Greenwich.” Among notable pieces on offer were some 20-carat diamond and platinum Suzanne Belperron earrings from the 1940s, which Kraus said are under consideration from a client who was at the show. “We sold some pieces by Nicholas Varney, who is a vibrant young designer with very distinctive style. And we sold a variety of necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets. Overall, a successful and pretty show” – and she added that she was selling lots the week after the show as well.
Despite show attendance being off, Modern design specialist Glen Leroux managed to sell several pieces of jewelry as well, including a lapis turquoise necklace and a Deco diamond pearl necklace.
In the fine art category, the Cooley Gallery, Old Lyme, Conn., had at least two of the seasons covered – with a snowy Wilson Irvine (1869-1936) oil on canvas, 24 by 27 inches, titled “Fresh Tracks,” and an autumn river landscape by Lawrence Mazzanovich (1871-1959), oil on panel, 24 by 32 inches. “It becomes a bit of a refrain… good looking show that just doesn’t attract the kind of numbers it would seem it should,” observed dealer Jeff Cooley afterwards. “The gala was splendid, but I am not sure the numbers were there this year as they have been. I did get the sense there was some business being done but it was, typically now, spotty. We sold three small things, two to new clients, and had some good conversations. I am impressed with how many dealers like myself are essentially inviting their whole mailing list to come to the show and provide tickets in the mail or at the door for them.”
Bruce Emond of Village Braider Antiques, Plymouth, Mass., reliably brings great objects to the shows he participates in, and this time was no exception, with a vintage child’s bicycle from the 1930s, the Speed-O-Byke, all original and made in Chicago by a specialties manufacturing company, acting as the “Rosebud” of the pedaling set of a certain generation. Whereas today’s bikes are sleek and minimal, this was beefy and industrial, and one can only imagine judging by the sprocket sizes that the kid who owned this had some mighty tough pedaling to do. Although he did not sell the bike at the show, Emond said he sold a Chinese altar table, a cast stone Dalmation and a zinc garden figure, among other items, and “had a good show.”
Decorative arts were ample, perhaps best presented by Leatherwood Antiques, Sandwich, Mass. In addition to a wonderful small Nineteenth Century apothecary chest in old red and yellow paint by Mitchell and Rammelsberg, Cincinnati, Ohio, dealers Mo Wajselfish and Johnny Young had a three-color tramp art frame with later mirror insert, and atop the apothecary was a finely carved Swiss walnut spread-wing eagle landing on a rocky base, circa 1870. During the show, Wajselfish and Young were the recipients of interior designer awards given by design chairs Monn and Papachristidis – one for an American midcentury tree-form table lamp that had a flower molded on top and clear and frosted bands. The other was a charming miniature fantasy chair with carved dragonfly and armrest-shaped hands from the early 1900s.
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