Bunny Williams, one of America’s foremost interior design tastemakers, was prowling the aisles of the Park Avenue Armory with the wide grin of a kid in a candy store. “Just look at those chairs,” she exclaimed, pointing to a pair of 1940s French Moderne gold upholstered armchairs. On display at Bernd Goeckler Antiques, the chairs made their point with giltwood front legs carved in the shape of a screw. “Where else could you find something like those than at a show like this?”
Williams was enthusing about Brian and Anna Haughton’s celebrated International Art + Design Fair at the opening night gala preview, October 2, a benefit for the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design and Culture. And the object of her enthusiasm, the New York City-based dealer Goeckler, was just one of 40 or so exhibitors assembled by the London show organizers into a dazzling global village of high-end art, antiques, jewelry, pottery and furnishings.
The show had a six-day run at the armory, concluding on October 8. Outside there may have been global financial volatility, but inside the armory’s venerable walls there was solid commerce, according to the show organizers, who estimated attendance at about 12,000, with high interest. The result was an event in which most exhibitors expressed a pleasant surprise by the amount of business that transpired.
Beautiful silver, especially items by Georg Jensen, is always a key ingredient of the Modernist conversation, and it was well represented by dealers such as Drucker Antiques, the Silver Fund from London and Alastair Crawford of New York City.
Mount Kisco, N.Y.-based Drucker Antiques showcased a wonderful sterling silver champagne cooler made in the Georg Jenson Copenhagen workshops circa 1919. In addition to its stunning good looks, it had an important provenance, having been a wedding present that Frederick Lunning gave to his daughter in 1945. Lunning, founder of Georg Jensen USA, was responsible for forging the American market for the silversmith.
New to the show, Bill and Janet Drucker, who sold more than 40 pieces during its run, said they were very pleased with the show. “It was well attended, and the people who came were interested in the objects on display,” said Bill Drucker. “The wide appeal of the show brought Americans and European clients. We sold a beautiful early Georg Jensen necklace, a Georg Jensen Art Deco coffee and tea service, circa 1933, and a vintage Cartier gold and enamel flower brooch with rubies and a diamond in the original Cartier box.”
“It was a remarkable show and the clients were so knowledgeable,” added Janet Drucker. “People came into the fair knowing what they were looking for. We brought investment-grade and museum-quality pieces, all unusual and rare. We met several new clients who appreciated the diversity and beauty of the pieces on offer.”
Another first-time exhibitor was Dai Ichi Arts, Ltd. The New York City-based gallery specializing in Japanese and Chinese ceramics brought works of art that had both a tactile and thought-provoking quality. A fast-food purveyor’s golden arches were decorated with a blue dragon in the clouds in Li Lihong’s (b 1974) “McDonald’s †Soaring to the Sky,” 2007, a porcelain sculpture measuring 4¼ by 17¾ by 4¾ inches. A porcelain fabric “Prosperity V” by Caroline Yi Cheng (b 1963) comprised hundreds of tiny butterflies, each one different and collectively forming a dress, or “fu,” a sacred symbol conferring a blessing, according to gallery owner Beatrice Lei Chang. “I think the quality of the show was much better, a good blend of art and design and well priced,” said Chang. “In these troubled financial times, people are finding that their ‘paper’ can buy value.”
It was also a show debut for Love Wood Gallery from Antwerp, Belgium. Exhibition director Charles King was very excited to be displaying the work of Irish artist h.ollary.b. “Imagine,” 2005, a wall mounted work consisting of 12 plates, each measuring 36 by 36 inches and comprising acrylic on opened American white oak, had been most recently exhibited at the Give Peace a Chance Collection tribute to John Lennon in Belgium in 2006. King said the artist drew her inspiration for the evocative piece commemorating the 25th anniversary of Lennon’s death from viewing the moon as it rose in the night sky in Antwerp.
Another newcomer to the fair, Lost City Arts of New York City sold works by Italian-born artist and Modern furniture designer Hans Bertoia, as well as furniture and paintings, according to show management. On view was Bertoia’s “Bush,” 1960s, a copper sculpture measuring 13 by 12 by 9 inches. It rested atop a George Nakashima walnut free-edge games table from the 1970s. Jim Elkind, the firm’s director, said he “sold to people who understand connoisseurship” and was impressed by the highly sophisticated audience that visited the fair.
Pulsating with crimson energy, an oil on linen work by Ricardo Mazal titled “Rojo Malaqita,” 2006, was among the paintings and sculptures shown by Sundaram Tagore Gallery of New York City. Another striking piece in the gallery’s booth was “Day Falls/Night Falls VII,” 2007, a work featuring fluorescent pigment on rice paper mounted on board by Hiroshi Senju.
In R 20th Century’s booth, cloud shelves by Wendell Castle seemingly floated above curvaceous examples of wooden furniture by young Brazilian designer Julia Krantz. Krantz, like Castle, uses a stack laminated process to craft voluptuous forms, including a chair with a Modernist stance and a table that featured a carved “bowl” insert fraught with the artist’s mother’s childhood memories. Evan Snyderman, principal at R 20th Century, said that Krantz’s mother, living in Germany after World War II, experienced the war’s utter destruction. Having no plates or dishes to eat from, her father carved a bowl shape into the family’s dinner table. The depression fitted into the tabletop was an homage to this memory.
Martin du Louvre, Paris, paid tribute to different kind of sensibility with a Meccano robot, circa 1954, made of enameled steel and signed on the breastplate. The 37-inch-high toy was a display model that was never commercialized, according to the firm’s John-Paul Bogart, and came from the daughter of the former director of the Meccano French division in the mid-1950s.
While the show’s floor plan favored wide aisles and gallerylike exhibition spaces, there were a few antiques shoplike booths that were chock full of collectors’ treasures. Such was the case with Jack and Edo Ophir, who specialize in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century objets d’art. The Englewood, N.J., dealers have been serving collectors, designers and dealers for more than 35 years. Tiffany Studios lamps are a key collecting category for Ophir, and in the booth was a rare Cherry Blossom example, circa 1900, standing 25 inches high with its patinated tree trunk base.
A rare 12-light Tiffany Lily lamp, circa 1900, a French Art Nouveau étagère of various exotic woods and marquetry by Emile Galle, circa 1900, and a French hanging étagère by Eugene Gaillard, circa 1901, featuring carved wood and marquetry decoration, were additional highlights in the booth. Following the show’s close, Jack Ophir said the gallery’s most notable sales were a Tiffany Studios cameo carved vase at $58,000 and a French Art Nouveau dining room suite, circa 1900 by Diot.
French Art Deco dealer Maison Gerard of New York City commanded two booths at the fair. One showcased the firm’s signature collection of fine furniture pieces by the likes of Paule Leleu, such as a lacquered three-door cabinet resting on gilt bronze legs and incised with abstract motifs. In a separate booth, the firm was debuting contemporary glass pieces by Venice-based artist Maria Grazia Rosin, selling several pieces between $6,000 and $12,000, according to show management. Displayed in Maison Gerard’s booth were several of Rosin’s marine-themed vases and vessels, including an exuberant chandelier that the artist designed especially for the show, inspired by the shapes of giant octopi and squid.
Portland, Maine, gallerist Tom Veilleux came with American Twentieth Century art, highlighted by a William Zorach (American, 1887‱966) bronze, “Diva,” 1942, 35½-inches. Only three bronzes were ultimately cast, according to Veilleux, and one other is at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Among paintings, Veilleux showed Marsden Hartley’s (American, 1877‱943) “Intellectual Niece,” 1939‴0, an oil on academy board measuring 22½ by 12½ inches.
A playful juxtaposition greeted visitors to Wexler Gallery, Philadelphia, as principal Lewis Wexler had placed a Dale Chihuly (American, b 1941) glass sculpture beneath Damien Hirst’s (English, b 1965) “For the Love of God, The Diamond Skull,” 2007, a silkscreen print on paper with glazes and diamond dust. “I intentionally wanted to show the two masters of self-promotion side-by-side,” said Wexler.
That was for fun, but the gallery was also presenting work by innovative furniture artist Matthias Pliessnig (American, b 1978), who combines boat building techniques with furniture building techniques †steam bending strips of oak into sinuous forms †and was present at the show’s gala preview opening. His “Providence,” 2008, a stunning bench-form sculpture from an edition of five, filled one corner of the booth space, stretching 132 inches in length. It sold at the preview for $28,000. The gallery, a new exhibitor, also sold a pair of Wendell Castle doors, 1976, for $120,000 on the first day of the show.
Vintage jewelry dealers were busy. Exhibitor Camilla Dietz Bergeron, New York City, sold 31 pieces between $3,000 and $41,000 during the run of the fair, according to show management, with 15 pieces selling on opening night alone. Gus Davis, co-owner of the firm, pointed out a highlight in the form of a necklace designed by Aldo Cipullo for Cartier, 1972, in 18K gold with turquoise and diamonds. He commented that the firm “did as well, if not better than last year, with lots of interest in signed pieces by Bulgari and in watches †many more than usual.” The gallery sold some Bulgari pieces on the opening night and a rock crystal and diamond bracelet by David Webb.
At Curiosités, which specializes in one-of-a-kind French Art Deco and retro signed pieces, Elinore Gorenstein was actually wearing one of the New York City firm’s highlights, an 11.01-carat pear-shaped diamond, priced at $220,000. An additional treasure on view was an unusual Art Deco diamond-mabe pearl watch pendant by Mellario, Paris, circa 1920s.
Upcoming Haughton New York fairs include the International Asian Art Fair in March and the International Fine Art Fair in May, both at the Park Avenue Armory. For information, +44 20 7389 6555 or www.haughton.com .