Published: November 16, 2004
The International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show turned 16 at the Seventh Regiment Armory this October 21-28. Updated over the years through the infusion of more Twentieth Century decorative arts, it remains a crossroads between innovation and tradition, articulating the latest collecting and design trends while maintaining its unrelenting emphasis on connoisseurship.
The show’s eclecticism is a direct reflection of organizers Anna and Brian Haughton’s broad enthusiasms for the art of every epoch and ethos. Standing in front of Maison Gerard’s rigorously edited stand – a luxurious, cream-colored Art Deco dressing room fitted with a Ruhlmann vanity, stool and daybed – Mrs Haughton expressed approval.
“Isn’t this chic? When Maison Gerard told me they were bringing only four things, I was a little worried,” confessed the organizer, who ultimately could not have been more pleased. “Brian and I have always believed that this show needs diversity.”
From ancient mosaics at Michael Ward and Company to 1940s French design at Vallois, the International Show crisscrossed collecting cultures. The range of prices was even greater. At Kenneth Rendell, $1,500 got you a musical quotation penned by Noel Coward. At Hirschl & Adler Galleries, another $4.2 million bought you John Singer Sargent’s sublimely elegant full-length portrait of the Countess of Clary Aldringen. Sargent painted the captivating countess with a cigarette in one hand; her disapproving husband ordered the artist to paint the cigarette out.
Always a laboratory for changing taste, the International Show this year registered the enthusiasm many younger collectors feel for Modern decor. Maroun Salloum of Paris featured European decorative arts made between 1895 to 1930 in a display contrasting a huge pair of Chinese lacquered cabinets with alpaca mounts, $450,000, and a pair of Josef Hoffman ebonized armchairs of 1910, $130,000.
Arlie Sulka and Eric Silver of Lillian Nassau, Ltd, demonstrated that their reputation for fine Tiffany design extends to other major Twentieth Century talents, as well. In addition to dazzling fragments of Tiffany murals, including one from the demolished Henry Havemeyer house on Fifth Avenue, they featured a Ruhlmann bibliotheque, $295,000, which the gallery’s late founder imported from France in the mid-1970s.
More Twentieth Century European design found its way to Brussels dealer Philippe Denys. There, pale, parchment-covered Italian furniture of the 1940s played against the dark tones of Danish stoneware by Thorsson.
John Alexander of Philadelphia has become America’s most visible spokesman for English Modern Movement furniture, from Reformed Gothic to Aesthetic and Arts and Crafts design.
Dealer John Levittes’ packed booth contained wonderful examples of each, at prices that remain attractive relative to work from many other periods. Highlights included a red and green painted Ambrose Heal high chest; a fancifully decorated court cupboard; and a massively architectural Reformed Gothic sideboard by Charles Bevan for Lamb of Manchester, circa 1865. The later, an architectural wonder in rich English brown oak, ebony and marble, sold at about $50,000. A chastely understated oak dresser-sideboard, $26,000, inspired by the Cotswold School, stood in contrast to the elaborated ornamented Bevan work.
Though American furniture was far from plentiful, it was in rich abundance at Hirschl & Adler Galleries, where 12 Philadelphia Classical chairs, $200,000, were paired with a gleaming mahogany Cumberland-action banquet table, $285,000, 1181/2 inches long.
Another New York dealer in American Classical furniture, Carswell Rush Berlin, displayed two important center tables against the backdrop of a full-length portrait. The visage belonged to Major General Sir Neil Campbell, as painted by Casimir Carbonnier (1787-1873), whose work is represented in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London. Of interest to Berlin, the Campbell portrait was reproduced in Nancy McClelland’s pioneering 1939 book, Duncan Phyfe and The English Regency. McClelland chose the picture because it depicts extravagantly gilded French furniture in the latest archaeological taste. Berlin believes that the furniture may still be in a museum somewhere in Elba.
Increasingly, exhibitors are regarding major antiques shows as ways of renting not only space, but time. Some dealers are creating mini-exhibitions, up for less than a week, that are as detailed and thoughtfully planned as long-term gallery installations, down to the erudite catalogs published to go with them.
Wearing a blue blazer emblazoned with his New York Yacht Club insignia, Hyannis Port, Mass., dealer Alan Granby displayed copies of his new book, A Yachtsman’s Eye: The Glen Foster Collection of Marine Painting. “Glen was one of the country’s great amateur yachtsmen and a preeminent collector of maritime art,” said Granby, who has documented the collection in his new volume. A trio of paintings by Thomas Whitcombe (English, 1763-1824) from the Foster collection, sold by Phillips and Bonhams several years ago, depicted the battle between the American Privateer Comet and the British vessel Hibernia.
Brian Haughton’s meticulously produced 2004 catalog, Splendour in the Grass: Birds, Beasts and Flowers in European Ceramics, elaborated on treasures in the London dealer’s stand. The catalog’s cover piece was a Chelsea porcelain dish of circa 1758, exquisitely painted with a rustic vignette by Jefferyes Hammett.
English furniture dealers Diana and Mark Jacoby of Philip Colleck, Ltd, saved a wonderful pair of George II side chairs for the show. Combining walnut and mahogany, the transitional seats, $68,000, came, most recently, out of a house in Cambridge, Mass. The Jacobys displayed the chairs with an ingenious Georgian mahogany octagonal rent table.
Always full of surprises, the International Show included Old Master pictures, sometimes in places where you did not expect to find them. Ursus Books of New York, for instance, had Holbeins. There, a first-edition volume of Imitations of Original Drawings, published in London for John Chamberlaine and including Holbein portraits of Henry VIII’s courtiers, was $38,500.
Another extraordinary work on paper was Jill Newhouse’s precociously avant-garde Brittany seascape by Vuillard, a distemper drawing, $650,000, of 1909.
Some exhibitors comfortingly feature reliably the same work from year to year. Longtime exhibitor Alistair Sampson is always at the ready with polished English oak and English needlework of the best quality. Drop-dead embroidery this year included an early Eighteenth Century pictorial needlework depicting a couple taking tea in a pavilion, $95,000. Research reveals the couple to be Reverend Jacob Chilton and his wife Rebecca of Suffolk. Another Sampson treasure was a Charles II mirror, $245,000, a masterpiece of carved lime wood in the style of Grinling Gibbons.
The International Show’s opening night preview party – chaired by Jamee Gregory, Leslie Jones and Lavinia Snyder – on October 21 drew 1,000 visitors and raised $1 million for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Patrons through the course of the week included Calvin Klein, Joan Rivers, Michael Bloomberg, Steve Martin and Stephanie Powers.
Sales included “Diana Victorious,” a terra-cotta sculpture on a gray porphyry base acquired by the Norton Museum of Fine Art from David and Constance Yates. Fine arts sales included Agnews’ “Miss Drury Lowe,” an winsome oil on canvas portrait of 1770 by George Romney; a Thomas Gainsborough drawing; and a William Turner watercolor.
The Jamestown Museum in Virginia purchased a Seventeenth Century English jug from the Surrey-Hampshire border-area from London dealer Jonathan Horne. Fragments of such pottery have been found at English Colonial settlements.
Furniture sales included, at Patrick Perrin, a pair of Regence gilt mirrors, a console, a boulle clock, commode, two small tables and a pair of sconces. Cheneviere sold a set of 12 Belgian dining chairs, circa 1800; a circa 1780 Florentine table in the Etruscan taste and a Russian mahogany mirror of circa 1825. The Chinese Porcelain Company sold a pair of Louis XVI bergeres and a satinwood commode by Roger Vandercruse, known as Lacroix (Maitre 1755).
Arms and armor dealer Peter Finer parted with a suit of North German field armor made for the court of Julius Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, circa 1652-63; a Bohemian Pavise shield of circa 1485; and a gold and enamel sword made by Ray & Montague of London for a six-figure sum.
Dealers in Twentieth Century design reported brisk sales. Vallois parted with lamps by Eckardt Muthesius, architect of the 1930 Palace of the Maharajas in Indore, plus furniture by Jean Michel Frank, Diego Giacometti and Alberto Giacometti. Maroum Salloum sold two wooden stands by the Englishman Herbert Ward. Philippe Denys sold his 1940 parchment-covered coiffeuse, plus a chandelier by Seguso, a wingback chair by Fritz Henningsen and a desk by G. Ulrich.
There were good reports from two new exhibitors. Raffety and Walwyn, clock dealers from London, sold five Eighteenth Century marquetry tall case timepieces. A mahogany serpentine bureau-bookcase of circa 1770 and a pair of early Nineteenth Century carved giltwood wall lights left Ronald Phillip’s stand.
After a brief respite, Haughton International Fairs returns to the Seventh Regiment Armory with the International Asian Art Fair, April 1-6, and the International Fine Art Fair, May 13-18.
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