Published: November 9, 2010
When the Belgian tastemaker Axel Vervoordt says that successful design is less about stuff than the space between it, you know times are changing. A master of the mix who has long played off the contrast between ancient and contemporary, East and West, Vervoordt is in a particularly Zen mood these days, having just finished his new book Wabi Inspirations , which applies the Japanese theory involving simplicity, humble materials and time-worn objects to Western interiors.
Now in its 22nd year, the International Fine Art & Antique Dealers Show, which returned to the Seventh Regiment Armory between October 21 and 28, gave much evidence that it, like Vervoordt, is addressing changing tastes and habits while upholding its mandate: to offer the best of the best across a broad spectrum of mostly traditional collecting categories at a time when the nation’s center of gravity seems to have shifted from antiques shows to Apple showrooms.
All agree that shows in general need updating if they want to attract younger audiences. Thus it was encouraging to see fashion designer Marc Jacobs, wearing a red kilt and tailored jacket, and interior designer Peter Marino, in a head-to-toe Harley-Davidson get-up, exchanging greetings at Galerie Lefebvre, the chic Paris purveyors of Twentieth Century decorative arts. Like the fair itself, their attire was historical pastiche, but theatrically tweaked for the way we live now.
Over all, organizers Anna and Brian Haughton have been particularly adroit at tapping into the prevailing zeitgeist. Introduced in 1989, the original International Fine Art & Antique Dealers Show was a product of the opulent Eighties. In response to the current global economy, the London-based promoters have streamlined their operations, combining exhibitors from several now-defunct specialty shows to create two first-class, intercontinental events, one in New York in October and the other in London in June.
“We’ve made the look of this show much lighter and brighter,” said ceramics specialist Brian Haughton, who displayed the very finest early European and English porcelain and pottery gallery-style, on pedestals in an all-white stand. London dealer Frank Partridge, scion of the famous old firm, also showed traditional English furniture, portraiture, lighting devices and timepieces in a white booth devoid of historical reference. It was all about color at Tai Gallery Textile Arts of Santa Fe, N.M., which chose walls of bright turquoise, and at Mallett, Inc, of New York City, which went for warm melon.
Changes to the International Show went way beyond the cosmetic, of course. Trends, some contradictory, some overlapping, follow below.
Contemporary : Relaxing the dateline right up to the present has allowed the International Show to evolve and kept it fresh. The maritime art and antiques specialists Hyland Granby broke with convention to display a contemporary painting by Tim Thompson depicting the yacht America winning the first America’s Cup race. The painting has special meaning for the Cape Cod dealers Allan Granby and Janice Hyland, whose next book is on art and artifacts of the famous race. Several other exhibitors sought striking juxtapositions between old and new. One of the most compelling was at Tambaran Gallery of New York City, where an angular Nineteenth Century Maori carved figure corresponded with a jagged Abstract Expressionist painting by Hans Hofmann.
Craft : Studio craft, with its organic shapes and tactile surfaces, appeals to younger collectors the way American folk art did to their parents. Hostler Burrows of New York City conveyed the earthy sensibility with Twentieth Century Scandinavian design. New exhibitor Koichi Hara of Japonesque in San Francisco got it right with exquisitely understated contemporary relief carvings by Iwashita Hiromachi. Perhaps these visual palette cleansers offer a sense of atonement for the excesses of the past two decades.
China : If you follow the auction world even a little, you know that prices for Chinese art are skyrocketing. Michael Goedhuis, an antiquarian who was one of the first dealers to move into contemporary Chinese art, recently attended Fine Art Asia in Hong Kong. “Every dealer in Chinese art and antiques sold out. In 40 years in the trade, I have never seen anything like it,” said the London dealer. The China Syndrome is inescapable, even at the International Show.
Pattern : Think Owen Jones and the Grammar of Ornament . Abstract pattern, sinuous and hypnotic, is back. Ariadne Galleries, the New York City specialists in ancient art, did it best, offering ancient carvings in stone and wood. A prime specimen was a late Fifth to early Sixth Century Byzantine roundel from Asia Minor or Syria. Pattern also took the form of calligraphy, bold at Michael Goedhuis and Japonesque, refined at Dr Jorn Gunther Rare Books, a Swiss dealer with illuminated manuscripts.
Classicism : Classicism, from antiquity through the Twentieth Century, is an enduring theme. It turned up in many guises, from allegorical portraiture and history painting at Agnew’s and Jack Kilgore & Co., to Art Deco beauties at garden statuary specialist Jeffrey Beal Henkel of New Jersey.
Excellence : Excellence never goes out of style. There was plenty of it at the International Show, which boasted museum-quality pieces in every specialty. Some favorites included an ultrarare mixed-metal Japanesque card table of 1871 by Gorham at Lillian Nassau LLC, a pair of circa 1820 Thomas Fletcher of Philadelphia silver sauce boats at S.J. Shrubsole Corp, and an intact book of Chinese watercolors of the Haizhuang Buddhist temple complex in Canton, dated 1796, at Donald J. Heald Rare Books.
Modern Luxe : This is big-city-style Twentieth Century design, perfect for apartment life in the world’s most cosmopolitan cities. We think specifically of Maison Gerard, Ltd, Galerie Lefebvre, H.M. Luther and Bernd Goeckler. Their many sales confirmed their current stylishness.
Galerie Lefebvre parted with a pair of Francois-Xavier Lalanne oiseaux de marbre armchairs of 1974 for $380,000. The chairs are similar to ones owned by the late Yves Saint Laurent. The gallery also wrote up Jean Dupas’s room-size study for “Chariot of Thetis,” a 1935 wall mural commissioned for the SS Normandie , 1935. It was priced $1 million.
Bernd Goeckler sold four circa 1936 French Moderne bridge chairs and a 1940 games table by Andre Sornay to designer Peter Marino for a client. Marino also acquired a Meissen elephant from the Royal Court Pastry Stores, Dresden, modeled by Kaendler and Reinecke, circa 1740-45.
Maison Gerard, Ltd, placed a black lacquered wood cabinet on gilt-metal stand by Ramsay of France, circa 1940, $68,000; a pair of French lacquered cabinets by Maison Jansen, circa 1950, $120,000 for the pair; and a pair of three-armed Murano Venetian glass candelabra.
A group of Paris Metro medallions by Hector Guimard designed for the entrances to the Paris Metro system, circa 1900, were snatched up at Lillian Nassau.
Paintings sales included Nathaniel Sichel’s portrait of “Judith” at Old Masters specialist Jack Kilgore & Co., Inc; “Kanyo” (Xianyang),” an oil on canvas of 1980 by Kazuo Shiraga, at Axel Vervoordt; and a pair of Eighteenth Century Japanese screens at Erik Thomsen.
Furniture sales included a George II mahogany tripod table, a pair of George III mahogany stools and a George I gilt gesso lantern at Ronald Phillips. Mallett wrote up a pair of Coalbrookdale steel consoles and a pair of Louis Philippe gilt rope stools, along with fireplace tools and bronze leopard heads by Hamish Mackie.
Raffety & Walwyn sold a late Seventeenth Century red lacquer striking bracket clock by Simon de Charmes, London, circa 1695, and a Queen Anne period burr walnut long case clock by Daniel Delandar, London, circa 1715.
Contemporary Japanese basket specialist Tai Gallery parted with 20 examples priced from $1,500 to $50,000, including baskets by Kajiwara Koho, Torii Ippo and Fujinuma Noboru.
Benefiting the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the preview party on October 21 drew around 1,000 patrons. Jacobs and Marino, earlier noted, were joined by fashionistas Calvin Klein, Tory Burch, Adrienne Vittadini, Bunny Williams, John Roselli, Nancy Corzine and Betty Sherrill. The preview raised more than $660,000 to benefit the society’s initiatives.
The Haughtons have scheduled Art Antiques London, incorporating the International Ceramics Fair and Seminar, for June 9‱5, at the Albert Memorial West Lawn.
For information, 011-44-20-7389-6555 or www.haughton.com .
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