Published: March 20, 2007
It was back to the futuristic at the 69th Street Armory on March 2, 3 and 4 as Stella Show Mgmt Co. presented its innovative event, The Modern Show. On this weekend the building that served as the site of mythic Armory Show in February and March of 1913 became home to 85 dealers showcasing furniture, paintings, sculptures and decorative works exuding the sleek sensibilities of Twentieth Century Modern design.
“There were fabulous pieces on view,” exclaimed Joan Tramontano of Stella Show Mgmt Co. “We’re always thrilled with the way it looks.”
Indeed, for an admission price roughly equivalent to the combined cover price for a couple Twentieth Century design magazines at a newsstand, show patrons were able to stroll through aisle after aisle, see, touch and feel †and, hopefully, buy †everything from zebra-striped chairs from the 1950s to iconic forms exemplifying the best of Italian, Scandinavian and Industrial design, as well as an increasing amount of Modern artwork.
The three-day event saw a mix of new and familiar faces †both among the exhibitors and those shopping the show. Conducted a week later than in 2006, the show’s gate was slightly smaller this year, according to show management, and a few dealers commented that some familiar customer faces were not to be seen. Ideally, said Tramontano, “you want to see your base and you want to see new faces, too.”
Among the first-time dealers was Antiquities of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which recently expanded into the New York market to meet demand. “This was our first New York show, and because we were the ‘new kids on the block,’ we found it to be in our favor,” said Gail S. Weinbrum, director. “We were really excited when we received comments like, ‘It is so good to know you now have a New York showroom as well as Florida.'”
The firm’s show-stopper piece, a French Art Deco armoire, circa 1945, with macassar ebony exterior and sycamore interior, was sold on the first day. The armoire featured two sets of large doors, the inside left with two mirrored doors with interior shelves behind the mirrors and four drawers below. The inside right had interior shelves.
“We sold some of our pieces right off the floor and have several orders to fill back in Florida,” said Weinbrum, who noted that a lot of attention was also given to a Gio Ponti commissioned painted, parchment and rosewood cabinet, circa 1955, and a commode in glowing carved harewood and amboyna decorated by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings and executed in 1937 by Petersen Studios for the Casa Encantada. The doors of the commode were centered with elaborately designed brass hardware. “It’s great to be back in sunny Florida,” she said in the days following the show, “and we now have a lot of work cut out for us; lots of requests were made by New Yorkers.”
Along with new faces, there were some that had not been seen for awhile. Back at the show after a several-year hiatus was Fusco & Four, Boston. “It had been a long time since we had done a show in New York, so we had a great time at this event, reconnecting with old friends, colleagues and clients, and making new ones,” said the firm’s director Tony Fusco. “There seemed to be a regular flow of dealers and collectors coming from or going to the Works on Paper show, although we did not sense any overlap with the other show which was taking place that weekend †Art Expo at the Javits.”
Fusco reported notable success with two estates the firm represents. “We sold two paintings by Karl Hagedorn, both to new clients at the show, and have two others under consideration, and we sold several lithographs by New York/Rockport artist Vera Andrus. We also had a lot of interest in the bronze sculptures by Donald De Lue we were featuring in the booth, and we believe at least one of those will end up in the hands of a collector in Florida who we met at the show.”
Fusco did not specify which De Lue sculpture may be “on hold,” but the streamlined “Boreas,” god of the North wind, flying against the clouds, the plaster of which was lost for four decades and rediscovered in 1999, certainly could not be ignored in its anchoring position front and center at the booth. Number 1 of a planned edition of 12, the sculpture measured 27½ by 29½ inches.
Also new to this event was ceramics specialist Cannondale Antiques of Wilton, Conn., whose owners Thomas Libby and Susan O’Connor arranged a colorful display of Japanese Awaji pottery. “It was a great venue for us and for the Japanese Awaji pottery,” said Libby. “Most of the pots we brought were circa 1920″0 and were well received. Many people were curious about the Awaji and stopped to ask about it.”
The firm’s two best sales of the show happened opening day. “We sold a dramatic 36-inch bright turquoise dragon vase from Kyoto †a cousin to the Awaji †and sold six heavily glazed Awaji drip pots to a single collector,” said Libby. “The show was very well-attended by a posh and knowledgeable crowd. There were virtually no lulls in the traffic over the three days.”
Drucker Antiques of Mount Kisco, N.Y., was the go-to dealer for vintage Georg Jensen silver. “The show brought out collectors of modernism again,” said Janet Drucker. “There was a tremendous interest in Georg Jensen flatware and we were please at the response and business.” A 12-piece place setting in the Blossom pattern, circa 1919, all handmade and attractively gathered in a case that had been tailor-made for it, was getting a lot of interest. Sales included two sets of flatware, Caravel and Pyramid, as well as Jensen gold and estate pieces. Said Drucker, “This show since it started has always been beautiful, always high end. Everyone puts out a gorgeous selection.”
Known for their trademark industrial design look, Eleanor and David Billet of New York City offered an all-metal trolley with glass top that was all geared up for a second act as a coffee table. “Catch me if you can,” teased an Italian wood, metal and glass table that had been done for a European airport in the 1950s or 1960s, and French bistro tables with Bakelite tops and steel bases from the 1940s were garnering attention.
“The show turned out to be okay for us,” said David Billet. “Friday and Saturday seemed a little flat with not a lot of energy on the floor. Sunday was much better. The energy level was high, and the crowd seemed to be in a buying mood. We had our best sale on Sunday when we sold our table that was designed for an airport in Europe. Sunday’s customers seemed to us much more into modern design.”
“We bring objects and art that reflect the Mantiques Modern aesthetic to which loyal and new customers respond enthusiastically,” said Cory Margolis and Kenny Felberbaum of the New York City firm that is virtually a charter member of the show. That could be seen in the wide range of objects on view †from a fully articulated, anatomically perfect silvered bronze skeleton from the mid-Twentieth Century to a high-end Pace coffee table from the 1970s to the self-taught artwork of Robert Loughlin, a local New York City artist that Mantiques has been collecting for some time. “We did very well selling sculpture, artwork and smalls. No single item stands out. After-show inquiries on our furniture and smalls have been fruitful,” said the dealers.
The Modern Show increasingly is about more than furniture and related accessories. Each year the number of paintings, sculptures and works on paper seems to grow, and several fine art dealers were in attendance and very busy with customers.
Veteran show dealer Jeffrey Winter Fine Arts of West Hollywood, Calif., displayed a variety of artworks, including the entire atelier of French artist Claude Lacaze, who, according to dealer Martin Wolpert, studied and stayed in Bordeaux, honing his style, which was late Cubism, “very elegantly done.” Examples on the wall were “Passage avec Train,” oil on canvas, and a still life, both from the 1950s, among others.
Another art dealer, Peter Marciniak, director of Arslonga Gallery, Hillsborough, N.H., said he was having a good time at the show engaging with people. He said he likes to focus on listed American artists with good biographies who have made it in their lifetimes and are “ripe for resurrection.” Examples displayed included works by Theo Hios (1908‹8) with and oil on canvas titled “Garden” and circa 1930s works by Surrealist Thomas Eldred.
Giovannelli Fine Art from New York City was getting interest in a large 62-by-20-inch oil on canvas depicting the Bay of Naples, circa 1850, which, according to owner Carlo Giovannelli, was signed but indistinctly, along with a pair of Neapolitan School gouaches of Capri and Naples from the sea. Each was 23 by 39 inches and attributed to an artist named Mouton.
Acting as agent for Charley Harper, an artist who in the 1940s‵0s created numerous serigraphs and silkscreens of whimsical animals and garden scenes, Megan Sollo of Lambertville, N.J., was getting support from her father, John Sollo of Sollo/Rago Modern Auction. As exemplified by a print titled “The Last Aphid,” which at first glance presented a pattern of bright red lady bugs and on closer look revealed the bugs’ intended dinner in the center, there is more than meets the eye in a Harper serigraph.
Both fine arts and Modern furniture and decorative accessories were on view in the booth of Vol 1 of Warren, Conn. Co-owner Suzanne Cassano pointed out two mixed media collages done by British Pop Artist R.B. Kittaj (b 1932) in the 1970s †”The Red Dancer of Moscow” and “Addled Art,” which featured a caricature of David Hockney. An interesting “note” on Kittaj. He contributed to a promotional effort by 3M Corporation by making a charcoal and pastel Post-it note. The work sold at auction for $925, making it the most expensive Post-it note in history.
Stella Show Mgmt Co. will reprise the Modern Show October 12‱4. For information, 212-255-0020 or www.stellashows.com.
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