Published: December 7, 2010
Modernism+Art20 made its sophomore appearance as a combined fair November 12‱5 at the Park Avenue Armory, opening Thursday, November 11, with a dazzling preview to benefit the Brooklyn Museum and Planned Parenthood.
Forced by the state of the economic clime to combine the two fairs last year, show manager Sanford Smith said he cannot take credit for necessity, but he will take credit for expediency.
Begun in 1986 with just under 100 dealers at the armory, Modernism: A Century of Style & Design celebrated its 25th anniversary this year with a trimmed roster of just under 50 “quality” dealers, representing both Modernism and Art20 fairs, the latter of which was celebrating its ninth year.
“Sales were mixed, but enough dealers sold so it was a good show,” Smith said, noting that the gate was about what it was last year. “If there is any critique, it was that people were interested, but it took them a while to open their checkbooks.”
The Modernism fair was a trendsetter from the get-go and was the first show in the world to display late Nineteenth Century⁔wentieth Century items, and for many years it was the only show of its kind until it became well copied over the years, Smith noted.
“The first show had 90 exhibitors and nobody knew what we were talking about [with Modernism]. In the early years it was a lot of kitsch †Japanese robots and plastic radios,” Smith said. “It got better over the years; now it’s become much more of a high-end show.”
Indeed it has. While the Modernism show has seen its glory days when money flowed freely and the line at the gate wended around the venue and down the street, as well as lean times, much like the present, the show has always evolved and gotten stronger over the years as it stayed true to its core focus.
Even the 9/11 attacks could not stop this show. “The fact that we celebrated our 16th birthday in 2001 … two months after 9/11, was a miracle!” said Smith. “It was the only fair in New York in the fall of 2001 and it brought people together in an extraordinary way.”
Smith’s business acumen and vibrant personality elicit fierce loyalty among dealers (good sales here also being a factor) and this anniversary edition found several of the founding dealers again on hand.
David Findlay Jr Fine Art, New York City, is not only an inaugural dealer at Modernism, but also a longtime veteran of this show and several of Sanford Smith’s fairs.
“Sandy is a true professional and he has developed a good following for his venues †among collectors as well as dealers. That said, Modernism/Art20 is one fair that I and my gallery directors, Louis Newman and Lee Findlay, look forward to in particular,” Findlay said.
“The show provides a mix of interesting offerings and attracts a sophisticated clientele. In spite of the economic downturn, or actually because of it, we were surprised and pleased with how well we did this year. Most everything on display in our booth received respectful interest,” he said.
Findlay’s sales included Modernist works by such artists as Byron Browne, Robert Wolff and Leonard Edmondson, as well as Abstract Expressionist paintings by Charles Cajori and Kyle Morris. New to the booth this year was sculpture, and the gallery included works by renowned artists David Aronson and Richard Hunt.
“In spite of the fact that our family gallery has been in continuous operation for over 140 years, we were pleased to meet collectors who were new to us. We sold more this year than last. To put it simply, our participation was most rewarding,” Findlay said.
Another inaugural exhibitor was Katy Kane, New York City, who is well known for sublime examples of vintage clothing and accessories in fine condition. She has shown across the country, selling upscale pieces mainly to collectors and museums, but the Modernism show is now the only show she does.
Showing consistently at the show the last ten years, after taking a few years off, Kane said this year’s edition was another strong showing for her, noting her items are always well received by customers. She had another good show this time out, and already told show management that she would be back next year.
Among the sales she wrote up were a Balenciaga haute couture evening dress and coat, a Chanel haute couture evening gown and a Castillo jacket from the mid-1940s, as well as a beaded Halston jacket, an Alfred Bosand mirror-covered dress and shawl, many pieces from Yves Saint Laurent, a rare unworn Norman Norell from his last collection and a Geoffrey Beene velvet and maribou feather evening dress. Among accessories, hats and bags were nearly flying out Kane’s booth.
Over the years, her focus here has changed as the definition of vintage has become less stringent. She used to primarily sell items from the 1920s‴0s, and while she still stocks those hard-to-find items, she is selling fashions into the 1980s now and a new trend she is showing is fashions by Japanese designers.
Founding dealer Mark McDonald, Hudson, N.Y., began showing at Modernism as 50/50 and this year, his eponymous-titled gallery featured unique Twentieth Century decorative arts and American Modernist jewelry.
While Alastair Crawford, Fairfield, Conn., is known for Georg Jensen silver, the dealer reported having a good show with much interest paid to his contemporary jewelry, striking designs in gold and silver. Attendance was strong, and while Crawford observed that buyers were still cautious about big-ticket items, the price point for low three figures saw active buying.
Moderne Gallery, Philadelphia, had several sales from its Art Deco inventory, including a Ruba Rombic fishbowl, and scored a major sale with a Nakashima coffee table. Attendance was off a bit, but the visitors coming through expressed serious interest, noted gallery director Bob Aibel, who was busy immediately after the show ended, sending out photographs and follow-up details to possible buyers who were at the show.
Island Weiss Gallery, New York City, made its show with one sale that happened during Thursday’s gala. “I think the show was very exciting,” said dealer Island Weiss. “We had a major collector come through [during preview] and purchase a sculpture for his sculpture garden.” The large fabricated stainless steel work titled “Great Wall” was one of four installation pieces on view in the booth by Strong-Cuevas. The 1999 piece measured 77 by 60 by 35 inches and sold in the six figures.
Weiss said his gallery has shown here for a number of years and usually brought smaller pieces, first taking the chance on a few large installation pieces last year. “It’s always daunting, it’s a huge ordeal to set these up,” he said. The effort paid off in spades this year and has helped cement the gallerist’s decision to ship pieces to Europe when exhibiting at next year’s Venice Bienniale.
Joern Lohmann of J. Lohmann Gallery, New York City, was pleased with his showing here. He said sales were strong for contemporary porcelain pieces (vases) by up-and-coming Danish artist/ceramist Sandra Davolio (b 1951 in Italy, working and living since the 1970s in Denmark), whom the gallery exclusively represents in the United States.
A tea collector in London snapped up a tea service in Lohmann’s booth that was an iconic published design from Margarete Heymann-Marks Löbenstein (Germany, 1899‱990), circa 1930, glazed earthenware, manufactured by Haël Werkstätten. Several examples of Art Deco German silver also sold.
Diana Rabinovich, vice president of DTR Modern Galleries, New York City, said the gallery did very well with its Damien Hirst inventory, specifically his iconic “Skull” screen prints with diamond dust, and his latest series of “Spot” woodcuts. The gallery also sold two mixed media works by contemporary New York-based School of Pop artist Robert Mars.
Advertising paid off for James P. Infante, New York City, who featured a bold and rare Franz Hagenauer hand hammered torso, circa 1930, Vienna, in the show program, which, along with choice Art Nouveau and Art Deco pieces, sold during the show. “There was interest in the better objects †and sales,” he said, noting that furniture also did well, led by a CL9 chair from Italy dated 1961.
Vibrant contemporary works from the likes of Richard Anuszkiewicz and Alexander Liberman made a dramatic statement on the walls of B+G Fine Art, Chapel Hill, N.C. The gallery found new homes for several choice pieces, including a stellar Gene Davis painting and a Louise Nevelson work on paper.
Gary Rubinstein, West Palm Beach, Fla., sold a pair of large original photographs by the artist Renato Freitas, which were part of a limited edition of ten, these being numbered 10/10, for $15,000. Italian furniture from the 1950s and 1960s garnered much attention and discussion, and the dealer sold a settee for just under $20,000.
Among decorative arts, French silvered bronze candelabra and cachepots that were period Art Deco from the 1930s created a stir and sold. “It seemed that there was tremendous interest in the sculptural lines and quality of the pieces I exhibited and the predominantly rich woods,” Rubinstein said.
Whether one’s tastes ran to wall art or objects or Modern furniture, there was lots to look at this show. Some of the standouts we observed were silver jewelry by Antonio Pineda and William Spratling in the booth of Leah Gordon, New York City; a pair of lyrical landscapes by Wolf Kahn at Babcock Galleries, New York City; and Wiener Werkstätte necklaces and a hand-carved ebony and silver samovar at Drucker Antiques, Mount Kisco, N.Y.
For more information, www.sanfordsmith.com or 212-777-5218.
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