Published: February 5, 2002
By Laura Beach
NEW YORK CITY — The happy irony of the New York Ceramics Fair is that while it may feel like a clubby gathering of in-the-know collectors, passionately devoted to connoisseurship in their esoteric pursuits, the three-year-old selling exhibition at the National Academy of Design has succeeded beyond measure in attracting newcomers to the field that is broad and lively, piquing their interest with a busy program of talks by noted experts.
Of course, given the political and economic uncertainty of the past months, there was no way of knowing if this year’s fair would duplicate its past success. Anxieties were put to rest on Wednesday evening, January 16, when nearly 600 people attended an opening night preview party. By the show’s close on Sunday, attendance topped 6,000, up 15 percent from a year ago. Sunday’s gate alone increased 25 percent, a startling jump on a day when the Winter Antiques Show was also opening to a record gate. Most dealers were pleased – and relieved – by sales, which ranged from adequate to outstanding.
The joint venture of organizers Caskey-Lees of California and Sha-Dor of Maryland, the New York Ceramics Fair is a spiral arrangement, rising from the marble-clad entry of the National Academy, an elegant Beaux-Arts landmark on Fifth Avenue near the Guggenheim Museum. The show’s 40 dealers hail in equal measure from the United States and the United Kingdom, with one from France and another from Sweden for good measure.
Fortunately, their expertise is more varied than their nationalities, making for what is an interesting, well-balanced presentation. While the showcase emphasizes Chinese porcelain and English pottery, visitors are also treated to Meissen, English cut glass, Venetian blown glass, and Quimper and other French faience. There are Studio ceramics to choose from, and several contemporary artists show their own work.
The floor is laid out in four wings on two floors, providing a sense of progressive discovery as one moves from room to room and floor to floor, with the occasional mishap of missing an exhibit. Paul Champkins, a London dealer in Chinese, Korean and Japanese art; Paul Vandekar, the New York dealer known for Chinese export porcelain and English pottery; and C&L Burman, a new exhibitor from London with an extensive inventory of cut glass, shared a luxurious room with parquet floors and a fireplace. Vandekar’s extensive offerings included a 17-inch Leeds pearlware figure of a horse, $32,000. Burman ornamented its display with a pair of George III glass two-light candelabra, circa 1780, $16,500; and an opulent gilt, metal and crystal candelabra of circa 1870, $120,000.
Cohen & Cohen, a high-end dealer in Chinese ceramics, featured a pair of vases and stands in the Mandarin palette, Qianlong, circa 1780, $37,000, and a pair of circa 1790 porcelain plaques for the English or American market. Their decoration derives from Thomas Stoddard, RA, whose paintings were later reproduced as engravings.
Monique Mardellis anchored her stand with a monumental Kangxi blue and white vase, cover and stand, circa 1690, $12,750. The Holland Park dealer is known for Chinese porcelain, works of art, and mirror pictures and enamels.
Fredericksburg, Va., dealer John Suval concentrates on fewer but better pieces of traditional Chinese and English wares. He had a rare pair of shaped Tobacco Leaf plates for $15,000; and a pair of Chia Ching crustaceans, 1810-20, for $10,000.
Renowned export wares dealer Santos drew attention to his stand with a pair of large blue and white leaf-shaped dishes of circa 1780. Santos’s neighbor, London dealer Mark West, was a study in contrast with European glass ranging from a comical Venetian portrait bust to a 246-piece glass service once owned by Italy’s last king, Vittorio Emmanuel III. The tableware is being delivered in installments to its new owner on Fifth Avenue.
New York dealer Jill Fenichell and her partner Craig Basmajian are crowd pleasers, offering the choice and rare in English and European ceramics in a spectrum of prices. At one end of the spectrum was humble brown Japanesque-style transferware. For bigger pocketbooks, there was a rare Bow triple-shell form sweetmeat dish and a part-service of Old Paris porcelain, its egg-custard yellow ground awash with pastel flora sprays. Feni-chell-Basmajian were selling it by the piece. Prices started at $750 for a saucer and reached $12,500 for a tureen, cover and stand.
Kenilworth, UK, dealer Janice Paull draws crowds both here and at the International Ceramics Fair in London, where her chock-a-block full booth of Mason’s and other English ironstone china is quickly picked over. A standout in her ample assortment of vivid orange and blue Imari-style wares was a large table-top pagoda.
Another dealer mining the more popular end of the market was Rita Entmacher Cohen, a Closter, N.J., dealer who handles Chinese-inspired English tablewares. A Willow-style supper set, pearlware and dating to circa 1820, was $12,800.
Best known for Staffordshire figures, Woodstock, UK, dealer John Howard, did more business this year than last. “Of our five major customers on Sunday, three were new and the last ones were about 30, which is quite young,” he reported.
Solomon Suchard Antiques and Fine Art of Shaker Heights, Ohio, and Paris, appears to have cornered the market in fine Quimper, the narrative pieces either delightfully modeled as figures or charmingly painted with village scenes. “Sortie a’Eglise,” a platter decorated by the Porquier family faiencerie, was marked $18,500. Dealer Blake Kemper sold more than 50 pieces of faience at the fair, most of it to new clients.
Known for Sixteenth through Eighteenth Century European pottery and porcelain The Woollahra Trading Co, Ltd, of London was well stocked with delft, including a showy pair of tobacco jars with brass covers, second half of the Eighteenth Century, $7,500.
There was just a smattering of French art glass and pottery, all of it at French Art Pleasures. One gem in the Paris dealer’s booth was a low, globular bowl modeled with nymphs and finished with an iridescent glaze. “La Vague,” by Clement Massier, dated to circa 1890.
The show’s American content is thin, a defect in part offset by the participation of several outstanding exhibitors. J. Garrison and Diana Stradling, well-known author-ities in American glass, pottery and porcelain, brought notable examples of each. One rdf_Description of interest was rare stirrup cup made by Charles Cartledge, Green Point, N.Y., circa 1848-56.
To their deep selection of historical Staffordshire of American interest, William and Teresa Kurau of Lampeter, Penn., added Staffordshire figures. A portrait bust of William Shakespeare reigned from atop a glass showcase. Modeled by Wood, the Bard dated to circa 1790 and was $5,500.
One of the show’s most influential members is Yorktown, Va., expert Robert Hunter, who not only deals in American ceramics from the Eighteenth Century to the present, but, as editor of Chipstone Foundation’s new journal Ceramics in America, plays an important role in organizing and funding the Chipstone-sponsored lecture series and loan exhibits, this year American glass and Chinese export porcelain from the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass.
Hunter’s booth provided a simultaneous look at Studio ceramics, including Beatrice Wood’s (1893-1998) African-inspired mask, and traditional utilitarian redware and stone-ware. Falling somewhere in between was Bernard Leach’s large 1951 slipware dish, $16,500, modeled after the historical example by Thomas Toft at Temple Newsam House.
Hunter’s inventory is the bridge to contemporary ceramics by working artists such as Michelle Erickson, who often takes very traditional forms and decorations and transforms them into one-off sculptures by adding unexpected elements. For instance, in a play on the Eighteenth Century fashion for chinoiserie, Erickson took a slip-decorated teapot and transformed it into a tabletop folly of a pagoda.
UK dealer Peter Wain’s contemporary Chinese ceramics echo classic wares in their graceful shapes, fine glazes and delicate decoration. Standouts in Wain’s booth included a porcelain plaque of a fish, decorated by senior master Zhai Xiaxiang, $4,800; and a striking matte-surfaced vase with incised decorations and glossy, enamel-decorated panels, $2,300. “This was the best of three fairs for me and a real coup for the 12 Chinese artists I represent,” said the dealer, who sold every contemporary piece he brought.
The New York Ceramics Fair will return to the National Academy of Design during the third week of January, 2003. Management is considering is expanding next year’s show to five days.
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