Published: November 4, 2003
– The International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show returned to the Seventh Regiment Armory October 16-23, complete with the spectacular objects and arresting displays that have been its hallmark since it debuted 15 years ago.
Having markedly influenced collecting and design trends, along with show business from Manhattan to Palm Beach, the International show’s trademark luxe and volupte has evolved into a more diverse array. This year, along with the usual jewel box enclosures of gilt-encrusted French furniture, there were spare stands, insouciantly appointed with a few quirky pieces of one-of designer furniture.
New to the fair was Douglas Dawson. The Chicago dealer in ethnographic art arranged raw, pigment-streaked carved figures and masks against a black backdrop. Dawson sold a variety of pieces, including pre-Columbian works, for $12,000 to $40,000.
John Alexander offered English Arts and Crafts furniture whose pared-down aesthetic reinterprets historical prototypes for the modern age. Highlights included a Philip Webb designed sideboard, $65,000, for Morris & Company, and what Alexander called “the holy grail” in his field, a dresser, $135,000, designed circa 1907 by C.F.A. Voysey for his most important commercial client, the Essex and Suffolk Equitable Insurance Society Office. Alexander’s sales included two pairs of armchairs, one attributed to Dante Gabriel Rossetti for Morris, a side table and a side chair.
Another new exhibitor, Cove Landing, achieved similarly reductive results by displaying Regency furniture against a stark white backdrop. The New York dealer’s sales included an English Regency center table inlaid with a specimen marble top, $25,000; a German neoclassical chest of drawers; and an Italian painted terra-cotta sculpture of a dog, $18,000.
The pioneering dealer in Tiffany glass, Lillian Nassau Ltd, chose for its International show debut a suite of Russian Arts and Crafts furniture, eccentrically embellished with repousse copper and semiprecious stones.
“Lillian bought these pieces in Paris in the early 1970s,” Nassau staffer Arlie Sulka explained. Signed Trubetskoy, the eight pieces dating from the 1890s cost $250,000. By show’s end, the suite had sold, along with a Tiffany peacock lamp of 1910 and 1912 sundial by Harriet Frismuth, one of two known.
In the decade and a half that he has been exhibiting at the International show, Belgian dealer Axel Vervoordt has become one of the world’s best-known stylists. His signature installations combine the ancient and the contemporary in a way that is both forbiddingly chic and invitingly casual. The mix appealed to, among others, the quintessentially American designer Bill Blass, a Vervoordt friend and client. In an homage to Blass, whose collection was recently auctioned by Sotheby’s, Vervoordt arranged classical sculpture and architectural models and fittings in an elegantly minimal interior. Highlights included a magnificent Augsburg silver-mounted carved rhinoceros cup of circa 1675, the only known example not in an institutional collection. Vervoordt sold a pair of Eighteenth Century English marble mantelpieces with neoclassical friezes for roughly $200,000.
The rhinoceros theme played well at Ralph M. Chait Galleries, too, where New York dealer Allan Chait, shown in these pages, featured an exceedingly rare terra-cotta figure, $16,500, of the ancient beast, a relic of Han dynasty of China.
At $85,000, a carved English limestone font of circa 1100 was one of the show’s best buys. According to London dealer Richard Philp, the piece, which is decorated with images both secular and pagan, is one of six known. It was made for the Everingham Parish Church in East Riding, Yorkshire.
Other antiquities included an Egyptian bust of a man, circa 1450 BC, $200,000-plus at Charles Ede Ltd of London. British dealer John Berwald parted with a pair of Tang dynasty prancing horses, $100,000; a Tang dynasty striding ox, $25,000; and a Sancai glazed horse with a blue saddle.
A pair of standing cast-iron armorial stags with gilt coronets around their necks were crowd pleasers at Alistair Sampson of London. Part of the crest of the Steward family of Norwich embellished the 53 inches high, late Eighteenth Century figures.
Fair director Brian Haughton showed off a quartet of Doccia terra-cotta allegorical putti representing the seasons, finished in a matte white glaze as soft as a baby’s bottom. The figures were modeled by Gasparo Bruschi after the life-sized marbles in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.
At Harris Lindsay, a circa 1690 English kingwood cabinet with pietra dura drawer fronts, $295,000, was topped by a pair of Japanese Kakiemon “Hampton Court” hexagonal jars and covers. Made in Arita, circa 1680, the jars were $215,000.
David Firestone featured a 1760 silver teapot by Samuel Johnson of New York and an epergne by Butty and Durnee of London. The Boston dealers Firestone and Parson sold a teapot.
English furniture specialists Mark and Diana Jacoby of Philip Colleck are known for stylish pieces with character and personality. An example was their Eighteenth Century English painted and tooled leather eight-panel screen, $135,000, made in imitation of Chinese examples for the Dutch or English market.
Hyannis Port, Mass., dealer Hyland Granby’s well stocked booth combined a ship’s figurehead, eagle carvings, terrestrial globes and William Bradford’s bound book The Arctic Region, $135,000, illustrated with photographs taken on an art expedition to Greenland.
Several dealers brought rare collections of objects. Kenneth W. Rendell, the dealer in letters, documents and manuscripts, unveiled a cache honoring the centennial of Wilber and Orville Wright’s historic flight, $350,000. Equally engrossing were 26 letters, $175,000, handwritten by Audrey Hepburn to her father. Charles Lindbergh’s maps and charts for his first transatlantic flight were $375,000.
“This show is better for us. It’s truly international,” said Robert Aronson, explaining why his Amsterdam firm withdrew from the Winter Antiques Show to focus on the International show. The Aronsons offered selections from the Vanhyfte collection, formed over many years by the collector working with Robert’s grandfather, Abraham Aronson, who founded the family firm in 1881. Figural groups were among the rarest pieces including a pair of boars, $175,000; a courting couple in a boat, $78,000; and a pair of circa 1730-45 Chinese dancing figures, sold for approximately $65,000.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries departed from tradition by dividing its sumptuous booth in two. The left half contained American neoclassical furnishings; the right was devoted to Aesthetic Movement furniture and European painting. Among several Herter Brothers pieces was a Godwinesque occasional table and a dining chair, one of six known from a set made for William H. Vanderbilt, upholstered in gauffragged leather. On the dealers’ outside wall was a sweeping Frank L. Benson canvas, “The Hilltop.”
The show’s only other dealer in American furniture, Cars-well Rush Berlin, unveiled a circa 1820 center table by Deming and Bulkley of New York, $185,000, and a group of 20 rare pencil drawings that contained illustrations of furniture made for George IV’s compartments at Windsor Castle. Berlin sold the scrolled arm Sheraton sofa by Duncan Phyfe, made around 1805, that sat beneath the pictures.
London dealer Antoine Cheneviere’s meticulous display concentrated on objects in pairs. Highlights included two matched Florentine commodes of circa 1770, and two Swedish neoclassical mirrors, gilded and surmounted with dome-shaped panels of foil lined red glass.
Black lacquered and studded with metal spheres, what appeared to be an abstract sculpture in Maroun Salloum’s booth was actually a “jute-a-bit,” or a hall stand, from a suite of cubist furniture made in Barcelona about 1910 by Jojol, a craftsman who worked for Gaudi.
The fair’s opening night preview party benefited the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Jamee Gregory and Leslie Jones co-chaired the event, which drew a record 1,200 visitors and raised nearly $1 million for the charity.
Show directors Brian and Anna Haughton return to the Seventh Regiment Armory from March 26-31, when they host the International Asian Art Fair.
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