Published: April 8, 2008
For the fourth year, the New York Art + Design Fair took over the Park Avenue Armory for five days, March 27″1. On display among the spacious stands of some 40 exhibitors was a compelling and diverse showcase of contemporary, fine and Modern art, as well as sculpture, furniture from the Seventeenth to Twentieth Century, architecture and design, jewelry and rugs.
Westchester Enterprises, which produces the shows, always keeps the mix cutting edge and unpredictable. Show manager Meg Geslin at a private preview event on the evening before the show opened to the public, said, “The concept for our shows has always been about style, and I want to continue in that direction.” As if on cue, stylishly dressed patrons soon began arriving. About “500 of my closest friends,” quipped Geslin, had been invited to gather on the show floor to enjoy an evening of hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and an atmospheric foretaste of the art, design and antiques she had assembled.
Geslin did something different for this show †she took on partners, namely Axcess Luxury & Lifestyle, a high-end public relations firm, and Quintessentially, a global, private concierge service. Part of the motivation was financial. It is increasingly expensive to mount shows in the city and especially at the armory, she said. The partners added a lot more to the mix than dollars, however. They complemented the show’s diverse selection of art and antiques with elements not generally on the typical floor plan †by bringing aboard upscale retailers such as Chanel, Berluti Italian shoes and leather goods, and Tara, the largest importer in the United States for Tahitian black pearls.
Rizzoli Bookstore also set up shop, recreating a portion of its 57th Street store filled with volumes on fine art, interior design, French decorative art, antiques and other topics. There was even a private trunk show of Ruffian’s fall and winter 2008 clothing designs thrown into the mix.
Adding further luster to the event, Lalique provided the loan exhibition, making its New York City debut and featuring the artistically produced architectural and design elements of the Lalique collection, including lighting, furniture and mirrors. The firm’s President and Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Gauthereau, attending the VIP preview, said, “We are showing our presence to the art world.”
When not at shows, Steve Abeles and Ray Attanaro are in church †actually, a renovated 1837 church in Pine Plains, N.Y., from which the pair offer their eclectic mix of Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth Century furnishings, architectural elements and quirky accessories. “We really enjoy doing this show because it allows us to bring an assortment of antiques and newer decorative items,” said the dealers. “The customers who shop this show know there is a wide assortment of things to look at and it has a distinctive point of view. The uptown armory show gets a total different customer base than the downtown armory show does. They are very upscale and want something original and different that makes a statement.”
Their booth offered just that. It was, according to the dealers, a mix of the two latest trends popular in Europe †industrial items from the 1940s and bleached furniture from assorted periods. “The color story of charcoal, brown and beige also represented what is happening in Europe,” they said.
They brought a French bleached oak farm table, surrounded it with a set of eight French modern industrial metal chairs and topped it with a grand but whimsical Italian birdcage from the 1940s. A 1940s industrial metal dining table that had been mounted on train wheels, however, was the booth’s tour de force, It was priced at $15,000 and was sold. “We also sold two sets of industrial dining chairs from France made in the 1940s and also two unusual side tables made of Sungay wood from Indonesia. The other item now on hold for a client that saw it at the show was our Italian birdcage that stands 96 inches high and 60 inches wide.”
Peter Nee’s Millwood Antiques is another Westchester Enterprises show regular. His forte is Eighteenth Century English and Continental furniture, but for this show he added a fun element, a fairly early game wheel whose spinner (minus the thwackety-thwack thing that catches the wheel’s spokes) would come to rest at one of about 20 inset brass tokens advertising Western bordellos. More staid merchandise displayed by the Millwood, Va., exhibitor was represented by a George I bureau desk of English walnut, circa 1714‱727, an Austrian crackle painted tea table, circa 1800, and a French Deco-style buffet/cabinet priced at $9,450.
Fine art galleries were well represented at this show, which increasingly draws the metropolitan designer crowd on the prowl for their clients. Said Sundaram Tagore, president and curator of the eponymous New York City gallery, “In this day and age, there is a blurring of art and design. It’s a force that we cannot ignore, and it is the reason we participated.” He said the gallery made two significant sales during the run of the show and was in the process of finalizing three additional sales afterward. One of the show sales was a sculpture by Nathan Slate Joseph’s of pure pigment on galvanized steel, and another was a work by Sohan Qadri. Sundaram Tagore Gallery opened its new gallery in Beverly Hills, Calif., April 5 with an exhibition, “Lights & Shadows: Art from Asia and the West,” which will remain on view to May 18.
The Spare Room, overseen by Jackie Smelkinson and Marcia Moylan, was not spare at all †it was chockablock with English ceramics, Georgian and Victorian jewelry, turn-of-the-century American silver flatware, Baltimore silver and objets d’art. The Baltimore, Md., dealers had been on a shopping trip recently, and one of the treasures they brought back was a Copeland Spode agateware pitcher, circa 1840. Exemplifying the same mesmerizing pattern as a cheese dome the pair had displayed at the November 2007 Antiques & Art at the Armory show, the pitcher’s wonderfully abstract swirls and striations made it a standout piece.
“We had an excellent show with strong, across-the-board selling each day,” said the dealers. “The steady crowd was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and complimentary. We saw our regular clients and enjoyed meeting new ones. New York is a very special market and we are always excited to be there. Our favorite sale was to a couple whose home was to be on tour in a few weeks and they needed to decorate a china cabinet. They bought a collection of English Regency porcelain in Imari colors that will make a fantastic display in their cabinet.”
There was, as usual, an exceptional selection of Georg Jensen estate silver displayed by London silver dealer The Silver Fund. “Winning Post,” an English sterling silver trophy made and presented in 1910, however, was among the rarities in the stand. According to Michael James, the piece commemorates the most important horse race in Argentina, the “Premio Pueyrredon,” marking the country’s 100th anniversary of independence. G. Halliday was the sculptor and it was executed by Elkington & Co. “The fair was very well-attended by qualified individuals, including several Arab princes,” said James. “We were very busy with inquiries, especially on the weekend and hope that some of these will be converted to major sales over the next week or so.”
Westchester Enterprises will next present the Spring International Art & Antiques Show at the Park Avenue Armory, April 25′9. For information, 914-437-5983 or www.springinternationalshow.com .
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