Published: January 31, 2012
With only 30 exhibitors, the intimate New York Ceramics Fair, now in its 13th year, exerts an outsized pull on shoppers in town for New York’s Americana Week shows and sales. Previewing on January 17, and continuing through the weekend at Bohemian National Hall, it was the first of many stops for some collectors and had the advantage of catching buyers while they were fresh.
Limited to ceramics and glass but spanning all ages and many cultures, the Ceramics Fair is an appetizer course that whets the palate for more. There is really just a smattering on offer in some categories, perhaps a boon to the leading specialists who are the backbone of this show.
Organized by the California-based promoters Bill Caskey and Liz Lees of Caskey-Lees, this year’s event saw the gate grow by double digits during the first two days. Weeklong attendance figures were dampened by the arrival of snow on Friday and Saturday.
The Czech beer Pilsner Urquell was chilling on ice when the first wave of shoppers stormed the floor on Tuesday evening. By Sunday’s close, nearly 4,200 had visited the show, a slight decline from a year ago. Enhanced by a distinguished series of lectures sponsored by Chipstone Foundation, the fair welcomed curators from Boston, Chicago, Houston, Williamsburg, Charlotte, Columbia, Corning, St Louis, Wilmington and even Oxford, UK.
The small but steady turnover in exhibitors each year exposes visitors to interesting newcomers. Among them was Victor Novotny of Cold Spring, N.Y, who turned a curator’s eye on post-World War II German ceramics by Walter Popp, Karl and Ursula Scheid, Fritz Vehring and others.
“The aspect I like best is Japanesque design,” said Sarah Eigen, a new exhibitor from New York. Specializing in Aesthetic wares, she showed a dragon pitcher by Christopher Dresser, $850, with two Pinder & Bourne pitchers, less than $400 each, with silver plated lids.
“I love American art pottery,” said Caren Fine, a dealer from Potomac, Md., who presented a Newcomb College high glaze vase decorated with cedars by Leona Nicholson in 1907 next to a Peter Voulkos stoneware vessel of 1981.
Preview night visitors made a beeline for the booth of Garry Atkins and Roderick Jellicoe, UK-based authorities in English pottery.
“I had my best opening night ever,” said Atkins, whose many sales included a Portuguese dish of about 1640 and an English creamware arbor group like one auctioned by Sotheby’s on January 21 for $34,375. Atkins succumbed to campaign fever, offering an oversized English creamware “Electioneering” jug of 1789. Probably made by Kidderminster Pottery and decorated by Chamberlain’s or Flight, it commemorated M.P. Edmund Wigley’s campaign for Worcester in 1789 and 1790. Colonial Williamsburg owns a similar example.
English pottery was the ticket at Leo Kaplan Ltd, as well, where sales included a pair of salt glaze vases, priced in the six figures and decorated in a brilliant Chinese palette, and a pair of circa 1790 Pratt ware lions. Kaplan’s catalog piece, a salt glaze teapot whose mate is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, sold early on in the show.
Woodstock, UK, dealer John Howard parted with a pearlware figure of Wellington on horseback, circa 1815, while New York dealer Paul Vandekar entertained interest in a large, circa 1745 camel teapot, fashioned of salt glaze and priced $16,000.
The show’s only dealers in historic American ceramics and glass, Gary and Diana Stradling, featured six gilt decorated plates designed and decorated by James Callowhill in Roslindale, Mass., and exhibited in 1888, alongside two large, white Tucker cologne bottles of about 1834.
The Stradlings shared their booth with Ian Simmonds, a dealer in American glass. His English counterparts were Christopher Sheppard, who parted with a First Century Roman glass jug, and Mark West, who wrote up a set of wine goblets and a Val St Lambert bowl.
One of the most arresting presentations belonged to Paul Anavian, a second-generation New York dealer in ancient Near Eastern and Islamic art. Representative of the little understood and rarely seen treasures that he carries was a Samanid bowl that was slip decorated with a lion in the Ninth Century in what is now Iran. Shown with a Seljuk stucco figure of a woman, $6,500, the bowl was priced in the five figures.
An instructive contrast was provided by a Dutch slipware milk jar, $2,500, inscribed and dated 1631. It highlighted the display of Low Country ceramics mounted by Léon-Paul van Geenen, a dealer from the Dutch city of Delft.
“This is the finest ship mug that I’ve had,” John Suval said of circa 1790 vessel marked $13,500. The Virginia dealer was one of several specialists in Chinese and Japanese ceramics. Others included the London-based Chinese Export authority Alberto Varela Santos, who featured a massive armorial tureen, cover and stand made around 1760 for the Spanish market, and Peter Rosenberg of Vallin Galleries, who offered a circa 1800 blanc de chine incense burner fashioned as three boy musicians riding on an elephant.
Sylvia Powell, a William de Morgan expert who recently sold a large charger to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is developing a following for Picasso-designed Vallauris pottery made in France. Two imaginative figural vases were each marked in excess of $100,000.
Cara Antiques of Langhorne, Penn., sold its earliest piece of Moorcroft, a circa 1800 slip decorated vase.
Great Neck, N.Y., dealer Martin Cohen offered a rare 1735 Italian Doccia figure of a man, $245,000 and modeled after a sculpture by Gian Bologna, alongside colorful contemporary pottery figures by Dominican artist Jose Arias.
Caskey-Lees returns to Manhattan in March with New York Arts of Pacific Asia. For information, 310-455-2886 or www.caskeylees.com .
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