Published: December 7, 2010
Across town at the Sheraton, fallen financial scam artist Bernard Madoff’s penthouse treasures were crossing the auction block at eye-popping prices, but for New Yorkers who have seen it all before, the real action was taking place at Pier 94, home to Stella Show Mgmt Co.’s popular Pier Show, which returned for two days with its prodigious display of antiques, fine art, vintage fashion and more on November 13 and 14.
Irene Stella reported that the show’s gate was up a bit from last year, adding, “We had a peaceful breakdown, which usually means dealers had money in their pockets.”
As in previous years, the show’s overarching theme continued to tap into consumer environmental consciousness, presenting the idea of acquiring antiques, collectibles and vintage fashion as a way to “go green” and help save the environment. A new focus, however, is the “upcycling” trend represented by steampunk, a mashup of items from bygone eras that find new life with the application of modern-day technology and lifestyle.
Thus, getting quite a bit of attention near the show’s entrance was the Steampunk House †an exhibit staffed by six steampunk artists (some call themselves “fabricators”) who create everything from the turn-of-the-century stoves brought up to modern standards, such as those offered by David Erikson of Erikson Antique Stoves, to steampunk electric guitars from Steve Brook and surreal machine sculptures by Dale Mathis. “Cool!” was an expression heard again and again as shoppers browsed the merchandise.
Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum of Mod Vic Design, Sharon, Mass., found a way to leverage their expertise in Victorian home restoration and launched SteamPuffin, a business that combines found objects with the latest technology. They honed their skills by transforming their own three-story Victorian home into a steampunk décor showcase, and for the show brought several examples of their unique design work, including a computer workstation that incorporates fixtures from a turn-of-the-century dentist’s office and optician’s tools.
Steve Brook developed his engineering artistry in Detroit in the automotive industry for 35 years, but now fabricates steampunk guitars that actually can be played, adorning them with reclaimed salvage like steam gauges, antique brass doorplates and watch innards. In the show aisle, Brook was performing on one of the instruments †one he calls “1964 Norma” †that featured a historical door plate from the Cadillac Building in Detroit as the base of the bridge.
As one might expect with such bespoke merchandise, the price tags on many of the steampunk items and artworks take them beyond the reach of most of those who prowl the Pier †the guitar was priced at $4,500, for example, and the tricked-out computer workstations by the Rosenbaums were in the $30,000 to $40,00 range. So while the Rosenbaums came away from the show with more “strong leads and interest” than actual sales, Bruce Rosenbaum said he made a mental note to bring more items in the $100 to $1,000 range the next time.
Gold, silver and diamonds did well at the show, according to Stella. “Many dealers said they sold lots of accessories, but furniture was slow.” However, she said an exception was Robert Slope, who sold his entire booth of Modern furniture, and Michael Glatfelter of Philadelphia also sold a lot, according to the promoter.
“All in all, we were extremely pleased with the event,” said Stella.
Despite the show’s size †some 500 dealers offering everything from classic and formal antiques, Americana and Twentieth Century Modern to vintage fashions and collectibles †its concentration within a single pier at the Passenger Ship Terminal makes it a lot easier to navigate than in “the good old days” when it sprawled across three piers.
Among Americana dealers, Firehouse Antiques of Galena, Md., had a pleasing display centered around an arresting sign for photographer’s shop in Smyrna, Del, circa 1875, its Modernist typography seemingly at odds with its age. Also on offer was a set of drawers, mid-Twentieth Century, a signed color woodblock print by Wassily Kandinsky (Russian, 1864‱944), a small workbench with drawers and a nicely weathered WPA sign from Dover, Del., which read “W.P.A. Projects No. 72.”
Linda Elmore Antiques, Westfield, N.J., brought a signed Paul McCobb table, circa 1960, and displayed it alongside a pair of Danish two-drawer stands, a bronze and enamel painting, 36 inches, and a bronze, silver and gold on copper sculpture by Kansas City, Mo., artist David Clark, which with the addition of a glass top became a striking coffee table.
A newcomer to the show, Marisa Gaggino, from Royal Oak, Mich., reclaims antiques and incorporates them into captivating designs as proven by a “Big Apple NYC” store display piece from the 1940s, an intricate surround from a Chinese puppet theater, circa 1940s, flanked by two Detroit lions and framing a circus trapeze artist’s cape, circa 1930s‴0s. Gaggino recounted how she personally saved from the wrecking ball a pair of Modernist 1950s pillars that until this past August were holding up part of a bowling alley that was torn down.
No Pier show would be complete without the folky mini-kingdom created for each event by Victor Weinblatt of South Hadley, Mass. A circa 1870 Vermont country store counter in original blue paint, a “Tourists” double-sided sign from the 1930s, a violin shop trade sign from New Mexico and an old carnival wagon side from the 1930s emblazoned with “PEANUTS” were just a few of the folk art gems on display in his booth.
From Millwood, Va., Malcolm Magruder came to the show with a great trompe l’oeil painting of corn cobs by Alfred Montgomery (American, 1857‱922), a school principal in Vermillion, Kan., who in the 1880s and 1890s was the first teacher of drawing in the public schools of Topeka, Kan. There were two Hunzinger chairs in Magruder’s booth, one of them a rocker, as well as a late Victorian desk made entirely of sea grass, circa 1890. An interesting coin toss game from the West’s Gold Rush days, called “El Sapo (The Toad)” tested the skills of miners to toss a coin into the toad’s mouth and win the highest score as it slid down a chute.
Amid antique treasures in the more traditional aisles †classified as Classic & Formal in the show’s floor plan †Carol Lehman of Stevens Antiques, Frazer, Penn., was showing a compelling glass cane case made by Manhattan Cane Co., on Canal Street late turn of the century. Early sales on Saturday for Lehman included a pair of chairs, an Oriental lamp and a gnome figurine, but she had not yet sold a great Adirondack twig chair or a pair of painted clown child’s chairs, although they were attracting quite a bit of interest,.
Said Karen Perlmutter of Acanthus Antiques, Kensington, Md., “We had a very good show, not quite like the old days, but we were able to sell some furniture and three paintings; our silver sales were strong, and our activity with jewelry was very good. We were pretty much selling across the board, not just one type of category.”
Also selling across the board were Constance and Richard Aranosian, known in the trade as Cara Antiques. The Langhorne, Penn., dealers, said they had a good show and were very happy about it. “There was much interest from many people,” said Constance Aranosian. “It was a great crowd on Saturday and not bad on Sunday. It was almost like old times and very encouraging. We sold one of our best pieces of majolica, two good early Moorcroft and two excellent Boch Freres pieces. Clarice Cliff and Gouda, too, went and are growing. We certainly hope this bodes well for the future. The Stella organization did a fabulous job and we think they are the best in the business.”
Harvey and Aleta Weinstein of Harvey Weinstein Fine Antiques, New York City, once again showcased a glowing lineup of Tiffany Studios lamps, including a Tiffany Pansy on a rare turtleback form, a signed circa 1904 example, as well as a rare Dragonfly shade on a library cushion base, also circa 1904, exhibiting great iridescence in the dragonfly wings, strong red eyes and gold cabochon decoration.
Clock specialists Larry and Bella Dalton, Scarsdale, N.Y., showed some great examples of French industrial clocks †those made around the time of the Industrial Revolution and celebrating mechanization with exterior animation powered by the clockworks within.
Louise Irvine, a ceramic arts expert and authority on Royal Doulton, discovered lively and colorful hand painted pottery made by artisans in the remote rural area of Kwa-Zulu-Natal in South Africa, and this was being exhibited for the first time at the Pier Show in the booth of Pascoe and Company, Miami, under the aegis of Ardmore Ceramic Art. Ardmore founder Fee Halsted Berning, who has fostered this home-grown talent for the last 25 years, promotes sale of the pottery as a way to help improve the quality of life in the South African community, whose artists struggle with diseases like HIV/AIDS. Irvine, who flew over from London to attend the show, also gave booth chats on Royal Doulton, many examples of which were on display in the Pascoe and Company booth.
And what would the Pier show be without Fashion Alley? Vintage fashions comprised the floor space to the right of the café with nearly 50 dealers offering everything from mink stoles to designer gowns and luxe handbags. From Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Eva Grabowski brought a group of textiles woven by the Amsterdam school of artists, circa 1910′6, mohair and cotton printed and machine woven cloths that would have been used as protection for table surfaces or wall hangings. Jewelry specialist Pat Frazier of Easton, Conn., who brings vintage pieces that inspire today’s styles, filled her booth with crowd-pleasing arrays of couture jewelry, and Lisa Victoria Vintage Clothing, Bogota, N.J., showcased some stunning fashions, such as a 1970s mink and suede jacket with paisley lining, and a 1920s hand embroidered velvet coat, probably from Paris.
Stella Show Mgmt’s next events are Antiques at the Armory, January 21′3, and Americana & Antiques @ The Pier, January 22′3. The Pier Antiques Show returns to Pier 94 on March 12‱3. For information, 973-808-5015 or www.stellashows.com .
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