Published: March 29, 2011
It is a sure sign of spring along with turning clocks ahead †the return of the Pier Antiques Show, a “local” show for many New Yorkers with more than 500 dealers showcasing their merchandise inside Pier 94 at the Passenger Ship Terminal. This popular show was conducted on March 12 and 13 by Stella Show Mgmt Co., and its proven formula of offering a rainbow of everything from vintage fashion, collectibles to formal furnishings and accessories once again drew shoppers of all ages and collecting sensibilities.
“This is our 31st year doing the show, and we were among the first dealers Irene [Stella] signed up for it back in like 1981,” commented Lambertville, N.J., auctioneer/dealer David Rago, whose booth was up front near the main entrance to the show. “We had been doing her Meadowlands Racetrack show for six years prior, and that was the beginning of the Pier.
“From a dealer’s standpoint, it’s hard for us to argue with doing a show with such relatively inexpensive booth rent when it provides so much exposure and doesn’t force us to be there for a week,” Rago continued. “While it shouldn’t be confused with some of the marvelous high-end shows at the Armory, such as Modernism, it doesn’t pretend to be that either. There’s an excellent cross section of material at the Pier, from high-end flea market level to high-end decorative art, and that attracts a very interesting †and interested †crowd.”
Rago said that although his firm’s sales were “below normal,” he believed it had more to do with what he and partner Suzanne Perrault had brought than what the buyers were willing to spend. In a tasteful, minimally furnished booth with showcases, the dealers had set up a few pieces of Twentieth Century furniture along with their trademark selection of high-end art pottery. “We felt there was more enthusiasm than we’d seen for a while,” said Rago.
Other than being compressed into a single pier †a change from the heady days when the show, known as “Triple Pier,” sprawled over three piers with dedicated categories and staggered opening times †not much has changed with the formula. Sure, there are new themes and special focuses, such as “Be Green †Buy Vintage” and a section devoted to steampunk, but New York shoppers know right where to go for Americana and primitives, Twentieth Century Modern design, Victorian antiques, classical and decorative items and industrial-trolleys-cum-loft furniture.
The floor plan follows an inverted “T” layout, with Modern to the right, classical and formal to the left, Americana and decorative arts straight down the middle, leading to Fashion Alley at the furthermost reaches of the facility.
Positioned fairly close toward the front of the show was Gordon Converse, a Wayne, Penn., dealer specializing in clocks, who has been doing appraisals at this show for several years and previously participated as a show exhibitor. Converse was offering verbal appraisals at $5 per item, with the fees being donated to the Red Cross.
“The appraisals were busier than ever,” said Converse, “with me pretty much dealing with a waiting line all the time during show hours.” Citing good promotion by show management, the dealer added, “Think about it, I would only have appraisal activity if someone remembers to bring something along before leaving for the show. This means to me that the promoters were effective in telling the public about our services and there was a demand for short, verbal appraisals of those things that these people have.”
Converse related that his most interesting appraisal over the weekend involved “a fellow with two framed Norman Rockwell black and white ‘prints’ that I told him were almost certainly prints. But he insisted they were given to him years ago as original art. I mentioned the only way I could tell would be to remove them from the frames where they had been for years and years †expecting to prove to him they were prints. In fact, after seeing ‘mock up’ lines and handwritten, scrawled notes on the back, I was satisfied they were original art †I later found out they were done for a liquor advertisement. I suggested they could bring some several thousand dollars at auction, instead of the several dollars they would otherwise be worth.”
Also set up in the Americana and decorative arts section, Outsider Folk Art Gallery, George and Sue Viener’s collection from Reading Penn., presented a colorfully vibrant display of what is sometimes referred to as “self-taught” works by those who were not trained as artists but still produce great art. A whimsical female mannequin astride a circus trapeze by mixed media artist Holly Smith, a raw cotton quilt, circa 1910, made of some 10,000 postage-stamp-sized squares and sculptures by Leo Sewell made from found objects were among the items showcased here.
There was a nice sampling of several face jugs by southern artists like Matthew Hewell, Steve Abee and Charlie Lisk. “We sold a face jug to a new collector,” said George Viener, who was contacted after the show. “The crowd and items displayed were eclectic.” Praising the show’s management, he added, “Irene Stella is a dealer’s promoter. She works hard to create and promote shows that will excite and entertain potential buyers. She is steps ahead trying to create reasons for young audiences to become tomorrow’s collectors.”
Buying and selling high-quality and colorful Victorian art glass for more than 20 years, Scott Roland of GlimmerGlass Antiques, Schenevus, N.Y., filled his shelves with stellar examples of cranberry opalescent, Mount Washington, Fenton and Sandwich glass.
Fashion Alley, always a popular and active section of the show, was bristling with commerce as dealers multitasked by writing up sales slips, answering customers’ questions and helping them try things on. Lisa D’Angelo, owner of Lisa Victoria Vintage, Bogota, N.J., was clearly taking great pride in displaying her items, which ranged from royal wedding-inspired ladies’ hats to a 1950s dress in white tulle with silk flowers and lace. “The Pier is always an exciting venue with an interesting mix of celebrities, designers and collectors,” said D’Angelo. “My collection is always well received. I am well known for my expertise in selecting pristine vintage fashions, jewelry and accessories from the 1800s to the 1980s.”
Some of her notable sales included a one-of-a-kind hand crocheted, fringed, 1920s coat, which, she added, will be prominently featured in the HBO television series Boardwalk Empire, a 1970s Halston ensemble and an Yves Saint Laurent gown from the same period, along with a 1950s Christian Dior suit.
“There is a growing demand for hats; and my collection is second to none,” she said. “I sold a Schiaparelli hat to a woman who wanted a vintage hat made by a famous designer. She was thrilled by the beauty and workmanship.” Always a top resource for vintage bridal gowns, D’Angelo also sold an antique Brussels lace gown from the early 1900s to a woman who wanted a one-of-a-kind gown that would not be seen on anyone else. “It was magnificent,” said the dealer.
Another dealer capitalizing on the intersection of vintage fashion with today’s lifestyles was Pat Frazer of Vintage Couture Jewelry, Easton, Conn. From jewelry showcases that drew customers in via a pair of mannequins dressed in mod attire and sparkly stuff, the dealer offered a large assortment of jewelry in gold and silver tones, as well as the currently popular black and white Lucite for spring. And like D’Angelo, she also had some royal wedding-inspired merchandise, such as a two-tone blue and white bracelet “just like Kate’s.”
Back by popular demand was an enlarged section of the show devoted to what the show promoters tout as an emerging design and collecting trend †steampunk, the shelleyian marriage of science fiction and high-tech sensibilities on a Victorian chassis. The recycling was evident in displays by Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum of ModVic (he is Mod, she is Vic) and Cory Barkman, a wood and metal sculpture artist from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Rosenbaums, from Sharon, Mass., assembled a special steampunk kitchen with all architectural salvage bells and whistles of wainscoting, arches, corbels and slate counters, populating it with appliances that looked antique but functioned in very modern ways.
Bruce Rosenbaum reported that while sales were limited to a few steampunk lamps and pieces of architectural salvage, the show for him is all about making connections. So he was naturally quite excited when some folks representing the upcoming New York City-based spinoff of TLC’s Miami Ink television series †a show about the art and drama of tattooing †came by to express interest in one of his computer workstation creations fashioned from a lathe table. “The workstation will be featured in the series where the artist shows customers his tattoo designs,” said Rosenbaum. Not bad exposure, he added, from a show that boasts having between 6-7 million viewers.
Stella’s next show will be the Chicago Botanic Garden Antiques & Garden Fair, April 15‱7. The Stella Show Mgmt Co. will return to the Pier on November 19 and 20. For information, 973-808-6806 or www.stellashows.com .
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