Published: May 18, 2021
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Show Dealers
BRONX, N.Y., & ONLINE – This year the New York Botanical Garden’s always anticipated antique garden furniture fair was presented virtually on the InCollect platform. The weeklong public event, May 1-7, featured unique offerings from 21 antiques and fine art dealers, including classic furniture and antiques for the home and garden.
Festivities began on April 29 with an exclusive preview party featuring special guest Martha Stewart, who spoke about the plants she had sourced from the gardens, and an opportunity for guests to take part in a live Q&A. Preview party supporters received earliest access to the fair’s exhibitor offerings and exclusive access to the Collectors’ Plant Auction, a collection of garden plants handpicked by NYBG’s horticultural staff.
Usually, winter-weary denizens in the tri-state area can throw off the gray, sodden remnants of that tenacious season under the 10,000-square-foot tented space adjacent to the Enid Haupt Conservatory in the gardens themselves, but the Covid-19 pandemic and its concomitant restrictions prevented dealers, designers, collectors and hort enthusiasts from gathering in person.
It may seem counterintuitive that the heavy stone planters, fountains, garden sculpture – the “anchor” items offered at this event – would sell in an online market, yet virtual sold tags did get affixed to everything from cast stone pigs, carved stone lions, figural birdbaths, settees and such over the course of the week, and dealers stocked their virtual booths with plenty of garden-themed fine art and decorative accessories as well. “It’s easy to use, it’s inexpensive,” said manager Karen DiSaia about the InCollect platform, although there was some grumbling among participating dealers. “I know some dealers don’t like it and I don’t understand that.” She added that there were some annoying features early on, such as a “Make An Offer” button – an anathema to antiques dealers – but, she noted, “they [inCollect] worked with us and gave us everything we asked for. It’s user-friendly, it’s got a good support system, it’s just a good platform.” InCollect tallied a total of 27,750 page views over the run of the show, with the heaviest traffic posted on May 3.
The show itself is a boutique affair. DiSaia assembled 21 dealers, including many of the regular exhibitors that were last seen in previous years and a few new faces.
Among the returnees was Ann Wilbanks of Stamford, Conn.-based Find Weatherly, who when not doing shows can be found at Avery & Dash Collections at 101 Jefferson Street. The dealer has a deep love for marine, animal and folk art of all types, as well as painted furniture and Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century period pieces. A pair of Nineteenth Century American cast iron andirons in the form of anchors with schooners on tops were on offer over the week. Exhibiting with great original surface and color with rusty patina, the 20-by-18½-by-10-inch andirons hit all the themes from folk art, to traditional and Victorian.
In the fine art category, Kevin Rita of Garvey Rita Fine Art can usually be found set up next to the Village Braider, a marriage of garden antiques and art reflecting floral and garden imagery. For the virtual show, however, he was wrangling his specialty – contemporary American paintings and works on paper – online. “That show in person has tremendous energy and interest as well as a magnificent setting,” said Rita afterwards. “That is impossible to replicate in a virtual show. But, that being said, I made two sales to new customers, one in New York and one in California.”
Virtual sold stickers, like crocuses, popped up on items as the week progressed. An early sale was a rare group of 63 maple cutouts of Chippendale chair backs, circa 1930s-50s, in their original frames. They were offered by the Period To Mod guys, also known as Tim Brennan and Dave Mouilleseaux, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., who stated in their description, “We’ve never seen anything like this set of three framed groups of stamped maple chair backs. They were almost certainly salesmen’s samples from a furniture manufacturer. The pieces were laid down on board in the 1950s, and put into the oak frames. The detail and the crispness of the cut edges is amazing. What is remarkable is the vast number and variations on the theme of a Chippendale chair.
In addition to the cut-outs, Brennan and Mouilleseaux, who describe their merchandise as “a borderline-pathologically eclectic collection of furniture and objects ranging in date from 1750 to 1980,” sold a 1960s Brutalist/folk art wrought iron torch-cut Ostrich garden planter that was amusing and whimsical. The oval shaped body of the bird was lined with wire and moss to form a planting vessel.
After the show closed, Tim Brennan said, “We did surprisingly well, especially since our previous experiences with virtual shows have been virtually… Although we still have reservations about how the show was presented on the site in terms of its shop-ability, the show performed – at least in the context of the overhead involved. We sold to a couple of new customers, and to a cherished longtime customer who is a designer in Connecticut.”
As for the online preview, Brennan was less sanguine. “There is no understanding preview ambience when it’s there, and certainly none when it’s not,” he said.
Highlights offered by garden antiques specialist Barbara Israel, Katonah, N.Y., included a pair of bronze preening cranes, each standing, one with head held aloft, the other with head looking downward. Created circa 1960, the Asian pair was stickered $1,500 with one crane standing 31½ inches high and the other 25 inches high. Among Israel’s sales was a circa 1950s composition stone pig in a recumbent pose, with its front hooves crossed and ears flopped over its eyes. Also leaving her care was a carved stone recumbent lion, with stylized mane and gentle expression, the proper left front paw draped elegantly over the front proper right paw. From England and the Nineteenth Century, he sported a good, lichened surface and measured 37 by 18 by 19 inches.
For Rayon Roskar, a dealer originally from Switzerland who was doing this show for the third year, it was an opportunity to again showcase his examples of Swiss design. The dealer said his aim is to discover and recover works of designers, artists and creatively skilled craftsmen, particularly the anonymous talents who entertain our imagination and dreams. In 2013, he relocated the firm’s main showroom from Geneva, Switzerland, to Brooklyn N.Y., the new space operating across two levels of a Brooklyn brownstone, dubbed “The Living Gallery.” Here among many items, he showcased a 1930s ceiling lamp by German manufacturer Kandem. The stately industrial factory or street lamp with a 28-inch drop was painted and enameled with its original glass visor. A ceiling mount disk had been added by the dealer to cover a US junction box.
Kingston, N.Y., dealers Judith and James Milne usually create an immersive display with working fountains, stone planters, vases and cascading shelves mounted with a menagerie of cast stone creatures. For the virtual show, their palette was more constrained, but they still managed to engage visitors with objects that, as they said in their profile, were not offered by “your typical design company or antiques store.” Sold was an English cast stone pig that due to its recent creation (1980-1990) was in good overall condition. It had come from a pig farm in Sussex, England. Also on offer was cast stone figural bird bath, priced $785 and depicting a cherub.
Still, some exhibitors apparently ditched any compulsion to bring their usual sensibilities to an online show. Case in point, York, Maine, dealer Bob Withington, who usually takes up a sizable chunk of real estate at the in-person show with an exuberant display of stone planters, fountains, columns, heavy mirrors and the like. For this show, he offered a collection of diminutive pieces – figural flower frogs – much easier and less costly to ship.
For additional information, www.disaiamanagement.com or 860-908-0076.
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