Published: January 31, 2017
Review and Photos by W.A. Demers
NEW YORK CITY – Blessed is the show promoter who can count on a predictable venue. To be able to mount an event in the same familiar space year after year with known qualities and quantities of square footing, lighting, HVAC, adjacent parking, etc, is truly a gift, mitigating all the other imponderables that can affect the outcome ‑ weather, competing distractions, the mood of the buying public.
Such was not the lot handed to chief executive officer and promoter Dee Dee Sides of D’Amore Promotion’s NYC Big Flea Antiques Market. Just as anticipation was growing for Antiques Week in New York City, she learned that she would have to move her Big Flea show from the Lexington Avenue Armory to the Manhattan Center Hammerstein Ballroom at 311 West 34th Street. The change in location was reportedly caused by lead toxicity in the armory that was recently discovered, forcing the building’s closure.
Not only this, but the show also had to change its original dates of January 20-22, to an opening date of Thursday, January 19, closing on January 21, as there were no Sunday hours available at this location.
Amazingly, all of this disarray did not significantly harm the show, which, thanks to the date change, meant that it would open hours before the venerable Winter Antiques Show uptown. True, the roster of dealers was essentially halved as the Hammerstein Ballroom and a lower level space accommodated just about 70 exhibits, but the three days of selling did not miss a beat from an enthusiastically packed opening at 1 pm on Thursday to the last slip written up on Saturday evening.
The premise of the Big Flea show – there are others hosted by D’Amore Promotions in D.C. and Virginia Beach – is the lure of spending the day on a treasure hunt for vintage clothing, estate jewelry, furniture, fine art, silver and the kinds of decorative collectibles whose affordable prices can furnish a millennial’s apartment or suburban nest.
Americana dealer Tom Clark from Francestown, N.H., had corralled some choice Eighteenth-Twentieth Century furniture, folk art and decorative accessories for this show, which he characterized as “good, considering the change in venue, the change in time and the [women’s] march on Saturday.” He said afterward that he sold many things and had great interest in others. Among his sales were a pair of industrial lamps, an Eighteenth Century Italian frame, an early weathervane, jade jewelry, a WPA sign (which, he added, “I could have sold several times”), a pair of blackamoor arms, a folk art cane, signs, a prayer board, a Nineteenth Century ship painting by a listed artist, an unusual Twentieth Century carved clown and more.
Garnering a lot of interest were some early steam-powered model boats, circa 1900s, and a remarkable survivor in the form of a Revolutionary War-era drum. “I look forward to returning to New York next January,” said the dealer.
Unlike the typical beige-box venue, the Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center, while having an elegant appearance and excellent acoustics, exhibits all the quirkiness of a performance space when it comes to setting up a show. It has an interesting history, being constructed in 1906 by Oscar Hammerstein I to house his Manhattan Opera Company, which was a rival to the Metropolitan Opera. Four years later, the Metropolitan Opera reportedly paid Hammerstein $1.2 million to stop operating the building as an opera venue for ten years. From that time forward, it has been used for a variety of events, including this year’s NYC Big Flea show when D’Amore was forced to find an alternate site from the planned armory space.
Said Judith and James Milne, New York City dealers of Americana, “We have to give credit to Dee Dee of the NY Big Flea as she worked hard to make this show happen when the armory canceled us just two weeks or so before the show. She could have used her insurance and just canceled the show, but she knew we all needed a January show. That being said, it was a new place and a not very well-known place etc. All in all, though, we’re grateful we had the show and a presence in the very important Antiques Week.”
The Milnes, who had a commanding and attractively decorated booth at the show’s entrance, reported sales across the board of mostly folk art, as that is what they brought, and mostly to their usual collector clients. Among the slips they wrote up were for three weathervanes, cat andirons, a carved owl, a great game board, a couple of watercolors by Raymond Davidson of the 1980s Mets, a cast iron pig and a goose carving. Americana buffs who missed the Big Flea do not have to wait until next January to avail themselves of the Milnes’ eye for good quality early furniture and décor as the couple’s daughter Rebekah runs the At Home Antiques shop in Kingston, N.Y.
Tucked into a booth on the left side of the ballroom near the stage, collectibles and decorative arts dealer Roslyn Raphan presented a mix of jewelry and fashion accessories, including a great vintage Hermes bag prominently displayed in her showcase. Afterward she said, “The show was very well attended, especially on opening day and the final day. I had to get help to handle the crowd, all charging in the booth at the same time. Customers were happy to have a show back in the city and expressed their pleasure. My sales were largely midrange, where they seemed comfortable, although there were a few at $1,000. A favorite piece was a pair of 1940s Cartier sterling candlesticks, which were spotted by a discerning buyer on the first day.”
Also among the dealers doing well at the show were American art pottery dealers Arnie and Barbara Gerr from Galloway, N.J. A highlight was a George Ohr bisque free flow vessel with his signature, but the dealers, members of the American Art Pottery Association, had plenty of more traditional forms from names like Roseville, Weller, Newcomb College, Rookwood, Fulper and Teco. “We were very pleased with our NYC Big Flea Antique Market Show,” they said. “There was a good, enthusiastic crowd for the Thursday opening and a steady crowd Friday and especially Saturday. Attendees at the show seemed to be interested in everything from our vintage art pottery, including Arts and Crafts pieces, to Midcentury Modern pieces. We sold numerous Roseville and Weller vases, as well as a couple great Newcomb College pieces, a large George Ohr vessel and a few Midcentury Modern vases. We were excited to be back in New York for a show, and Dee Dee Sides and her staff put together a wonderful venue for us to sell at.”
For information, 917-301-7708 or www.nycbigflea.com.
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