Published: July 15, 2015
by Laura Beach
NEW YORK CITY — The antiques industry is in flux. Shows, especially, have seen audiences wither as sellers search for more cost-effective ways to reach buyers. The foremost domestic presentation of its kind, New York’s Winter Antiques Show, has seemed immune to such trends — until, perhaps, now. Though still blessed with low dealer turnover, the departure of several prominent exhibitors is changing the show’s profile, prompting mild concern among colleagues.
Exhibitors who have confirmed to Antiques and The Arts Weekly that they are not coming back in 2016 include Allan Katz Americana, Associated Artists LLC, Carswell Rush Berlin, Hyland Granby Antiques, Magen H Gallery, Martyn Gregory and Moderne Gallery. Their reasons are varied, and the vacancies will certainly be filled. The fair’s executive director, Catherine Sweeney Singer, said in an email late last week that the show’s 2016 exhibitors list, including new exhibitors, is being finalized and will be announced shortly.
In response to our query, architect David Scott Parker, who is co-principal of Associated Artists LLC with Walter Buck, wrote, “After much thought and consideration, I came to the realization that the show, and the lengthy preparation for it, takes time away from my architectural practice, especially now that so many of our projects are distant and require my traveling extensively.” Associated Artists specializes in museum-quality furniture and decorative arts of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries.
London-based Martyn Gregory, the eminent specialist in China Trade paintings and drawings, wrote, “Yes, very sadly we have decided after 26 years of attendance to leave the Winter Antiques Show. We have had some good years there and made many friends. We think it is time for a new approach and, with this in mind, we are negotiating with a gallery in New York to hold an independent exhibition. This will be in January and will coincide with Master Drawings Week in which we have participated for the last two years.” Gregory added, “I think since the banking crises the market for China Trade pictures in America has been a little slow but, as with many areas in this business, the great items always make their price.”
Back surgery prompted marine arts specialist Alan Granby and his partner, Janice Hyland, to take a leave of absence this year. Hyland Granby Antiques has since decided not to come back. “We’ve quit all shows,” Granby said by phone. “They are getting more expensive and the public’s buying habits are changing. But we are still getting great stuff. We are doing a lot of advertising and we have completely redone our website. We are also busy with our multivolume book, The Holy Grail of Yachting: The Art of the America’s Cup.”
American folk art dealer Allan Katz, whose robust sales have been the envy of his fellow exhibitors, said that, for him and his wife, Penny, the decision was mainly a lifestyle choice. “We’ve worked hard to have choices,” said Katz, who recently turned 69. “This year, we didn’t get out of town until February 24. We’ve rented a place for four months in Arizona in 2016 and are looking forward to coming and going next winter.” Recently named to the American Folk Art Museum’s board of trustees, Katz added, “We’ve had fabulous shows in New York over the past 18 years and will miss East Side.”
Across the aisle from Katz, Classical American furniture and decorative arts specialist Carswell Rush Berlin said he too was bowing out. Citing high costs, high risks and low returns, Berlin plans to focus on strengthening his presence online, where he feels the market has moved. “It’s about allocating scarce marketing dollars as efficiently as possible,” he said. “The people who will form our market over the next ten to 20 years will be shopping online, so we had better be there. It represents a larger audience for a lower price per shopper. We will miss the excitement of the show and our many friends there and wish them all well.”
Best known for furniture by Twentieth Century designers George Nakashima and Wharton Esherick, Moderne Gallery founder Robert Aibel said the Winter Antiques Show had been a disappointing venue for Twentieth Century material. The Philadelphia dealer recently exhibited at Design Miami Basel in Switzerland and participates in its sister show, Design Miami in Florida. Along with New York’s Salon of Art + Design, the three fairs are more productive for him.
“The Winter Show has really only tipped its hat at the Twentieth Century. They haven’t made a commitment to it or promoted it the way they should,” Aibel said. He dismissed the idea that the age of the antiques show is over. “As far as I can tell, large numbers of people primarily shop shows. You don’t reach them on the Internet or find them on 1stdibs.com. They want to see things in person. They like knowing that there are dealers out there who are holding their best things; that, if you don’t go, you’ll miss out.”
The 62nd Winter Antiques Show is planned for January 22–31, at the Park Avenue Armory. The opening night gala is set for January 21.
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