Published: December 9, 2008
The aircraft-carrier-cum-military museum Intrepid was back at its berth on Manhattan’s West Side and so was Stella Show Mgmt Co.’s Pier Antiques Show. Irene Stella and her capable staff returned to the Passenger Ship Terminals on November 15 and 16 to present the popular fall edition of the megamarket, filling up Piers 94 and 92 with 600 “motivated” dealers offering everything from classic and formal antiques, Americana and Twentieth Century Modern to vintage fashions and collectibles.
There were a couple of novel aspects to this two-day show †vintage fashions and collectibles expanded into their own space as Fashion Alley. Long a popular subcategory, couture dominated Pier 92. Stella Shows literally rolled out the red carpet down the center of the pier, grouping vintage fashions for men and women on the left and toys, dolls and collectibles on the right.
The other show innovation was made manifest in both printed advertising and a preshow email delivered to about 4,000 inboxes by show management listing “great buys, bargains and super collections,” with many dealers on both piers presenting up to 50 percent off and other specials for the weekend.
The how and when surrounding these bargains was left up to the individual dealer. For example, Ron and Joyce Bassin of A Bird in Hand Antiques, Florham Park, N.J., decided to mark down a whimsical Grenfell rug depicting walruses from $4,400 to $2,200. These popular textiles made by Grenfell Labrador Industries in Newfoundland from dyed silk stockings are eagerly collected, and this example from circa 1930 was especially endearing and attractive. The advertised discount worked for the Bassins, as the “Walrus on Ice Floe” rug sold within the first few minutes of the show’s opening. “You have to try everything,” said a satisfied Ron Bassin.
Sharon, Conn., Americana dealer Tom O’Hara of Easter Hill Antiques took a somewhat different tack. He determined that the first customer in his booth would be entitled to approximately a 50 percent discount on anything he or she wanted to buy. In this case, it turned out to be a Navajo rug, approximately 4 by 7 feet that O’Hara valued at $3,000. It went out of the booth at $1,600.
Over on Fashion Alley, Ron and Alice Lindholm had set up multiple tables of items †all $50 and under for holiday gifts, including new old stock printed and striped kitchen towels, mostly from the 1950s, going for $10․20, cashmere scarves for $30․35 and other holiday items. Their Manhattan-based business, known as Right to the Moon Alice, is devoted to giving new life to old items, and the Lindholms were in sync with the Stellas in trying new approaches to also pump new life into the antiques and vintage collectibles market.
“Certainly the Stella show management had a challenge to bring people through the door and entice them to spend those shaky dollars,” said Alice Lindholm. “In addition, the grand opening of Pier 92 as Fashion Alley needed to coax people out of the old routine and inspire them to move forward into a new venue. Naturally, there were bumps in the road, but, all things considered, the public came and they did part with that hard-earned cash. Ron and I had a good show even though we did sense an extended thought process before the average customer made a decision to buy. Our cashmere bin sold out within the first two hours of the show, which provided steady business all day, both days, with sales reflecting that same pattern.”
Lindholm remarked that her favorite sale was “a gorgeous black sparkly custom-made gown from the early 1960s sold to Martin Pakledinaz of Broadway design fame. He is beginning work on The Lena Horne Story , and this gown proved to be the winning combination of subtle elegance with enough punch for the stage. Ironically, the original owner was also a club singer in the 1950s and 1960s, and the gown was one of her performance pieces †the cycle is complete.”
Irene Stella said she was inspired to try “something different” after reading an antiques trade journal editorial that exhorted dealers to counter current economic woes by being creative in marketing their merchandise. Some dealers were less receptive to the idea of discounting their “treasures,” some even shaking their heads disapprovingly and stating categorically that they would never advertise markdowns on items they displayed in their booths.
Whether “dealing” or not, however, exhibitors returned with the show’s usual eclectic mix of Americana, classical and formal furniture, Twentieth Century design furniture and accessories, vintage fashions, paintings, prints, art objects, quilts and textiles, jewelry, ceramics and more.
And, aside from the innovations discussed above, the show presented a familiar floor plan †Americana and decorative arts commanding most of Pier 94’s central aisles. On the left, classical and formal held sway, with Twentieth Century Modern staking claim to the right, but spilling over next to Americana.
Among Americana dealers, Carole Ann Hart Antiques of Redding, Conn., brought an example of her signature British campaign furniture, an early Nineteenth Century two-piece chest, circa 1830, made of mahogany with the characteristic inset brass drawer pulls. Hart, too, was participating in dealer discounts, offering an English mahogany serpentine front chest-on-chest, circa 1920, that she had marked down from $5,500 to $3,500.
Showcased at Firehouse Antiques of Galena, Md., was an oil on canvas painting by New York artist Mark Kostabi (b 1960) titled “The Factory,” dated 1985 and paying homage to Andy Warhol’s famous Pop art enterprise. Kostabi himself runs an art factory utilizing teams of assistants. His surreal paintings are in such museums as the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
York, Maine, dealer Bob Withington was set up in his usual spot with a large booth anchoring the 2400 aisle. Large farm house windows that he had salvaged from a Rye, N.H., home constituted the end “walls” of his booth †and they were already sold early on opening day and would be shipped to the buyer at show’s end. Notable furniture on offer included a stick wicker set from northern Maine, circa 1940s, comprising a settee, table and three armchairs. A leaded glass window of Picasso’s “Three Musicians,” signed Leopold and dated 1967, was priced at $4,800. Other highlights included an Italian marquetry inlay bombe chest with three drawers, circa 1900, and an aluminum alloy unattributed figural sculpture from a museum deacquisition sale in 1985.
Oriental rugs were plentiful at Fardin Antique Rugs. Fairfield, Conn., dealer Biuk Fardin was showing a Turkish antique Oushak, circa 1910, all wool with vibrant original vegetable dye colors, measuring 13 feet 6 inches by 11 feet 2 inches. An Agra from India, circa 1880, 8½ by 6½ feet, and an antique Caucasian, circa 1900, were also standouts.
Bud Wein and Bob Ketelhut from West Bloomfield, Mich., were set up at the show as Oakland Art & Antiques. In a booth bristling with folky Americana, they highlighted a full-height cigar store figure of Minnehaha, the fictional Native American heroine made famous in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 epic poem “The Song of Hiawatha” and the muse of Minneapolis, Minn. The wood sculpture had been made around the turn of the century by an unknown artist, according to Ketelhut. Also getting a great deal of interest was a pair of pastel on paper portraits of a butcher and seamstress, pre-1840s, according to Ketelhut, in original frames.
Competing with the Modernism show being conducted over at the Park Avenue Armory that same weekend was Stella’s roster of Twentieth Century Modern dealers with scads of Art Deco, Moderne and Twentieth Century furnishings, lighting, paintings and decorative accessories. Don Selkirk drew attention to his collection †Past Pleasures Moderne, Annandale, Va. † with a full-size store campaign sculpture of the Art Deco goddess herself, “Clarette,” from the 1950s‶0s holding her characteristic globe aloft. Furniture included a pair of 1930s walnut end tables that had been restored, and an interesting and rare item was a sleek custom decorative fireplace from the 1940s that had been rescued from an upstate New York estate.
Tom Gibbs Studio came down from Boston with his inventory of Midcentury Modern furniture and accessories by well-known designers. Pulsating with sharp lime green color was a classic vintage Womb Chair and Ottoman by Eero Saarinen for Knoll American, designed 1948, 39 inches wide by 37 inches deep by 36 inches high. A rosewood five-drawer chest by George Nelson for Herman Miller, circa 1950s, was a highlight, and lighting included a crafted large pottery lamp by Technics, circa 1960s.
A “snapshot” of the diverse items that cross the block at Rago Arts & Auction Center was on view on a side wall of the Lambertville, N.J., dealer. Displayed were a Gustav Stickley early oversized server (no. 955) from the collection of Alexandra and Sidney Sheldon with plate rack, chamfered sides and large faceted knobs, and upon it a Claire Falkenstein fusion sculpture of welded copper and fused Venetian glass. An oil on canvas, untitled, 1972, by Ludwig Sander (American, 1906‱975) glowed yellow and green on the wall above the server, and there was a whimsical Edward Zucca sculptural lamp, “Tolstoy or TV Guide,” 2006, in mahogany, brass, copper, aluminum, plexiglass and Masonite.
“We sold Arts and Crafts furniture, which is an extremely rare occurrence for us,” said Rago’s Suzanne Perrault, referring to the Gustav Stickley server, which the dealer sold in the $10,000․15,000 range. “We sold Natzler pottery, Hansen silver, a French mahogany bookshelf/room-divider, Belgian pottery and Newcomb College. It was wonderful seeing how crowded and busy the show was. There was a buzz to it I haven’t seen there for years.”
As usual, classical and formal antiques could be found within a large section of the show located to the left of the entrance to Pier 94. The Ivory Tower, Ridgewood, N.J., with Marvin and Matt Baer presiding over a collection of Oriental and European porcelain antiques, specializes in Japanese Satsuma and was showcasing a pair of artist-signed vases by Kinkozan, circa 1890‱900. What made them exceptional were their quality, shape and form, according to Matt Baer, who said that usually the gold decoration was applied to a cobalt ground, but in this case it was black. Depicting court scenes and mythological figures, the 12½-by-4½-inch vases stood on their original rosewood stands. Japanese porcelain in Imari, Arita, Kutani and Kyoto styles, along with cloisonné, were also among the Ivory Tower’s inventory.
Clarice Cliff pottery, the bold, colorful English Art Deco wares from 1927 to 1939, has its fan base, and the dealer with best examples at the show was Cara Antiques, the business of Constance and Richard Aronosian of Langhorne, Penn. Among the desirable forms on display †the Aronosians deal only in the pottery made between 1928 and 1937 †was Honolulu Lotus vase, a handsome 12-inch example in a popular pattern greatly in demand, and a rare Isis 10-inch-tall example. Conical teapots on view included styles ranging from Sunrise, Trees and House, Butterfly, Circle Trees and the rare Cowslip.
Cara also offers English majolica, but so does Charles Washburne. The Solebury, Penn., dealer, just a few booths away, had some prime George Jones examples, including a pudding charger of nesting birds, holly and mistletoe, circa 1870, that was clearly a holiday piece. “Better things are holding their value,” said Washburne when asked about the state of the majolica market. A rare George Jones turquoise majolica Kingfisher Stilton cheese keeper, circa 1870, lived up to that assessment, priced at $23,000, as did the most rare Minton majolica Beehive Stilton cheese keeper, also circa 1870, with a $58,875 sticker. Washburne said he has seen two such examples in 26 years.
“It was great to have more focus put on the vintage clothing aspect at the show,” said New York City-based dealer Joe Sundlie of the move to give Fashion Alley its own home on Pier 92. “We, the vintage dealers, were well represented at every price point,” Sundlie said. “In today’s financial market, the consumer is still able to buy top-notch designer clothing at affordable prices.”
Among the hot designs at Joe Sundlie’s Vintedge were a 1980s jewelry “dress” by David Mandel and an Yves St Laurent sarong from the 1970s in 100 percent silk. “I find at these shows a designer, a stylist, a housewife and a collector can all find something special,” said Sundlie. “The hunt for that perfect piece or the chance of finding something unexpected can be very exciting.”
Collectibles were also getting increased visibility with the move to put such dealers under one roof. “I thought the show went quite well,’ said Sharon Wendrow of Memory Lane Antiques, Bayside, N.Y. “For a first-time event, I thought the presentation was excellent, and it was a nice mix of dealers. I sincerely hope everyone hangs in there, because it will take a couple of shows for everyone to bring the collectibles part of the Pier show back to its former glory.”
Wendrow noted that there was a lot of interest and sales in the World’s Fair category. “We also sold a Howdy Doody doll from our display in the front of the Pier to a lovely lady and her husband. She was buying it for her brother, who had lost his as a child, and really wanted to replace him. Nothing says ‘baby boomer’ childhood like Howdy Doody. This is to be a great Christmas gift.”
The Piers Antiques Show returns March 14‱5. For information, 973-808-5015 or www.stellashows.com .
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