Published: February 14, 2006
Just before 4 pm on Wednesday, January 18, the lobby of the Metropolitan Pavilion on West 18th Street was as lively as a saloon at whistle time. The cause for the excitement was twofold: Martha Stewart was due momentarily and, crucially for collectors, the opening of the 2006 American Antiques Show was minutes away.
After weathering a madcap year at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, the five-year-old fair returned to Chelsea, where it seems likely to remain. Everything about this year’s show clicked: great weather, economy, management, presentation and merchandise, and stupendous esprit de corps among the show’s 44 exhibitors and the show’s organizer, the American Folk Art Museum.
The Metropolitan Pavilion’s intimate scale makes it a perfect setting for the production, at least for those who don’t mind leaving the 10021 zip code. Stewart, who received the museum’s American Spirit Award for her role in educating the public about antiques, spoke warmly and informally to the packed house after receiving a silver bracelet with charms fashioned after folk art in the museum’s collection. The token was created for Stewart by museum chairman emeritus, collector and jeweler Ralph Esmerian. The ceremony, and the festive preview party that followed, was like a close-knit gathering of well-heeled friends from around the country.
“The show’s getting better and better. Both the dealers andthe museum were delighted,” said Barry D. Briskin, who co-chairsthe fair with fellow collector and museum trustee Joan Johnson.When tallied, Briskin said, attendance for the four-day show waslikely to be about 6,000.
Karen DiSaia, the show’s new manager, received high marks all around. Said Briskin, “Karen did a fantastic job. She has a pleasant way of doing business and the ability to focus on what needs to be done.”
“It was unlike anything I’ve ever worked on. I had a good security staff, crew and an active dealer advisory board to work with,” said DiSaia, who also manages the ADA Historic Deerfield Antiques Show, the Minneapolis Institute of Art Antiques Show, the Litchfield Antiques Show and the upcoming Connecticut Spring Antiques Show. DiSaia’s innovations included the redesign of the floor plan to feature five wide aisles and her signature see-through booths. The show was walled around its entire perimeter, providing additional exhibitor display space.
Eight new exhibitors changed the look of the expo, refocusedon classic, blue-chip folk art but widened to include morePennsylvania material.
“A lot of these campaign bandanas came from the late folk art collector Frank Pollack, who displayed them in his office in Chicago,” said Tom Woodard, who, with partner Blanche Greenstein, was doing his first show in a decade. The Manhattan dealers sold a 1904 bandana for Teddy Roosevelt’s campaign. Another treasure was a patriotic World War I quilt top appliquéd with a solider, $16,500, and inscribed “God Bless America – Come On Boys We Got to Go.”
“They’re among my wife Pat’s favorite things. We’ve owned them for at least 25 years,” new exhibitor Rich Garthoeffner of Lititz, Penn., said of Maggie and Jeeves, a pair of carved and painted wooden comic figures that sold on opening night.
Also new to the show, New Oxford, Penn., dealer Kelly Kinzle sold a circa 1740 Massachusetts embroidered coat of arms from a display that included a paint-decorated Pennsylvania corner cupboard and a brilliant, circa 1890, Navajo pictorial rug.
Large and double-sided, a magnificent shellwork sailor’s valentine was $24,500, and a fitted, inlaid captain’s chest, $15,000, at Diana H. Bittel, Bryn Mawr, Penn.
“I’ve never seen so much beautiful burl,” Skinner auctioneerStephen Fletcher said as he toured the floor, taking in S. ScottPowers’ nut brown display. The Brooklyn, N.Y., dealer sold a circa1720 New England chestnut treen charger, ex-collection of DevereCard, the first scholar to write about American treen.
“It’s the best piece here,” folk art dealer David Schorsch, a Winter Antiques Show exhibitor, said of a burl bowl at Trotta-Bono, Shrub Oak, N.Y.
Working with his son, Scott, Pennsylvania dealer Skip Chalfant elevated furniture in his booth so that it might be viewed as sculpture. On his back wall were three Pennsylvania blanket chests. A circa 1780 red, white and blue chest, ex Saturday Evening Post editor George Horace Lorimer, was $65,000.
Nathan Liverant and Son’s well-edited display featured rare artifacts of Connecticut origin, among them a set of four Kneeland & Adams “Hartford State House” chairs, circa 1795, $65,000; a Lebanon corner cupboard, $24,000; and a portrait of the Connecticut-built schooner Alfred Thomas, $95,000, by Jurgen Frederick Huge.
The Colchester, Conn., dealer’s many sales included the”State House” chairs, along with an Avery tall case clock, a QueenAnne highboy, a Gragg chair, a Queen Anne side chair with aheart-pierced splat, lots of small and Liverant’s piece deresistance, an 1810 oval tavern sign decorated with a dove,$65,000.
On opening night, Woodbury, Conn., dealer Don Heller sold a Newport Queen Anne tray-top tea table of circa 1765. His well-stocked stand also contained a Pennsylvania pewter cupboard, $75,000; a Portland Stoneware Company bust of George Washington, $12,000; and a eagle wall plaque attributed to Bellamy, $85,000.
A circa 1860 Uniontown Pottery stoneware crock decorated with the figure of a woman was $42,000 at Raccoon Creek. The Oley, Penn., dealers paired the piece with a Hebron, Conn., blanket, $9,600, embroidered in indigo with the name D.M. Smith, for Delia Smith, and dated 1849.
“There are five known Hebron spreads of this kind,” saiddealer George Allen.
Elsewhere, a sprightly late Eighteenth Century New England Windsor chair combining a comb back and a writing arm was on hold in the booth of Cape Cod exhibitor Brian Cullity. Its exuberant paint dated to around 1830. At South Salem, N.Y, dealer John Keith Russell, a Shaker tall chest was $42,000 and a 53-inch-wide horse weathervane, ex-Barney Barenholtz, was $45,000.
Rustic furniture specialists Cherry Gallery unveiled a Newfoundland sideboard, $12,500, whimsically carved with caribou and floral designs. Across the Damariscotta, Maine, dealer’s back wall was a 13-foot-long bookshelf, $28,500, with a projecting twig cornice. The piece came from a lodge on the Pennsylvania shore of Lake Erie. Cherry Gallery’s opening sales included a pair of yellow birch floor lamps and a brook trout painting.
“We had a terrific preview night and were pleased with attendance and sales through the week,” said New Hampshire dealer Russ Goldberger, who sold decoys, including shore birds and Crowell miniatures; a set of eight, circa 1935, penguins, plus another single carving, by Charles Hart; a Harris horse and sulky weathervane; and a W.M. White Company of Bristol, N.H., trade sign. Goldberger also had interest in his oversized Cushing & White Dexter running horse weathervane and a carved and painted squirrel plaque.
“We did great,” said Woodbridge, Conn., dealer Allan Katz,ticking off his many sales: a monumental tramp art frame composedof 20,000 pieces of red and white cedar; an optician’s trade sign;a countertop tobacco figure; a circa 1875 carved and painted eagleand shield; and an African American carved and painted animatedtoy.
“This is becoming an important show for American Indian material,” observed Katz, with a nod to his colleagues Trotta-Bono, Marcy Burns, David Cook and Brant Mackley. Zia Pueblo pottery from New Mexico starred at both Trotta-Bono and Marcy Burns. Burns offered an extremely early Zia pictorial jar, $26,500, of 1820, ex-collection of noted dealer-collector Al Luckett. A late classic Second/Third Phase Navajo blanket, circa 1865, covered the back wall at David Cook, Denver.
“I’ve been accumulating Odd Fellows material for some time because it’s a neglected art form,” said Allan Daniel, who bought a collection of brilliantly carved and painted sculptures en suite from Michigan dealer Tim Hill. The pieces came from Odd Fellows Lodge 195 in Greenville, Ind., organized in 1852.
Hill Gallery’s outstanding presentation included a carved and gilded wooden Great Seal of New Jersey, $48,000, circa 1825; a Howard horse weathervane, $65,000; and a nearly 6-foot-long heron confidence decoy, $95,000.
“It’s a wonderful convergence of art and science,” said Mainedealer Andrew Flamm, whose interest in vernacular photography ledhim to a collection of magic lantern slides of snow crystals,$9,500, captured by W.A. “Snowman” Bentley of Jericho, Vt. OddFellows’ centerpiece was a circa 1876 carved limestone sculpture ofa Cherokee Indian woman, Nancy Ward, 441/4 inches tall.
Ricco/Maresca featured two pairs of sculpture dogs: iron Great Danes, $48,000, and a pair of zinc poodles, $38,000.
Greg Kramer displayed monumental murals and a wood carving of George Washington on horseback by Noah Weiss of Lehigh, Penn., $68,000. The Lahaska, Penn., dealer sold a cast iron trade sign for the Cincinnati Stove Works and a falcon weathervane on opening night.
Found in Chicago, a circa 1945 tin man presided at Harvey Antiques of Evanston, Ill. Tin figures were made as advertising pieces in the mid-Twentieth Century.
Itinerant portrait painter Ammi Phillips was at the top of his form at Sam Herrup’s, where Phillips’ circa 1829 portrait, $195,000, of Abigail Adams Hoag reigned supreme. The beautiful likeness, formerly on loan to San Francisco’s De Young Museum, survives with a companion portrait of Abigail’s mother, Olivia Kimberly Adams. Another highlight in the Massachusetts dealer’s display was a Maine blanket chest, $14,000, with crisply stylized paint.
Asheville, N.C., dealer Charlton Bradsher combined Africansculpture and a vividly decorated Pennsylvania settee with a circa1930 oil on canvas portrait of an African American man, signedMcCall.
American paintings specialist Jeff Cooley devoted a wall to works by Carroll Beckwith (1852-1917), the landscape, portrait and genre artist. A psychologically charged portrait of a seminude, kimono-clad Evelyn Nesbit, whose affair with Stanford White led to the architect’s murder by her husband, Harry Thaw, was $65,000.
Fleisher-Ollman Gallery’s provocative exhibit, anchored by a 123-inch-long Henry Darger colored drawing, was nearly sold out by show’s end.
“Attendance and sales were terrific, and I’m in a position to know,” said Amy Finkel, whose booth faced the show entrance. The Philadelphia dealer sold nearly 20 pieces of needlework, among them a West Haven, Conn., silk embroidery accompanied by a miniature on ivory; a Glastonbury, Conn., family memorial; a 1724 English band sampler; samplers from Cincinnati and Philadelphia; and a few Quaker pieces.
“We gave out a ton of cards and had a couple of more sale atour shop,” confirmed the dealer.
The show’s other sampler dealer, Van Tassel Baumann of Malvern, Penn., sold a pair of Quaker samplers by Lydia Barger and a Lehigh Valley, Penn., woolwork picture from a booth that included a circa 1830 Berks County, Penn., pastoral sampler, $27,500, by Catherine Roland.
The flowers looked so fresh you could pick them on Jackie Radwin’s mid-Nineteenth Century Pennsylvania table cover, $32,000, of black wool appliqued with three-dimensional blooms in a rainbow of colors.
Classic hooked rugs dominated at Elliott and Grace Snyder, where a circa 1885 textile embellished with two birds and two horses by Magdalina Briner was a quick sell.
Stella Rubin’s bull’s eye quilt from Lenhartsville, Penn., was $9,500.
“The 2006 American Antiques Show had great material and lots of energy,” said dealer Stephen Score, who parted with game boards, paintings, furniture and an African American quilt that the Massachusetts dealer called “as good as any contemporary painting.”
“This was our best show ever,” concluded Barry Briskin. “I just wish I had more money to spend on folk art.”
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