Published: February 4, 2003
By Laura Beach, photos by R. Scudder Smtih
NEW YORK CITY — Whether is new or old depends on who you ask. Either way, this infant successor to what used to be the Fall Antiques Show is well on its way to maturity. In its second year at the at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, the January 15-19 fair presented some of the best American country furniture and folk art on the market in a relaxed, intimate setting. Opening night attendance was up, collectors traveled to the show from all over the country and exhibitors were pleased with sales.
Credit for the success goes to the American Folk Art Museum, which runs the event in conjunction with Keeling Wainright Associates.
“We are the producers, owners and managers,” said Alice J. Hoffman, the show’s executive director, who doubles as the American Folk Art Museum’s director of licensing. Developing the fair has become a year-round projeConn. In fact, one change has already been made for next time: the show will close an hour earlier on Friday night, when attendance lulled.
This year’s extensive advertising campaign was accompanied by an expanded schedule of walking tours, luncheons, talks, appraisal sessions and a very well-attended Young Collectors’ night on Thursday.
“The walking tours with experts are the most popular. Next year, I think we’ll have more group activities, to bring in groups from other states and communities,” said Hoffman.
In lieu of signs, which are forbidden on the facade of the landmarked exhibition hall on West 18th Street in Chelsea, a tout dressed as a sequined Uncle Sam beckoned visitors in off the street. And for the first time, the show enjoyed an honorary chairman, Paige Rense, editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest. An interior designers’ committee helped draw decorators to the fair.
One thing that is not likely to change is the number of exhibitors. By limiting the expo to between 45 and 49 dealers, organizers have maintained both the quality and focus of the show, which achieves a balanced emphasis on furniture, painting, sculpture, textiles and metalware.
No one was in a better position to watch events unfold than Amy and Morris Finkel, who occupied what is sometimes called the “breeze-by” booth at the entrance. The breezes were favorable for the Philadelphia needlework specialists.
“The show couldn’t have been better for us,” said Amy Finkel, whose many sales included a large Folwell School silk embroidery entitled “The Parting of Hector and Andromache,” circa 1810.
Furniture sales were also up from a year ago. “People didn’t expect to see us here last year,” explained Arthur Liverant, who this year had no trouble selling an extensive set of figured maple side chairs and a banister back armchair with a pierced crest, thought to be a Wethersfield-Avon, Conn., variation of a heart-and-crown chair. The William and Mary example dated to 1735-40.
There were two architectural corner cupboards with lots of stylish details to choose from. The Liverants’ piece had a fan carving and fluted backboards. From Portsmouth, N.H., circa 1790-1810, it was $20,000.
Amherst, N.H., dealers Mark and Marjorie Allen offered a North Shore, Mass., example with dentil molding across its elaborate cornice and fluted pilasters, $37,500.
“We sell high country furniture,” said Lincoln Sander, for whom sales both years have been good. The Sandy Hook, Conn., dealer parted with a Litchfield County Chippendale chest of drawers with quarter columns and ball and claw feet. Still on offer was a Queen Anne tea table by Samuel Sewall of York, Maine, $16,500.
Jeff Cherry, a Pine Plains, N.Y., dealer in rustic furniture who is handling the estate of Adirondack furniture collector Dr Richard Marrus of Hemlock Ledges on Tupper Lake, featured an outstanding burl and twig trimmed fall front desk, $48,000, made in Blue Mountain Lake, circa 1880. Just prior to the show, Cherry sold an eight-piece suite made circa 1912 by James Champney for Birch Cottage in the Adirondacks.
“I sold ten pieces on preview night,” said tramp art specialist Clifford Wallach, whose centerpiece was a chip-carved clock tower of about 1930. Inspired by the New York skyline, the sculpture was $38,000.
Perhaps a unique example, a Shaker spider leg stand with a square top in old or original red stain was $55,000 at John Keith Russell, South Salem, N.Y. The circa 1850 piece was made in New Lebanon, N.Y.
A dishtop candlestand was among early sales at Elliott and Grace Snyder. The South Egremont, Mass., dealers also featured a superb early paint decorated dressing table from South Paris, Maine, circa 1820-30, $17,500.
The most vivid piece of furniture on the floor undoubtedly belonged to Allan and Penny Katz of Connecticut. Lipstick red with a sky-blue interior, the step back cupboard from Wayne County, Ohio, circa 1840, cost $145,000. Opening night sales for the dealers included a Civil War portrait pitcher of African American soldier and a California golden grizzly bear overdoor carving.
Folk art, of course, is the American Antique Show’s bread and butter. Massachusetts dealer David Wheatcroft, the underbidder on the Sheldon Peck double portrait that brought $647,500 at Christie’s on January 17, sold his own Peck — a portrait of a young girl, probably from New York State, circa 1830 — along with a face jug, two large trade signs, a carving of lamb, a William Kennedy portrait of a boy and two fraktur.
Perhaps the most spectacular folk art on the floor was the set of 15 paintings on plaster by Rufus Porter, offered by Heller Washam Antiques for $650,000. From the Dr Francis Howe House in Westwood, Mass., the signed examples are illustrated in Jean Lipman’s book, Yankee Pioneer. Heller-Washam, incidentally, was the source of the Porter-decorated room for sale uptown at the Winter Antiques Show in Wayne Pratt’s booth. Kim Washam said Pratt’s group, $265,000, cameout of a house in Westbrook, Maine.
Another Sheldon Peck portrait turned up at Schillay Fine Art. New York dealer Richard Schillay also unveiled Erastus Salisbury Field’s circa 1860, “The Garden of Eden,” $95,000. Two other versions of this painting are at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
“It’s been great,” said Pennsylvania folk art specialist Sidney Gecker, who sold several weathervanes, including an unusual banner vane fashioned as a pointing hand, ex-collection of Edith Halpert, and a Nineteenth Century door from a Wells Fargo office. A superb Center County, Penn., blanket chest decorated with an eagle and a shield anchored his stand. Another dealer known for Pennsylvania wares, James Kilvington of Delaware, displayed a paint decorated dower chest, from Dauphin County, $19,500.
Weathervanes were big sellers all over town. Jeffrey Tillou of Litchfield, Conn., parted with a rarer large running horse attributed to Cushing & White, Waltham, Mass., circa 1870. He also displayed a large horse and sulky vane attributed to Fiske, New York, circa 1865-75.
Judith and James Milne’s kinetic exhibit combined a large Rochester trade sign of a man riding a high wheeler with a pair of large, jointed primitive horses, probably made for tack shop. The radiating graphics of a braided rug echoed the spokes of a colorful game wheel on the wall.
Other outstanding pieces of sculpture included a carved eagle, possibly by Rush of Philadelphia or Henry J. Pennington of New Bedford, Mass., $145,000 at Raccoon Creek; and a late Nineteenth Century policeman whirligig, $85,000, at Ricco/Maresca.
Decoy specialist Stephen O’Brien, who tendered the winning bid of $801,500 on behalf of a client for an Elmer Crowell pintail drake at Christie’s on January 18, sold his centerpieces, Frank Weston Benson’s “Red Heads in Flight,” an oil on canvas of 1916, and rig of four curlew attributed to Charles Frederick Coffin (1835-1919) of Nantucket.
Three well-known firms specializing in Native American art added unprecedented depth in this category. Ted Trotta and Anna Bono, Shrub Oak, N.Y., featured an impressive selection of late Eighteenth Century engraved Penobscot powder horns, the most of expensive of which was $30,000, and carved effigy pipes, including an Eighteenth Century Eastern Woodlands example, $55,000. Santa Fe dealer Will Channing’s circa 1890 Zuni olla, $25,000, was decorated with a deer with heart line and a rain bird.
First-time exhibitor David Cook of Denver, Colo., displayed a classic saltillo serape, a rare Eighteenth Century Mexican weaving in outstanding condition, $85,000, and the best Germantown pictorial weaving this reviewer remembers seeing. Vivid in color but subtle in design, the circa 1885 textile, $45,000, depicts a partially completed Navajo rug on an upright loom.
There were more brilliant textiles at Odd Fellows Antiques, where Andrew Flamm and Michelle Hauser unveiled two lively, improvisational African American quilts, $6,500 and $5,500. The Maine dealers paired the quilts with a suite of folky cottage furniture, $145,000, from American Beach, a African American resort in Florida.
Stella Rubin, Potomac, Md., sold a dated sampler quilt of exuberant design and Pennsylvania origin. At Hill Gallery, Michigan, an Ohio Amish quilt, all wool and dating to the early Twentieth Century, was the backdrop for an arresting sculpture of a girl in blue dress, $38,000, illustrated in Ricco/Maresca’s classic book, American Primitive.
Delaware dealer Jan Whitlock showed a shirred rug, a painterly rendition of a basket of flowers dating to about 1830, with what suggested its reverse image, a black fireboard decorated with a white basket of flowers, New England, 1840, $45,000. A “Reel” pattern patchwork quilt made of early chintzes and dating to 1820-30 was $15,000.
Exceptional ceramics included John Sideli’s collection of 32 blown glass bottles in graduated sizes and different colors, $35,000; Sam Herrup’s rare Southern face jug, $19,500; and the Midwestern stoneware four-gallon jug comically decorated in cobalt with a profile portrait at David Good and Sam Forsythe of Ohio.
“I’ve done incredibly well. I’ve used all my backup merchandise,” said Connecticut dealer Mary Sams, echoing what, happily, was a common experience at this year’s American Antiques Show.
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