Published: February 27, 2007
The New York Design Fair, a fresh and exhilarating event promoted by Wendy Management, has created a niche in the Manhattan market by focusing its attention as much, if not more, on design as it does on antiques. In just its third year, the Design Fair, February 8–11, has found its footing with management touting the “best attendance we have seen in ages,” and “very, very strong buying” recorded.
The Design Show is the brainchild of producer Meg Wendy, although this was the first time that she assumed the sole responsibility for management duties, the result of Diane Wendy retiring from the everyday business affairs at Wendy Management at the end of 2006. With creative director Lou Marotta providing a guiding eye since the show’s inception, and Cal Wendy providing assistance, the show was upbeat and eclectic.
“The concept behind the show is to blur boundaries,” stated Wendy after the show, “to teach people how to successfully mix and match styles. We are not promoting antiques, Modernism or Contemporary. What we are doing is promoting style and design and we are showing people how to achieve it using a mix of disciplines, old and new.”
“There are no rules here,” stated one enthusiastic exhibitor, an exciting aspect echoed by other exhibitors around the floor. The lack of rules not only allows, but encourages, dealers to bring an eclectic mix of materials that can range from ancient artifacts to cutting-edge items produced so recently that the paint is barely dry.
With so many antiques and art shows taking place in the armory, some featuring items that are routinely offered in the high six- and seven-figure range, the Design Fair provides local shoppers with a unique and affordable perspective regarding home furnishing. The show was colorful and captivating, stimulating the senses of attendees.
“People love it,” stated Wendy. “It’s sexy, its edgy, and there is great quality, but it is quality at a different price point” than is normally seen at this Park Avenue venue.
The Design Fair opened with a preview party, a benefit for ALS, that was attended by an upbeat crowd. Management reported healthy crowds and good sales continued throughout the show.
Four sponsors set up displays in the entranceway to the show creating vignettes of a chic lifestyle, each echoing the themes Wendy has infused into the Design Fair. Bill Blass’s space was titled “The Beach” and it portrayed swank furnishings and classic couture that screamed of warmer climates. Italian clothing and firearms manufacturing firm Beretta took advantage of “The Mountains” theme by displaying lodge-style furnishings, including a pair of chairs constructed of elk horns.
Easily construed as flagships for the Design Fair, the three booths that faced patrons as they entered the exhibition area presented stellar displays. Art Deco offered by Frederick Victoria & Son greeted patrons as they entered the fair; off to the right was a stylish selection of Modern by Greg Nanamura and to the left an eye-awakening selection of “green” contemporary offered by Tucker Robbins.
Frederick Victoria’s space was particularly attractive with an alluring mix of Deco and midcentury pieces including an important Dutch “de Styl” period bookcase cabinet with an usual design consisting of a glazed midsection with open cabinets on each side and upper cabinets with inlaid and carved blind doors flanking a central shelf above. The base was elaborately carved and embellished with ornate brass hardware. The case piece, circa 1905, was described by the dealer as possessing an “all encompassing design energy that shows the ‘de Styl’ design period at its best,” $32,000.
A German Art Deco sideboard also graced Victoria’s booth. Extensively inlaid with stylized floral designs by Womer and Kieder of Hamburg, $38,000, it was attracting interest, as was the hammered copper and brass Jugendstil Period punch bowl, $3,800, whose design was attributed to J.M. Olbrich, circa 1905. Giving the booth a whimsical look was a set of six modern laminated plywood chairs by an unknown maker that had been cleverly mounted on the wall in a variety of positions, adding to their sculptural appeal, $7,000 each.
Right next door was the booth of Tucker Robbins with a contemporary offering of “green” earthy furnishings whose designs had been influenced by a naturalistic movement. The low biomorphic chairs that occupied the right side of the stand had been carved from single chunks of wood, taking full advantage of grain, knots and irregularities. The selection also included a monumental slab table, stools, wall mounted stands and a series of spherical sculptures. Setting a stark contrast was a set of three hollowed cube seats, and a colorful patchwork-style geometric painting. Providing a message to showgoers, visually from the aspects of both form and function, was a large flat screen monitor on the wall that looked perfectly at home.
The early to mid-Twentieth Century offering by Greg Nanamura featured classic examples of Paul Frankl and other key designers. A highlight of the booth was the two-part corner table and serpentine sofa in a rich cream-colored upholstery that had been designed by Harvey Probber, circa 1950. The mahogany corner table conformed to the biomorphic shaped back of the sofa and, according to the dealer, had almost been separated from the set when Nanamura was in the process of purchasing it from the original owner. “They had always used the table elsewhere in the house and they never realized that the two pieces were made to work as a single unit,” he said. Now back together as originally designed, they made a powerful design statement, especially when accentuated by the Franz Hagenauer carved wood horse head sculpture that was displayed on the sofa table.
A Frankl cabinet, in dark wood with accenting nickel hardware, circa 1940, had been made by Brown Saltman and was marked $5,500. Nicely displayed atop the cabinet was an attractive pair of carved alabaster lamps, circa 1940, that were marked $2,800.
Setting the pace among the abstract contemporary art exhibitions in the show was Olyvia Oriental Ltd, London, whose booth was filled with a small army of cast terra cotta warriors, each uniquely painted by Liu Fenghua. While some of the terse figures made political statements, all were decorated in a playful manner mimicking iconic Twentieth Century artists. Some were painted with Warhol-like images, including the blood red figure painted with the face of Argentine-born Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara; another pink warrior was decorated with Marilyn Monroe effigies and her name abstractly spelled across the figure.
Cutting-edge artwork in Olyvia’s booth included a monumental canvas by He Sen, titled “Du Du,” an erotic depiction of a scantily clad seated Oriental woman holding a smoke-billowing cigarette in her hand, a bottle of Johnny Walker Scotch at her side. The monochromatic painting was accentuated by a burst of red lipstick on her lips and the bottle presented in its natural colors.
“I thought the show was cool,” stated first-time exhibitor Bruce Emond of Village Braider, Plymouth, Mass. “The one thing that I loved about it was that it presented a different facet of the market, the premise of the whole show is interesting,” stated the dealer as he surveyed the eclectic mix of merchandise that he had in his booth. While always offering an varied and interesting assortment, the dealer was able to bring a selection of merchandise along with him that he might not be able to bring to many of the other shows he does, especially the vetted ones.
A huge iron work planter in the front of the booth was an early seller, as was a marble-top worktable. A large antique table with metal base with a custom fabricated top was another item to go, along with two cow paintings from the large selection that filled the rear wall of the booth. Executed by Pop Artist Pat Jensen, the cow paintings were atypical of his style, as was the large painting of a train that dominated the other side of the booth. “Sales were good and we met a lot of different people,” said Emond.
Manhattan’s Glass Past displayed the work of Jim Oliveira in the form of two Eames-like chrome-based skyscraper office chairs that featured custom seating shells. The seats had been uniquely constructed by puddling colorful molten polymers into overlapping disclike layers. The technique had also been applied to a stretched canvas by the artist with a brilliant yellow example on view.
Another interesting item in the booth was a watercolor on paper depicting a map of Scandinavia titled “The Euro” by Donald Gajadhar. Portraying land masses virtually void of detail, the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnioa and the Gulf of Finland were colorful and intricately painted. A close look revealed that the bodies of water had been transformed into an erotic depiction of a woman blissfully engaged.
James Infante, Jersey City, N.J., met management’s call for a creative mix of superior style and captivating design. The dealer had created an interesting display of cutting-edge Victorian and Deco period objects that were presented in visually appealing linear modernistic arrangement. Using neatly arranged black triangular-form pedestal shelves that sharply contrasted with the stark white walls, the dealer showcased a stunning assortment of amphora, abstract Hagenauer metal forms, colorful glass and stylish bronze figures.
Also displayed in Infante’s booth was an icon of the Art Deco period, a Josef Hoffmann hammered brass compote with extravagant looped and twisted handles. According to the dealer, the signed Wiener Werkstätte piece had been exhibited at the 1925 Paris Exposition.
From Paris, Gallerie Modus offered an enticing selection of contemporary paintings and bronzes including the Loni Kreuder stylized figural bronze with verdigris accents titled “Persuasion (2 parts)” depicting two seated figures, one pleading with the other. “Amoureux Big” was another of the bronzes in the booth by Kreuder with this monumental example depicting a male and female couple embracing.
Also offered in the booth were several urban landscape paintings by Adrian Doura, including “Paysage sur telepherique,” a night scene depicting a bridge that emptied into city streets emblazoned with street lights and the lights from the buildings. “Paysage sue le pont Mirabeau” was a monumental oil on canvas depicting the banks of the Seine River on a moonless night with an illuminated Eiffel Tower in the center and boats and buildings along the riverbank.
Sculptures by Harry Bertoia were featured in the booth of Lost City Arts and among the extensive offering was a nice selection of Tonals. Perhaps best known for these constructions, Bertoia made them between 1960 and his death in 1978. A large circular form bronze gong was another Bertoia sculpture in the booth that was attracting attention, yet the talk of the show was a monumental screen by the artist that was displayed in the aisle in the front of the booth. In a gold finish, the geometric-form slatted screen measured more than 12 feet tall, a study for Bertoia’s first commission for General Motors.
Another of the dealers on the floor with a contemporary selection of merchandise was Manhattan dealer KoKo. Simplistic Oriental styled furnishings in sparse settings were made especially attractive with the use of warm filtered spotlights. The dealer also had several highly unusual and delicate rosewood carvings. Executed from the base of trees and utilizing the natural forms of the roots and branches, the artist had created intricate floral forms.
The next show for Wendy Management will be the Spring International Art and Antiques Show that will take place at the Park Avenue Armory from April 27 to May 1. For further information, 914-437-5983, or www.wendyshows.com.
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