Americana Week in Review:
By Laura Beach, photos by R. Scudder Smith
NEW YORK CITY
“This year is very special. We’re back in the Armory,” said show chairman Arie L. Kopelman, welcoming visitors to the opulent display featuring 70 exhibitors from the United States and Europe.
“You would have thought we were asking people to go to Detroit,” show spokesman Leelee Brown said of last year’s temporary quarters at the Hilton Hotel on Sixth Avenue. There was little such hesitancy this year. Collectors came, admired and bought.
“We had over 3,000 visitors yesterday, a record in recent years for an opening Saturday,” show director Catherine Sweeney Singer said from the floor on Sunday afternoon. “On Friday, we had 2,000 people, which is above a year ago. Today, the gate has already hit 2,000.”
Sponsored by Elle Decor magazine and presided over by power couple Diane von Furstenburg and Barry Diller, the honorary co-chairmen, the opening night preview party was packed with collectors from around the country, socialites and the occasional celebrity, including New York’s millionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
As if compensating for the weak economy, dealers redoubled their efforts to entice buyers by mounting displays of exceptional quality and interest.
Wayne Pratt’s booth was an ingenious replica of a 16-foot Maine interior with painted plaster walls by Rufus Porter. Pratt is offering the original for $275,000. What the Woodbury, Conn., dealer reasonably called “the best sideboard in America,” a fancifully inlaid, serpentine example by Nathan Lombard, was priced “in the six figures.”
Commissioned to sell the piece by the Shaker Museum, Massachusetts dealers Suzanne Courcier and Robert Wilkins featured a monumental Shaker cupboard chest, $124,500, from Hancock, Mass.
“Adam and Eve,” a 1504 engraving by Albrecht Dürer, was $630,000 at Hill-Stone Incorporated. It is the first copy on the market in 30 years, said dealer Alan Stone.
Hirschl & Adler’s booth was dominated by a large marble-topped gueridon. One of two labeled examples known by New York cabinetmaker Charles-Honore Lannuier, the table was $2 million.
The Schwarz Gallery sold a striking pair of portraits by Charles Peale Polk, painted between 1793 and 1794. Other early sales included a Dentzel carousel horse, $55,000, at Giampietro; a carved wooden ram and two weathervanes at Robert Young; an engraved powder horn at Guthman Americana; a pair of miniature portraits of Mr and Mrs William Brown at Elle Shushan; a Haida portrait mask and an Ojibwa carved figure at Donald Ellis; an 18-inch Tang dynasty pottery figure at Roger Keverne; and a whimsical, life-sized figure of a tiger at Barbara Israel.
No exhibitor did a better job on short notice than English furniture specialist Clinton Howell, who selected the Pompeian red felt for his walls just six days before the opening, after the Richard Green Gallery of London abruptly withdrew from the event.
This year’s loan show honoring Shelburne Museum in Vermont combines the patrician and populist in a way that perfectly sums up the spirit of itself. Included in the display is a Cassatt painting, Tiffany furniture and, of course, masterpieces of American folk art.
“Shelburne Museum is the legacy of two great women collectors, Louisine Havemeyer and her daughter, Electra Havemeyer Webb,” said museum president Hope Alswang, who likened her staff’s journey from snowy Vermont to New York to Hannibal Crossing the Alps.
continues through January 26. Hours are noon to 8:30 pm daily except Thursday and Sunday, when the show closes at 6 pm.