Published: February 5, 2008
“Authentic. Fresh. Extraordinary,” proclaimed the advertisement for manager Barry Cohen’s return to the Americana Week show circuit with a revived Antiques Manhattan. The show was all of that †and more †as Cohen and 22 hand-selected antiques dealers set up a sporty selection of merchandise in his old haunt, the Altman Building, for a four-day run from January 17 to 20.
Both Cohen and Antiques Manhattan have been noticeably absent from the Americana Week show scene since the venue was dropped from the promoter’s roster of shows after 2003. Infused with fresh blood, the show featured only one dealer from the previous roster as Cohen and his cohorts opened the doors on Thursday at noon to a lively crowd.
Demonstrating that the venue has been sorely missed by the large crowds that enthusiastically shop the Americana Week shows, the line awaiting opening of Antiques Manhattan extended out the entrance, through the foyer and snaked the length of the 18th Street block all the way to Seventh Avenue. Once inside, buyers converged on dealers and a frenzied atmosphere resulted in a plethora of sales.
It was, by far, the smallest of the Americana Week events, and Cohen, by all accounts, was able to pull it off in spades. A visit to the show on Friday revealed a number of booths that had been reduced from their lush preshow appearance to an almost barren state. Other dealers had red tags hanging to and fro, and others were busy restocking merchandise.
The opportunity to return to the Americana Week show circuit presented itself to Cohen when Stella Show Mgmt Co. was forced to cancel the Pier show due to construction at that facility. “The cancellation of Americana at the Piers for 2008 has left a good number of dealers without a suitable New York venue for Antiques Week,” commented Cohen in a statement released last November. Why not bring back Antiques Manhattan? he reasoned.
With support from a host of antiques dealers, including folk art specialist Victor Weinblatt, who has not displayed in New York City in a decade or more, Cohen and a “self-selected group of distinguished dealers” came together to “create a refreshing new event.”
“In spirit and sensibility, Antiques Manhattan 2008 will remind you of the early days of antiques shows, the ones that made you fall in love with collecting in the first place,” proclaimed Weinblatt in a letter distributed publicly.
Conveniently located right “Next Door to The American Antiques Show,” patrons coming and going from the Folk Art Museum’s benefit preview party on Wednesday evening were able to get a sneak peek of the show the day before it opened. “There were people peeking though the windows as we were setting up on Wednesday night,” stated Weinblatt, whose booth faced a large set of unobstructed French doors that opened to the street. “And the next day, when the doors opened, I had people come running into the booth, pointing at things and shouting, ‘I’ll take that’ and ‘I want this,'” said the dealer.
Weinblatt called the show a “rousing success” and his “second best show ever,” as he listed item after item that had sold from his booth: “A child’s swan boat side with exquisite form; an oversize half hull; a running horse weathervane with the best form and surface; the best Grenfell sailboat rug I have ever owned; the best salmon, blue, black and yellow one-drawer game board stand; a seven-color Parcheesi board; three checkerboards and at least 20 other items †notwithstanding our most important piece, a 7-foot oval Shaker rug †the best I have ever seen or owned †sold on Sunday afternoon to someone who had been deliberating all week.”
Mo Wajselfish of Leatherwood Antiques, Sandwich Mass., was another dealer to report a highly successful show, with decorative smalls leaving the booth at an alarming rate. Rewards of merit mugs and plates were good sellers for the dealer, as were the Black Forest carvings, but the items that sold the best came from the assortment of woolies. “This is the first time we have exhibited in Manhattan since we stopped doing the Winter Antiques Show in 1990,” said the dealer.
“This is folk art at its best,” said Wajselfish, citing a woolie titled “Sailor’s Return.” A wonderfully executed piece filled with symbolism, the woolie featured a brick home in the foreground with a manicured lawn leading to the water’s edge. A three-masted ship was anchored in the bay, a tender was being rowed to shore and the sailor’s sweetheart waited in a white dress at the end of a well-traveled path. The circa 1860 woolie was the first of several examples to sell from the booth.
“I have a couple people seriously thinking some pieces over,” stated Stonington, Conn., dealer Roberto Freitas as the show began to wind down. Among the items that clients were contemplating was a wonderful Connecticut Queen Anne tea table with long and slender cabriole legs ending in pad feet. Listing a private collection and Peter Tillou as provenance, the table was marked at $325,000. “A lady has been back three times to admire it, the last time she brought her husband, so I am getting a good feeling,” he said.
Another case piece that was being considered was a Chippendale ball and claw foot secretary desk in plum pudding mahogany, circa 1770 and made in Newburyport, Mass. Having descended in the Chapman family and later through the McDaniel family, the piece was superbly constructed and well proportioned. “Even the secondary wood is mahogany,” stated the dealer.
Easily seen as a piece of art, although in actuality a rare lolling chair sans its outer fabric skins, an important Lemuel Churchill Boston-made chair with fluted arm supports and legs was being offered by SAJE Americana, Short Hills, N.J. The dealer cited a similar example in Sack’s American Furniture of the Federal Period .
A quick seller from the booth of Fiske and Freeman was the “Boynes and Crownes” caned elbow chair from 1685. The rare English example with hoof feet and hairy ankles, carved cherubs and foliage was termed “one of the best examples of the form,” and the dealer related that a virtually identical chair was housed in the Temple Newsom House in Leeds.
Asiantiques provided some diversity in the show with a grand assortment of Orientalia that included ceramics of all sorts, furniture and statuary. Among the standout items in the booth was an extremely rare carved wooden horse with traces of pigment that the Winter Park, Fla., dealer dated to circa 220′06 BC. “Wooden artifacts from the Han dynasty period are extremely rare,” commented dealer Francois Lorin. A large pair of earthenware figures of ladies at court, circa 618‹07, stood watch at the front of the booth.
A wonderful small cupboard with a scalloped base in original vibrant blue paint sported a sold tag in the booth of Perkins/Menson soon after the show opened. A nice empire chest with good “Maine” grained paint was displayed, and an overmantel painting depicting a large basket of fruit, a large brightly colored game wheel and a policeman whirligig were among the other items offered by the Ashby, Mass., dealers.
David Overall’s stand was filled with porcelains ranging from orange and green glazed Fitzhugh, including a very rare green reticulated basket. “There is one on display in the State Department’s collection,” commented the Elizabethtown, Ky., dealer in regard to a tray and strainer by Philadelphia maker Joseph Sims, circa 1800, that was decorated with Washington’s Memorial.
Fitzwilliam, N.H., dealers Dennis and Dad put together a sharp-looking booth with their various potteries and porcelains displayed thematically. On the rear wall of the booth was a large shelf filled with oversized yellowware pitchers decorated on the banded surface with blue and green seaweed. Shortly after the show opened, the entire shelf had been redecorated with a variety of other items as one buyer came into the booth and bought every one of the attractive pitchers.
The booth shared by Axtell Antiques and Vlasak Antiques was filled to the brim with great country furniture and choice smalls as the show opened on Thursday afternoon. Over the next hour, the booth resembled Manhattan’s streets at rush hour †packed with so much traffic that you could barely see what the dealers were offering. By the time the crowds had cleared, the glazed-eyed and weary dealers had tallied up sales of furniture, hooked rugs, painted woodenware and a host of smalls, leaving the booth looking a little lean.
“The interest has certainly been there,” commented Smitty Axtell as the show wound down, “and it has been wonderful to see it.”
For information, or to be placed on the mailing list, contact Barry Cohen at email@example.com or 703-914-1268.
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