Published: December 5, 2017
Review and Photos by R. Scudder Smith
NEW YORK CITY – “It is a truly festive occasion which celebrates the best of American antiques and the decorative arts.” Those were the words of Sanford “Sandy” Smith in 1996 as he looked around the large drill hall of the Park Avenue Armory, taking in the wealth of treasures that filled the booths of 76 dealers exhibiting at the Fall Antiques Show.
“When we opened the Fall Show at the Park Avenue Armory for the first time in 1979, we had created the hottest show,” Sandy said a few weeks ago while reminiscing about antique shows of years past. That was the year a relatively unknown caterer from Westport, Conn., by the name of Martha Stewart “stormed the Seventh Regiment Armory, mining it with chicken coops,” as reported in the show’s review in Antiques and The Arts Weekly.
He added that “the following year we went to a pier on the Hudson River, opening that venue for many shows to follow, and remained there for 16 years before returning to the Armory in 1995.”
A gala preview opening on Wednesday, September 25, 1996, welcomed Peter, Paul and Mary, folk music icons and long-time friends of the Museum of American Folk Art, as honorary chairpersons of the preview, and a crowd of collectors and shoppers turned out to get first pick of objects brought to the show by dealers representing 16 states. Preview tickets were priced at $175, $300, $500 and $750, depending on the hour of admission. A junior’s ticket was available at $75 for persons under the age of 35 years.
Sandy always throws some extras into his shows, all aimed at getting more people through the doors to buy from his exhibitors. This time around several decorative arts specialists from the museum conducted a provocative conversation titled “In Search of an American Style,” and Brock Jobe, then deputy director for collections, conservation and interpretation at Winterthur Museum, spoke on “What’s New About New England Furniture: Distinctive Design of the Eighteenth Century.” Jack L. Lindsey, curator of American decorative arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art, discussed “Dutch, Deutsch and American: Pennsylvania German Decorative Arts,” and the final speaker was Nancy Vignola, senior vice president of Polo Ralph Lauren, who talked about “Ralph Lauren and American Style.” Gerald C. Wertkin, director of the museum, was the moderator.
Guests entered the armory through the frame of a whitewashed barn, courtesy of Country Living magazine, and a fall atmosphere was created with flowers and pumpkins. Taste provided an All-American buffet, with all the appropriate wines.
Allen Katz of Woodbridge, Conn., almost cleared his booth of five-star folk art, with special emphasis on a carved and painted eagle, 37 inches wide, with the eagle clasping a shield and two banners. It is signed by Henry N. Spencer, carver, and dates circa 1875.
There was a run on weathervanes at the Walters/Benisek booth, including their impeccable Liberty vane, a Rochester horse and a wooden arrow, all going to collectors on the first day of the show. The Northampton, Mass., dealers also parted with a pointing hand trade sign, a boat model, a black ventriloquist’s figure and a ship diorama. Don Walter commented about the date and venue change of the show, noting “People, of course, get used to everything, but there were still collectors missing from the Midwest and West this year; some won’t come for just one thing. I hope there is still talk of melding the Fall Show with Americana Auction Week.”
Trade signs, barber poles, hooked rugs, weathervanes, three tables, several paintings and a mill weight all were sold from the booth of John Sideli of North Egremont, Mass., causing him to say, “This is the best show I have ever done anywhere. I sold 28 items.”
Elliott and Grace Snyder of South Egremont, Mass., offered a schoolgirl decorated Sheraton card table for $35,000, while Olde Hope Antiques, New Hope, Penn., had a walking stick from “The All-American Dog” presentation at the Museum of American Folk Art during the late 1970s.
For $175,000 at Smith Gallery, New York City, was a James Bard portrait of Brother Jonathan, one of the two Vanderbilt steamers to have survived the ill-fated trip around the Cape of Good Horn, and another work by Bard was the sloop American Eagle for $65,000. An early Nineteenth Century Hudson River Valley quilt in a medallion format and sprinkled with stars was shown by Shelly Zegart of Louisville, Ky., and New York City dealers Kelter-Malce offered a paint-decorated step-back dressing table for $3,900.
Greg Kramer and John Newcomer, Robesonia, Penn., created the appearance of an open shop in their booth, cramming it with blown glass, cluttered cases of redware and stoneware, spatterware and tole, all inviting visitors to come in and poke around. To this day, Greg has not lost this knack.
M. Finkel and Daughter of Philadelphia was and still is an important source of needlework, a large heart-shaped trellis stood out in the display of Frank Gaglio of Rhinebeck, N.Y., and Laura Fisher of New York City had two stacks of material, one of quilts, the other rugs.
Bruce Gimelson of Garrison, N.Y., had a mixture of furniture and paintings with autographed documents, while Trotta-Bono of Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., displayed an 18½-foot-long Inuit kayak, more than 100 years old, for $16,500. New Hope, Penn., dealer Katy Kane had a closet filled with evening coats in various fabrics and colors, and a special coat was candy colored velvet and Kane priced it at $2,000. A circa 1750 Goddard-Townsend drop leaf table from Rhode Island was offered by Curran and Curran of Wilton, Conn.
“I’ve been collecting baseball material for years, but never tried selling any of it,” Doug Wyant of Cassopolis, Mich., said. He further mentioned “I had a very good pre-show.” Marna Anderson, New Paltz, N.Y., brought out a special Abraham Lincoln quilt that was both signed and dated, offered for $75,000.
“This was the kill or be killed year,” Sandy Smith said, but quickly and proudly adding, with a wide smile, “this is the best show we have had in the past seven or eight years.”
The locations of the dealers mentioned in this article is where the dealer was living in 1996.
Other antiques shows reviewed in the October 18, 1996, issue of Antiques and The Arts Weekly were Stanton Celebrates 16th Anniversary, Atlantic’s Folk Fest, Wendy’s Stamford Antiques Show, Hinsdale Antiques Show and International Antiques Show, NYC.
The calendar of antiques shows listed in the same issue, between October 17 and December 8, numbered 57 shows.
The calendar of auctions listed in the same issue, between October 17 and November 20, listed 110 auctions.
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