Published: May 22, 2007
Meg Wendy, casting a wider net to further augment the range and quality of the Spring International Art and Antiques Show, this year succeeded in hauling in a top-flight group of European exhibitors. The show, now in its fifth year, assembled 45 dealers from England, France, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada and the United States to the Park Avenue Armory over a five-day period from April 27 to May 1.
Exhibiting a wide range of merchandise comprising antiquities, Seventeenth to Twenty-First Century European, American and Asian furniture, Oriental rugs, tapestries, rare books and autographs, clocks, silver, estate, antique and contemporary jewelry and other objets d’art, the show began exuberantly with a benefit cocktail party, followed by an exclusive dinner party preview on Thursday, April 26. Themed “The Time of Your Life” and underwritten by Rolex Watch USA, the benefit for the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House featured more than 30 lavishly decorated tables by internationally recognized interior designers.
There were 16 new dealers at this year’s event †and they brought with them the cachet derived from their participation in such venues as the Paris Biennale, TEFAF Maastricht and the Grosvenor House show.
Parisian dealers Galerie Cazeau-Beraudiere and Galerie Patrice Trigano, for example, showcased Impressionist and Modern and contemporary art. Willem de Kooning’s (1904‱997), “Woman in the Garden II,” 1967, an oil on paper laid down on canvas, held pride of place at the gallery owned by Philippe Cazeau and Jacques de la Beraudiere. De la Beraudiere stated that he was participating based on the high regard he has for Meg Wendy and for the Lenox Hill charity. “The show dates are also nice,” he said, referring to the congruence of big auction house sales for Impressionist and Modern art scheduled for the week following the show.
Patrice Trigano hosted both a superb Chagall †”Les amoureaux dans le ciel de Saint-Paul,” 1980 †and, during preview, photographer Lucien Clergue himself, who regaled with tales of his friendship with Pablo Picasso in front of a display of portraits of “The Spaniard,” including an iconic pose with cigarette taken in Cannes in 1956.
At another Parisian dealer, Galerie Sylvain Lévy Alban, a pair of Venetian lacquered and parcel gilt blackamoors holding Murano glass chandeliers, mid-Nineteenth Century, dramatically beckoned showgoers through the booth’s entrance, leading to a trove of European art and antiques from the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century. The blackamoors attracted enormous interest, according to Lévy-Alban, who said he has a client who wants them to go on approval. Having successfully done the Palm Beach show twice, as well as the Paris shows, gallery owner Lévy-Alban said his clients were mostly New York City designers and that his presence at this event was to “let them know I’m around.”
Lévy-Alban said, “As to clients, there were lots of new faces; however, some of the well-known faces one expects to see, both professionally and private, did not attend. For the true collector, the general comments we heard were that they would like to have more dealers in the decorative arts, but that they did find some interesting and unusual pieces. Without doubt, Meg Wendy and her team worked very hard to achieve the maximum success.”
New York City and London antiquities dealer Royal-Athena Galleries was featuring an important Egyptian bronze cat †”The best in the world I’ve seen, and I’ve been in business since 1958,” said Dr Jerome Eisenberg, gallery owner. He said the cat, circa 712‵25 BC, with an overall incised detail of fur and a close fitting collar centering on a winged scarab, was probably the largest naturalistic Egyptian bronze cat in North America and had come out of the collection of a German archaeologist, acquired in the 1920s. It was, in fact, Eisenberg’s biggest sale of the show, fetching $485,000 from “a major East Coast dealer and collector of Oriental art who had never purchased from us before.” Eisenberg added, “We were very pleased with the show. Meg obviously put a lot of effort into improving it.”
Luis Alegria Ida brought colorful examples of Chinese Export porcelain from Porto, Portugal. He pointed out a special piece in his booth, a unique Chinese porcelain lion made in the early Nineteenth Century and based on a Roman model. The piece had come from the American Mottahedeh collection.
Galerie 146 Autegarden-Rapin showcased Twentieth Century decorative arts from Brussels, Belgium, including a large cabinet of black schist mosaic by the Belgian mineral-rich designer Ado Chale (b 1928), circa 1965; 11 plates by Piero Fornasetti illustrating “Cupolas of Italy,” 1970; and an Italian cream lacquer cabinet, 1980, by Studio A, Rome. For Anna Autegarden, the gallery’s co-owner, “the show was not great, because we had so few visitors,” suggesting that while Twentieth Century design is currently a hot category, it may take a while to gestate for a show of this kind, which in the past has concentrated more on classical furniture.
A Camille Pissarro oil painting titled “Fenaison a Éragny,” 1901, was being offered by New Orleans, La.ased M.S. Rau Antiques, which also displayed a Nineteenth Century marquetry vitrine by Francois Linke. The firm reported that it did have a good show, “though the foot traffic seemed to be lacking.” Sales included a partners’ desk, a pair of console tables, a Boudin maritime painting and some pieces of silver.
Elaborate stands are the norm for this show, and setting the tone at the show’s entrance as it has for the past five years was the arched entrance to the display of Parisian dealer Steinitz. Inside, past the classical statues, was an exceptional illusion of a Paris salon, with classical carved and gilded wood furniture, opulent lighting and accessories. Benjamin Steinitz, son of Bernard, remarked that his early confidence in the eventual success of the show †Steinitz and Mark’s of London were two of the first European dealers †had been borne out and he was looking forward “to an interesting crowd.”
Across the aisle, dealer Adam Brown of Iliad Antik of New York City, was marking his second year at the show and attracting a lot of attention with a rare and classic second Austrian Biedermeier lady’s writing desk, circa 1896‱900. Made with burled birch and rosewood veneers and with ebonized detailing, the desk’s curved writing surface was flanked with columnar jardinières, and showgoers had fun lifting the lids to reveal internal hidden compartments.
“The show was successful for me, and I believe most dealers were happy,” reported New York City dealer Marion Harris, who specializes in rare and unusual objects for collectors. “Monday and Tuesday were the quietest days, with a busy last minute gate just before closing,” she said. “A large number of foreign visitors made for a real international feeling both with the dealers and buyers. Just about all the time, French and Italian was being spoken equally along with English, in the booth and outside it.”
Harris said the interest in her booth was primarily in artists’ mannequins. “I sold four †three to longtime clients, and one to a new collector, as well as had sales of several Victorian snuff boxes and various marble Grand Tour items. Nineteenth Century Scottish agate jewelry also proved popular.”
Even though they were some of the less expensive items in Harris’ booth †all under $1,000 †a collection of the Outsider Art drawings of Karoly Keseru were perhaps the most compelling. Born in Budapest in 1962 and currently living in London, Keresu’s obsessively wrought drawings look amazingly like woven fabric or computer-generated graphics. His paintings and drawings have brought international acclaim and major awards, and are in several private and corporate collections in Europe, Australia and America. “This show was a good venue to introduce them,” said Harris.
The sprawling culture of China was a chief focus at the 19th Century Shop, Stevenson, Md., where owner Stephan Loewentheil presented an important China collection that was being offered en bloc with a value of $500,000. From the first European edition of the works of Confucius to a letter written in 1823 by John Jacob Astor describing the China trade, even an example of the earliest printed paper money, the wide range of material presented a rare opportunity to acquire a core collection in an “increasingly contested field,” according to Loewentheil.
“Though foot-traffic at the show was lighter than we would have liked, we did sell to longtime clients a first edition of The Wealth of Nations  by Adam Smith, Cellarius’s magnificent celestial atlas Harmonia Macrocosmica  and a superb copy of the Fourth Folio of Shakespeare,” the dealer said.
Fine jewelry always adds sparkle to such an affair, and the Italian jeweler Sabbadini was on hand just to the left of the show’s entrance to catch the light with its display of high fashion and gemstone jewelry. “The show for us was quite good and we made a few new clients, which is always nice,” said Reyes Dietrich of the firm’s New York City office. “Many of our regular clients also came to the show. We sold many pieces that were high fashion items and very elegant as well. These included a wood and gold snake bracelet with a diamond head, as well as diamonds on the snake’s body. We also sold many pair of fun earrings for summer wearing, as well as great colorful necklaces.”
Wendy Management’s next show is Art on Park, featuring art, photography, fine prints and sculpture from 1890 to today, September 27″0 at the Park Avenue Amory. For information, www.wendyshows.com or 914-437-5983.
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