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The Metro Show 2013

January 24th, 2013


This 50" x 131" cotton textile painted with natural dyes from the Huari culture of Peru was carbon dated to A.D. 850 and was $350,000 from William Siegal Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Eric Garduño said that it is the finest he has ever owned.

The Weiss twins, Leon and Steven, of Gemini Antiques offered toys as folk art. This patriotic bell toy was $4250.

David Cook Galleries, Denver, Colorado, offered a complete set of The North American Indian by Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) for $1.4 million. The 20 books and 20 portfolios document in the text and with photographs every Indian tribe west of the Mississippi. The Classic third-phase Navajo chief’s blanket, 1860-65, was $95,000.

James Lombard, who was born in Bridgton, Maine, in 1865, carved the oak rooster weathervane circa 1880. It was $30,000. The 1885 high-wheeler bicycle with red wheels, cast-iron mount, and handle removed so it can be hung on the wall was $17,000. The Alabama quilt was $4800. The game board in red and white with a blue border with gold stars and its original frame was $22,000. In the corner is a 1900 male mannequin trade figure with original paint, 63" tall, for $95,000. All were from Just Folk, Summerland, California.

Mindy Solomon Gallery, St. Petersburg, Florida, offered Korean pottery, such as these by Kang Hyo Lee, 2011, from left, $3500, $2500, $2000, and $2500. The first one on the left, a puncheong faceted bottle with ash glaze, is 10" x 9" x 10".

Pace Prints, New York City, offered a set of five silkscreen prints by Keith Haring, each 21" x 25", for $25,000 the set (framed) or $6000 each.

Stephen Score of Boston sold the pair of carved herons from Martha’s Vineyard, circa 1960, and Elizabeth Springett’s Trees of Life quilt (left).

This flag salesman’s sample, 1910-29, was $14,500 from Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, York County, Pennsylvania. He said five are known and wondered if Jasper Johns has seen one.

New York City

The Metro Show is not an antiques show; it is an art show. While the Winter Antiques Show, the Ceramics Fair, and Antiques at the Armory cater to the old guard, the Metro Show is cultivating a new audience. Caroline Kerrigan Lerch, the director of the January 24-27 show, pulled together dealers in tribal and ethnographic art,  prints, paintings, Outsider art, Art Brut, folk art, toys, needlework, and American folk art, furniture, and 20th-century design in order to strip away barriers among centuries, movements, and cultures. The idea is to look for art everywhere. Not much of it was formal or metropolitan, except for the New England furniture and clocks at Gary R. Sullivan Antiques, Sharon, Massachusetts; Tiffany lamps and windows at Lillian Nassau, New York City; and prints by old masters from Jan Johnson of Chambly, Quebec.

The name Metro Show was probably picked because the show takes place at the Metropolitan Pavilion at 125 West 18th Street, or perhaps because it hoped to bring in an audience from the New York metropolitan area, i.e., upstate New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, as well as the Americana Week crowd.

Designers from ISSSStudio and deSc teamed up to build a large paneled screen for the entrance—a zigzag wall with a colorful spiderweb-like pattern with some objects you could find at the show picked out in red—a chair and a weathervane, for example. It suggested the unpredictable experience of shopping at this show. The show’s design made moving from stand to stand seem like a walk through the woods; it was not the usual grid. One meandered, finding something arresting at every turn. Sight lines were considered by the designer; one could look through two stands into a third and find evocative comparisons.

Traditionalists hated the show, and many of those who came to the preview, free for VIP’s who got tickets from dealers, promised to return but did not. Others came, loved it, and found something to buy.

The few dealers in traditional Americana who had showed at The American Antiques Show (TAAS), the show that until last year filled the Metropolitan Pavilion (and for a decade was a benefit for the American Folk Art Museum) have a following. They said they sold well. Dealers Amy Finkel, Sam Herrup, Stephen Score, the Garthoeffners, Steven Powers, Jeff Bridgman, Clifford Wallach, Gary Sullivan, and the Weiss twins of Gemini Antiques had all shown at TAAS and cast their lot with Metro. Tim Hill of Birmingham, Michigan, Ricco/Maresca of New York City, and Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago, also had showed edgy art in many media at TAAS. They led the way for the new direction of the show and encouraged Metro to be an art and folk art show. Their clients followed them to Metro, and they also sold well in this new environment. They competed with many more dealers in visionary art and with dealers in contemporary and old master prints, 20th-century paintings, photographs, tribal arts, tapestries, and Korean ceramics.

Collectors who sought refuge from the bitter cold were delighted to find 34 places to shop and to engage in conversation and learn about many artists not yet household names. For example, dealer Fred Giampietro of New Haven, Connecticut, who moved from the Winter Show to the Metro Show, offered paintings and works on paper by Enrico Riley, whose works Giampietro described as “fiercely abstract.” Riley’s paintings of heads suggest the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat and cost a fraction of the price. Several sold. Other Riley works appear to be improvisations of landscapes. Although Giampietro offered some folk art, he did not sell any. He did sell four collage books by Larry Lewis (1919-2004), a Connecticut artist who worked in seclusion from about 1967 until his death.

Show business is tough these days. Several dealers said prices posted were just the asking prices. Deals were struck. Chelsea (New York City) dealers Cavin-Morris Gallery said they sent people to their gallery nearby where more business was done. Some big sales were made at the show. Ricco/Maresca sold a massive figurehead, a three-quarter figure of a black man. Hill Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan, sold two very tame limestone lions from Indiana and Model with Whirligig, a painting by Philip Pearlstein. There were half a dozen colored drawings by Bill Traylor (1854-1949) of Montgomery, Alabama, at the show in several booths. Carl Hammer sold Traylor’s drawing of a big black boar in pencil and paint on found cardboard.

The Garthoeffners of Lititz, Pennsylvania, had a nearly empty stand by Sunday afternoon. They had sold baskets, rugs, a Windsor chair, trade signs, tramp art, carved wooden flags, a carved figure, painted boxes, and more. Dealer Sam Herrup of Sheffield, Massachusetts, sold his gate-leg table, a Dutch mirror, a weathervane, a dome-top box, and a Japanese ash-glazed vase.

Steven Powers of Brooklyn, New York, introduced the work of James W. ­Washington Jr., whose carved granite birds call to mind the work of the early 20th-century sculptor John Flannagan. Powers sold a small one by Washington called Wren and sold a huge wooden sculpture by Clark Fitz-Gerald (1917-2004), Eye of the Needle, made of elm in 1977.

Amy Finkel sold three major samplers on opening night and half a dozen other pieces of schoolgirl needlework during the weekend. She also sold a shallow blue cupboard, a pair of chairs, and some glass and iron.

Gary Sullivan sold two large case pieces of American furniture and a clock, which did not add up to as much as he sold last year.

Leon and Steven Weiss of Gemini Antiques, Oldwick, New Jersey, said they had their second-best show ever and sold toys and folk art and advertising, including French articulated soldiers, circa 1860, a carved lion’s head from a menagerie wagon, a giant pistol trade sign, a barber pole, an Old South Church bank (the most expensive still bank ever sold), and a palmist trade sign. As the show was closing, they were selling mechanical banks to a collector who had bought some the day before but wanted more.

Jeff Bridgman sold a collection of miniature baskets but just one flag—a U.S. commissioning pennant. Stephen Score sold a Trees of Life quilt, a pair of carved herons, a yellow sunburst zinc gate ornament, and a 1920’s Art Deco floor lamp. The show needs a half a dozen more stands like Stephen Score’s if it is going to continue to attract the Americana Week crowd.

Of the art dealers, Stephen Romano of New York City, who moved from the Outsider Art Fair to Metro, was the most enthusiastic. He said he sold two watercolor and ink drawings by Charles A.A. Dellschau. Dellschau created freehand designs for imaginary airships that Romano offered in the $40,000 to $55,000 range. Romano also sold an assemblage by contemporary artist Kris Kuksi at the opening; three digital giclée prints by 30-year-old Sonya Fu of Hong Kong in the $2000 to $3000 range; 20 photographs by William Mortensen, the father of pictorialism, whose work is in the current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art called Faking It: Manipulated Photography before Photoshop, in the $3000 to $7000 range; and all nine small oil paintings of birds and animals by Limor Gasko of Brooklyn in the $2000 to $3000 range. “My purpose was to make art accessible. The trend is to bring a variety including art that is accessible because of its price point,” said Romano. “The first order of business was to engage the audience and bring things that are memorable. This is my only show of the year.”

The Metro Show was held a week before the Outsider Art Fair at the Dia Art Foundation in Chelsea (some dealers did both shows). The Outsider Art Fair got a two-page rave review in the New York Times. The Metro Show got top billing and more space and a more enthusiastic review than the Winter Show in the Times during Americana Week.

The Metro Show benefited from the educated audience that was attracted by the Editions/Artists’ Book Fair, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in the adjoining Altman Building. Rescheduled because of Hurricane Sandy, the Editions/Artists’ Book Fair will return to the Dia Art Foundation building in Chelsea next year. The fair presented a broad range of art from $20 woodcuts to etchings by Jasper Johns. There were about 50 exhibitors, who reported a strong market for limited editions and artists’ books.

A lot of people are pulling for the Metro Show to succeed. The participating dealers believe in the direction of the show. “It’s my favorite show,” said Steven Powers. “It is the best-looking show, although there are not enough Americana dealers for Americana Week. I think we can remedy that.”

Not everyone is as optimistic. “Unless the show promoter makes some changes in the direction of Americana, he will permanently lose the January Americana collectors,” said Pat Garthoeffner. “Some prime Americana collectors did not bother to come this year.”

Romano thinks the show will benefit from more inclusivity. “I loved comparing contemporary works with old master prints. The digital prints by Sonya Fu on my stand have the same sensibility as the China trade paintings in Sam Herrup’s booth. That is what energized this show.”

Pictures captioned with asking prices tell more. The third edition of Metro Show will open on January 23 and run through January 26, 2014. For more information, see the Web site (www.metroshownyc.com).


Originally published in the April 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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