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The Only Stella Show in Town

January 25th, 2013


Chuck White of Warwick, New York, had several weathervanes lining his booth walls, and this quill example, by J.W. Fiske, caught the eye. Made in the 19th century, it was priced at $9000. “It’s in untouched condition,” he said.


You didn’t need a mirror to see that this mermaid, priced at $20,000, was the fairest at the show. The rare late 19th-century carving, similar to one in the Shelburne Museum, was brought by Michael Leslie of Port ’N Starboard Gallery, Falmouth, Maine. She had black hair and a moss green and brown fish’s body and was held together with hand-cut nails.


Victor Weinblatt’s “Men” double-sided sign, which didn’t keep any women away, was from New York state. “It’s too big to be for a men’s room,” the South Hadley, Massachusetts, dealer said. “I believe it was used at a changing room for a lakeside or ocean-side retreat. One side has been exposed to the elements, and it has nice oxidation.” Probably from the 1920’s or 1930’s, it was $795.


Before noon on opening day, the aisles and booths were crowded with prospective purchasers, as this shot of the booth of Dawn Hill Antiques, New Preston, Connecticut, illustrates.


This charm bracelet was one of the unusual pieces of jewelry that Arthur Cobin and Vivien Boniuk of New York City-based Duchess Art & Antiques offered. It was $225. The bracelet, which dates from the 20th century, features seven silver thimbles. Cobin and Boniuk are the husband-and-wife authors of Faked Out: Tales for Lovers of Antiques and Art, an anthology of 24 short stories about the trade. “It’s the only one on the market in or out of print,” Cobin said. They planned to have the book at the March pier show, and it will be available at (www.faked-out.com) and through Amazon.com.

Antiques at the Armory, New York City

January 2013 will go down in Americana Week history not for what it offered but for what it didn’t. There was no Americana & Antiques at the Piers show, which meant that for the first time since 2008, the Stella Show Management Co. had only one show, Antiques at the Armory, with which to open the new buying and selling year.

The cancellation of the show at the pier meant that there were some 150 fewer dealers converging on New York City January 25-27, and it allowed Stella to advertise Antiques at the Armory, which is at the 69th Regiment Armory at 26th Street and Lexington Avenue, as the show that “offers the largest variety and most affordable materials of the series of events of Antiques Week in New York.”

Of the 100 dealers at the armory show, most were returnees; a handful of Americana dealers came over from Americana & Antiques at the Piers, and eight came back after absences, brief and otherwise. “It’s the biggest show of the weekend,” said Jeanne Stella, “but it’s small for us.”

Attendance at the armory in 2011 and 2012 held steady at 4000, so the big question was: Would more people come? Stella reported that the gate was up 10% to 4400, with attendance steady all three days of the show, even Sunday, which typically doesn’t draw crowds.

Americana & Antiques at the Piers was bringing in 5000, but there was much overlap between the shows. “We sold a lot of combination tickets for both shows,” Stella said. “The Winter Antiques Show continues through the week to February third, so with fewer shows on the weekend, a lot of people could do it all on Saturday and Sunday.”

By noon on Friday, the opening day, the aisles were packed, and although the dealers were not swimming in a red sea of sold tags, many of them were seeing enough red to go into the black. There was a variety of items to draw a diverse group of buyers. Amid all the folk art and mid-century modern pieces, there were Louis Comfort Tiffany lamps, bronze statues, wooden Indians, tribal art, and weathervanes.

Barry Dobinsky of Schorr & Dobinsky Antiques, Bridgehampton, New York, and Reading, Pennsylvania, declared that it was one of his best shows ever and “it was good for a majority of people.” He sold about 80% of his merchandise, which he attributed in part to the steady crowds on Saturday and Sunday.

Edward and Lillian Miller of Pioneer Folk Antiques, based in Ellsworth, Maine, usually do the pier show and usually do well. They were happy to report that their success was repeated at the armory. “We made multiple sales,” Edward said. “It was an extremely strong show, and we’ll be back next year.”

Pier veterans Arthur Cobin and Vivien Boniuk of New York City-based Duchess Arts & Antiques also are set upon returning. “It was an excellent show,” Cobin said. “We had a lot of fun and met a lot of interesting people.”

Although Susan Stone of Eve Stone Antiques, Woodbridge, Connecticut, sold her most impressive piece, a set of imperial measures for $59,500, it went to a client who couldn’t come to the show. “The show was not good for us,” she said. “Even in the depths of the depression in 2009 and 2010, I did better. But the gate was unbelievable. I never sat down. There were more people than in the last five years. We did meet new customers. I did make some sales, so I may break even.”

She said next year she’ll take a smaller booth, and she’s rethinking the whole idea of shows.

An exhibitor since the armory show’s inception, Rob Stevens of Frazer, Pennsylvania, said that he did OK this time. “We did write a lot of invoices; however, furniture was sluggish for us.”

For Kevin Duffy of Candler Arts, the long trip from Atlanta paid off. It was his first New York City show, and he went home with a lot less than he came with. “I wasn’t sure what to expect because what I offer is non-traditional self-taught art and offbeat antiques,” he said. “But people were quite open to looking, if not buying, and some were quite complimentary, asking questions and taking business cards. New ­Yorkers appreciate seeing things that are different, even if those things are not what they would take home.”

The 18th annual show was notable for one other absence: Irene Stella was out having shoulder replacement surgery. “There was no way she could move the operation,” Jeanne Stella said. “She would love to be here.”

She was out of the operating room by Friday afternoon and was doing well, Stella said.

Stella said that it was regrettable that the Americana show at the pier was a no-show. “The prices for Pier 92 had been raised, and we didn’t feel it was the right time to raise prices for the dealers,” she said. “Last year, we took the hit, but this year, we couldn’t. We had done it for years then stopped it in 2008 and 2009 and restarted it in 2010.”

She said that the March and November shows at Pier 94, which typically have 500 dealers each, were not affected by the new pricing and will go on.

For more information, see the Web site (www.stellashows.com) or call (973) 808-5015.

The best in show went to this huge dog, which Village Braider Antiques, Plymouth, Massachusetts, gave pride of place. The painted Fiberglas piece, which Bruce Emond called “fun with a wonderful surface,” was made in the 1960’s and was signed “Huebbe.” It was $1500.

Robert Snyder and Judy Wilson of Wiscasset, Maine, celebrated Americana Week to the hilt with this 24" x 37" hooked rug that commemorates the nation’s centennial. Its design—stars, a pair of American flags, and the dates—wasn’t the only element that set it apart. This rug was rectangular; most were semicircles. It was $5900.

Mark M. Topalian of New York City made this late 19th-century Persian Heriz the focal point of his booth. He said it was rare because Herizes usually feature a central geometric medallion on a red ground. “This one has a free-flowing allover pattern and a cream background,” he said. The 9'9" x 12'9" wool rug was $37,500.

New York City dealer Frima Christopher filled her booth with portrait miniatures, including this early 19th-century American example that depicts a member of the Ledlie family. The artist was unknown, the style was naïve, the frame was gold, and the price was $625.


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

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