Winter Antiques Show, New York City
For 64 years, the Winter Antiques Show has filled the grand Park Avenue Armory for ten days in January to benefit East Side House Settlement’s educational projects ranging from early childhood to college preparatory. It was one of the first antiques shows created as a charity fund-raiser, and it is one of the last to remain one. The preview party is a gathering of East Side House Settlement supporters, who join tribes of collectors with a broad range of interests coming to see what the show’s 70 dealers saved all year for them in hopes that they will buy. This year the show was held January 18 to 28.
This year the show leadership was passed from chairman emeritus Arie Kopelman to cochairs Lucinda Ballard and Michael Lynch. For the last quarter-century Kopelman, a savvy marketer, worked hard to bring the show in step with the times. Knowing that dealers are looking for new and younger clients and need to appeal to interior designers and, at the same time, are trying to please picky antiquarians, Kopelman guided the show toward a more contemporary, modern model while supporting dealers who have exhibited at this show for generations. He will remain on hand as an adviser to the new cochairs.
Boston dealer Stephen Score, with a stand right up front, created a beach scene with a live model engrossed in her smart phone and magazines, unaware of what was going on—the seagull on the piling, the boat on the horizon, or the driftwood on the beach. “I wanted people to realize that we are obsessed with cell phones and not aware of the treasures around us,” he said, adding that it was a plea to look at the treasures for sale at the show. Not shown: an 1897 chest of drawers painted blue and white with a floral design painted in 1942 by Peter Hunt in Cohasset, Massachusetts, was $35,000. Score also offered a quilt commemorating the 1860 Great Meteor procession, a unique line of several fireballs recorded from locations across the United States and described in paint by Frederic Church and in a poem by Walt Whitman, and a circa 1850 oil on seamed flour sacks double portrait by Samuel Miller of Granville and Ella Jane Parks of Woburn, Massachusetts, with their pet dog. The quilt and the double portrait each had a $225,000 price tag.
The booth of Daniel Crouch Rare Books, London and New York City, had walls papered with huge maps of London, New York City, and Paris. On the back wall is George W. and Walter S. Bromley’s huge pink fire insurance “Atlas of the City of New York: Borough of Manhattan,” printed in 1906 on 38 individually framed sheets; it was priced at $250,000 and sold. It would look smashing in a loft—cartography is stunning decoration—but it was bought to hang in New York City’s World Trade Center. Not shown: Crouch also offered what was, at the time, the largest map printed in Britain: the 1799 map of the entire city of London, Westminster, and the Borough of Southwark, produced for the Phoenix Fire Office, an English fire insurance company, by Richard Horwood (1757/8-1803); it was priced at $50,000. Crouch sold Turgot’s monumental plan of Paris, so called because it was produced in 1739 at the request of then-mayor of Paris Michel-Étienne Turgot. The bird’s-eye view was printed on 20 double sheets during the reign of Louis XV; it was priced at $27,500.
Inlaid sideboard by Harrison Webber (1858-1924), Reading, Pennsylvania, cherry with light and dark wood inlays, circa 1900, 88" x 48" x 20½". It took Harrison Webber, a carpenter, 12 years to make it. It is made of more than 150,000 pieces of wood with inlays of checkerboards, American flags, and other geometric patterns. It was $125,000 from Kelly Kinzle of New Oxford, Pennsylvania.
To help define the direction of the show, an advisory committee led by Jay Cantor invited the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to organize this year’s loan exhibition celebrating the museum’s century of art patronage. It demonstrated how informed collecting in many fields can create a first-class museum. The museum’s 100-year history was told in a small illustrated catalog written by Susan J. Rawles, the museum’s associate curator of American paintings and decorative art. The objects she incorporated ranged from a Fabergé Easter egg to a Willem de Kooning painting. They included a Newport mahogany bureau table, a van Gogh still life of daisies, and Beauford Delaney’s memory portrait of Marian Anderson, painted in 1965 in the midst of the civil rights movement. Rawles included a rare and exquisite Tiffany Cobweb lamp, an English clock designed by C.F.A. Voysey in 1909, and George Bellows’s painting Tennis in Newport to inspire others to go into the marketplace and buy excellence.
Dealers also gathered an impressive array of art and design. Some installed their offerings in galleries, and others set up in contemporary settings. While most dealers created galleries to show off their works, one created a beach in front of a jam-packed antiques shop, with a rusty bike parked outside. For the preview party, Boston dealer Stephen Score employed a live model for four and a half hours and asked her to dress in shorts and a tank top, and sit in a beach chair under a red umbrella, her toes in the sand, reading magazines and talking on her cell phone, unaware of the wooden seagull on the piling or the wooden boat on the horizon. This beach scene greeted guests at the preview at the first stand to the right. Designed as a foil for a stand that looked similar to a Cape Cod antiques shop filled with signs, folk paintings, sculpture, and a few pieces of furniture, the booth also contained a flame-stitch wallet with images of an African American man holding a wine glass on a tray on one side and an African American woman holding a brass hot water pot and teapot on the other. (The wallet sold instantly.)
“I wanted to suggest that people should see, not just look,” said Score. “I hung a portrait of Edward Cooper, the scion of the wealthiest family in America in the 1830s, rendered in pastel by one of the best portrait artists, Micah Williams, at the height of his career [it was $375,000], and I also hung the double-sided sign with a life-size portrait of a ‘Mechanick,’ the word spelled out on the sign, an artistic billboard painted for a meeting hall. The mechanic has his hand on his head, pondering questions of architecture and engineering.” It was $65,000 and sold. “I believe American folk artist enthusiasts saw the sensational and unexpected in both attempts at portraiture: the intimate rendering of a five-year-old child in an embroidered jacket, thirty inches high, and the sign maker’s rendering, five feet tall, designed to capture the attention of people walking or riding by,” he said.
Kelly Kinzle offered portraits of five members of the Seabrook family of Henrico and Hanover Counties near Richmond, Virginia, attributed to the Payne Limner. The portraits constitute a new discovery in southern portraiture. They turned up at a Nye & Co. auction in New Jersey a year ago, and Kinzle had them conserved. There are 14 other paintings attributed to the Payne Limner, who worked in the Richmond area right after the Revolutionary War. Nicholas Brown Seabrook was a sea captain, Revolutionary War privateer, merchant, Richmond investor, and plantation owner. He commissioned his portrait and portraits of his wife, Mary Dutchess Seabrook, and their children Polly, Betsy, and John around 1783. Each measures approximately 42" x 36". His eldest son, John Seabrook (1768-1844), was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, and was a graduate of Princeton. He is shown with his flintlock rifle, powder horn, leather pouch, and spaniel. He married Ann Sydnor of Hanover County in 1783, and the couple had 12 children. They lived in Richmond, where John was in the tobacco trade, and eventually moved to a family plantation called Dungaroon. Kinzle asked $285,000 for the portraits. There was museum interest.
John Marin (1870-1953), Red and Green and Blue, Autumn, 1921, watercolor on paper, 19⅝" x 16", signed and dated “March /21,” was $750,000 from Menconi + Schoelkopf Fine Art, New York City. It sold. The gallery also sold a watercolor by Charles Burchfield (1893-1967), priced at $950,000, a large oil painting by Arthur Dove (1880-1946), two watercolors by Maurice Prendergast (1858-1924), and one by Everett Shinn (1876-1953).
The Old Print Shop, New York City, sold this print, Union Pond, Williamsburgh, L.I., by Winslow Homer (1836-1910), a lithograph printed in color, circa 1862, by Thomas & Eno, 37 Park Row, New York City. During the winter months, to keep money coming in, the Union Grounds ballpark was flooded and became Union Pond for ice skating. Homer likely created this illustration shortly after arriving in New York City in 1859 to work as a freelance illustrator.
Arie L. Kopelman, longtime chairman of the show, was named chairman emeritus and presented with the inaugural East Side House Settlement Heart in Hand Award, honoring his 25 years of service to the show and the charity. He referred to the Odd Fellows staff presented to him as his scepter, and he added that he remains king but turned over the keys of the kingdom to Lucinda C. Ballard and Michael R. Lynch as cochairs. Kopelman is a collector deeply committed to the show and the charity. He built a strong foundation for the new leadership to build on. Moreover, he will be on hand to pitch in when needed.
Collectors attending lectures during the week engaged in such dialogues about what folk art is. But those shopping at the preview wanted to buy, and buy they did. American furniture, folk art, and American Modernist paintings sold quickly at the preview party. By closing time, ten days later, English furniture, maps, prints, armor, rugs, portrait miniatures, ceramics, jewelry, and some studio crafts had sold too.
The age of the period interior might be history, but antiques are still in demand. Designers talk and write about mixing quality, creating a dialogue of excellence in all periods for a current style.
Even though the Winter show is no longer primarily an Americana show—it hasn’t been for several decades—Americana is the driving force, and it keeps the show fresh and exciting for a passionate audience. Americana Week auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s have thrived in the show’s wake, and have continued to bring a dedicated audience for Americana to New York City in January. At the same time, the auctions are stiff competition for dealers who want to buy or consign the finest. Some say the top of the Americana market has gone underground: a few private dealers know who has what and who wants it, their private sales are everyday occurrences, and the best never gets to auction or to a show.
David Schorsch and Eileen Smiles sold this red-painted straight-spout coffeepot, probably Philadelphia, 1845-50, made of tin-plated sheet iron with original painted decorations. The asking price was $55,000. “It is the best painted tin coffeepot in American art,” said Schorsch. “It shows that masterpieces more than hold their value.”
The Union Star quilt was offered by Olde Hope Antiques for $115,000. It was made by Elizabeth Holmes probably in Loudon County, Virginia, 1869. With 39 stars and an American flag with a dove, it includes the words “Abraham Lincoln Grant PR Colfax VI & The Union Forever.”Proud of her work, the maker attached stuffed-work hands signifying her own and signed the quilt in appliqué, “This Quilt Was Made 1869 by Elizabeth Holmes in Her 68th Year.” A Quaker, she was a member of the Goose Creek Meeting in Lincoln, Loudoun County, Virginia. With an impressive provenance of dealers and collectors, it has been widely published. The Canada goose decoy is attributed to Charles Foote, Seabrook, New Hampshire. It was $12,500. The news bench painted with “Read the Sun,” New York City, circa 1900, was $9500.
This year dealers demonstrated that they are able to convince some of their loyal clients to sell or consign some of their finest, and there were some significant sales of first-rate Americana at the Winter show.
An hour into the preview, David Schorsch and Eileen Smiles, dealers from Woodbury, Connecticut, had ten red dots on the wall labels for folk paintings, painted boxes, a red tin coffeepot, and more. By the end of a week they had sold even more, including an album quilt priced at $225,000. “It was our best Winter show ever,” said Schorsch.
“Prime-grade, priced right,” was Schorsch’s explan-ation. And he was quick to point out that prices for the best Americana have not fallen to levels of a generation ago as some have suggested, and many auction prices support his claim. “I asked $55,000 for the red-painted tin coffeepot. When it sold at Christie’s Scott sale in Lancaster in June 1994, the price was $36,800. I got substantially more for the painted miniature Lancaster County chest than the $87,750 it brought at Pook and Pook’s Machmer sale in 2008,” he said to prove his point.
Schorsch began selling even before the show opened. Weeks before the show, he sold the William Jennys portrait of an unidentified young man—painted when the artist was just 19 years old—that was used for the show’s posters and catalog. “It is William Jennys’s masterpiece. It was in my booth last year, and nobody bought it,” said Schorsch. The time was right this year—people had money in their jeans, the stock market was still high, and they were willing to spend.
Frank Levy of Bernard and S. Dean Levy, Inc., New York City, had Ralph Harvard design his stand. The chairs in front of the mantel are two of 11 mahogany chairs from a suite of 16 made for James Beekman by John Banks, 66 Beekman Street in New York City, 1819-20, possibly upholstered by William Denny; they were $110,000 per chair. The New York mahogany serpentine-front card table attributed to the workshop of William Proctor, New York, circa 1770, is part of a group of tables Morrison Heckscher called the “Beekman” group. Lauren Bresnan Brunk recently uncovered a bill from William Proctor for one of the Beekman tables, giving an attribution to this group. Frank Levy asked under $200,000 for this recently discovered table, and it sold. He said there are about 20 tables in this group. The Hazzard family oval Chippendale looking glass, circa 1770, is English. It descended in the Rhode Island Hazzard family and was $20,000. The circa 1770 tall-case clock, the case labeled by Francis Gottier (active 1741-83), Philadelphia, works by Thomas Wagstaffe (1724-1802), London, was $48,500. The Federal mahogany demilune card table attributed to the workshop of John and Thomas Seymour, Boston, 1784-1800, was still available when this photo was taken, but the Federal cherrywood Pembroke table attributed to Nathan Lumbard, Sutton, Massachusetts, circa 1805, sold. The bonnet-top mahogany high chest with two carved drawers is the type formerly associated with Benjamin Frothingham, Charlestown, Massachusetts, circa 1765. It is 85" high, and the carving is possibly by John Welch (1711-1789) of Boston; it was $55,000. Sally Apfelbaum photo.
Arthur Liverant sold this mahogany tall-case clock with an engraved silvered brass dial with a solid silver center and a brass eight-day time-and-strike movement signed by the maker, Thomas Harland (1735-1807) of Norwich, Connecticut, 1773-80, considered to be one of the finest clocks sold during Americana Week. It descended in the family of Dr. Asa Spalding (1751-1811) of Plainfield and Stonington, Connecticut. The mahogany case is attributed to Felix Huntington (1749-1823). The top of the bonnet is lined with pages from the Connecticut Gazette and Universal Intelligencer dated April 13, 1775, making it one of the earliest surviving tall-case clocks made in Norwich by Thomas Harland.
Schorsch was not the only dealer to mine private collections. Colchester, Connecticut, dealer Arthur Liverant was able to retrieve John Brewster’s portrait of Rebecca Warren and a framed silk-on-silk with watercolor needlework by Warren, “Fair Musicians,” from clients and sell them to sophisticated collectors at the preview. These were pictured in the catalog of recent acquisitions by Liverant. Also pictured in the catalog was a mahogany tall-case clock with a silvered brass dial with a rare solid silver center signed by its maker, Thomas Harland of Norwich, Connecticut, its case attributed to Felix Huntington of the same town. Fresh to market and a fine work of a desirable maker, it sold for a six-figure price.
Like Arthur Liverant, Frank Levy is the third generation in a family firm, with access to collections formed by past generations and a warehouse full of furniture. By midweek, Levy had red dots on labels for a serpentine-front New York card table attributed to the shop of William Proctor, circa 1770, $185,000; a Philadelphia dressing table; and Duncan Phyfe’s own cellaret, made in New York in 1820 and shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2011-12 Phyfe exhibition. The asking price for the cellaret was $55,000. Levy also sold a Pilgrim-Century chest made in Plymouth, Massachusetts, circa 1670, a Pembroke table attributed to Nathan Lumbard, and more. He said his prices were lower than at the top of the market a decade ago.
Tillou Gallery, like Liverant, printed a catalog of Winter show offerings. Jeffrey Tillou showed an impressive collection of Litchfield, Connecticut, furniture, fresh to market from a private collection.
Peter Eaton said he did not have his best show ever, but he found buyers for a Queen Anne dressing table with a compass-star-inlaid top and inlaid fan, a Pembroke table with pierced corner brackets and original finish, the Penniman family desk-and-bookcase in original condition with history, a miniature four-drawer chest in original red paint, and a sign for the Eagle Tavern. His wife, Joan Brownstein, sold schoolgirl watercolors, a carved Adam and Eve, a large hand-blown glass bowl, and ten pieces of 20th-century studio pottery by American and European artists.
Hirschl & Adler had two stands: the traditional “house-style” booth at the center of the fair filled with furniture, most of it Classical, and 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century American paintings on the walls, and at the front of the show Hirschl & Adler Modern offered 21st-century paintings and sculpture. “We sold furniture and paintings covering all our bases,” said Elizabeth Feld after the show. From the traditional stand, a worktable for the Seymours’ Boston shop sold at the preview. A large Grandma Moses painting sold during the week, and a stunning Reginald Marsh painting of a woman in front of a hat shop found a place in a collection. (Galerie St. Etienne sold three works by Grandma Moses.) Lighting was sold, and so was porcelain and glass. By the week’s end, Hirschl & Adler Modern had made more than a dozen sales of works by contemporary artists who respect traditional aesthetic norms. “We had a runaway success,” said Feld. Immediately after the show, Hirschl & Adler moved into their new gallery in the Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street.
Although the number of American decorative arts dealers was down by one this year, the number of American paintings dealers was up by one. A last-minute addition, Menconi + Schoelkopf has been a regular exhibitor at major art shows in New York City, but this was its first Winter Antiques Show. By the end of the first weekend the gallery had sold works by John Marin, Arthur Dove, Charles Burchfield, and Everett Shinn and two watercolors by Maurice Prendergast.
Silver dealer Spencer Marks, Southampton, Massachusetts, also new to the fair, sold a pair of Tiffany & Co. Aesthetic Movement iron candlesticks inlaid with gold, silver, and copper that were exhibited at the 1878 Paris International Exposition, a pair of 1865-70 Tiffany & Co. silver wine coolers designed by John C. Moore, and the 1913 International Clydesdale Champion trophy by Chicago silversmith Robert Jarvie, among other objects.
Although most of the action is on the first weekend, this year the Young Collectors Night on Thursday, January 25, was attended by more than 900, including more than 200 interior designers. Dealers were asked to mark items under $10,000, under $5000, and under $3000 for beginning collectors. Business was done.
Michael Diaz-Griffith, associate executive director of the Winter Antiques Show, said it was a hip party and helped push attendance to a five-year high. Overall, sales were strong—considered a good harbinger for the year ahead.
The pictures and captions show just a fraction of the Americana. For more information, visit (www.winterantiquesshow.com).
Originally published in the April 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest