New Views at the 55th Annual Winter Antiques Show

Carolyn Kelly Art

Both exhibitors and visitors to this year’s Winter Antiques Show, held at the Park Avenue Armory from January 23 – February 1, remarked that the event seemed to have a lot of energy and sparkle despite the drastic economic downturn.  The range, quality, and price points of the seventy-five exhibitors also seem to have struck the right note. Strong early sales allowed dealers to remain fairly sanguine throughout the week.  The show, now in its fifty-fifth year and considered the most prestigious of art and antiques fairs in the United States, also presented a stunning loan exhibit from the Corning Museum of Glass, and reported a healthy attendance of more than 10,000 visitors in its first weekend.

Five newcomers to this year’s show, and the new cut off date of 1969, demonstrated the growing diversity of the antiques field.  Here are a few highlights from these new exhibitors:

Cohen & Cohen, specialists in Chinese export porcelain, were simultaneously showing at the New York Ceramics Fair at the National Academy Museum.  At the Winter Antiques Show Cohen & Cohen focused on large, freestanding works including a massive familie rose garniture from the Youngzheng period (ca. 1725), and a pair of late-seventeenth century Chinese Imari soldier vases that are nearly four feet tall. Michael Cohen explained that the vases are rare and show that Imari decoration existed before the eighteenth century, when it is generally thought to have been introduced. Also on view were a large number of Chinese and Japanese figural ceramics, including a vibrant selection of birds from the James E.  Sowell Collection that were arranged in a central vitrine in the style of an aviary.

One of the standout booths of this year’s show was that of Hans P. Kraus, Jr., Fine Photographs, which recreated the inaugural exhibit in 1905 of Alfred Steiglitz and Edward Steichen’s 291 gallery. Every detail was considered with remarkable accuracy from the olive-gray burlap covered walls and muslin covered ceiling panel to the replica lighting fixtures to an authentic wasp’s nest placed in a corner of the booth just where Steichen had put one.  Masterworks of early pictorial photography were selected to reflect the original 291 installation, including Julia Margaret Cameron’s Katie (1866), Steiglitz’s Winter – Fifth Avenue (1893), and Steichen’s The Little Round Mirror (1902). As the first booth completely dedicated to photography at the Winter Antiques Show, Kraus gave visitors a deep and appealing introduction to the medium of fine art photograph.

One of the few exhibitors focusing on twentieth-century American fine art, Bernard Goldberg Fine Art presented a booth with clean, modern lines and a minimal color palette that on closer look revealed decorative flourishes.  A delicate and pensive marble sculptural head by Elie Nadelman was placed on top of a restrained and elegant Gustav Stickley drop-front desk from 1905. The ebony stained oak finish and minimal brass hardware of the desk looked more Viennese than American arts and crafts. Placed on opposite sides of the booth, the swirling clouds and cranes in flight on an Edgar Brandt firescreen echoed the exuberant figures in the painting, La Verseuse (1916), by Robert Delaunay.

While setting up his booth, Arthur Liverant, a third generation antiques dealer, recalled helping his father there decades ago.  Nathan Liverant and Son, was founded more than eighty years ago, and specializes in high quality American antiques from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The highlights of the booth included a Queen Anne bonnet top chest of drawers from the Connecticut River Valley (1775-1800), and a painted sewing table from coastal Massachusetts or southern Maine depicting classical landscapes (1790-1815).  The interior of the booth was dotted with a charming selection of portraits and miniatures, while a wall outside of the booth was stacked with child’s chairs in a wonderful didactic display of color and form.

Finally, the New York-based Antik featured mid-twentieth century Scandinavian design including a suite of furniture by Axel Einar Hjoarth of Nordiska Kompianiet from 1929, the centerpiece of which was an elegant daybed with a dramatically curved frame.  The booth also showed art pottery, including a large ceramic “spiky” vase by Axel Salto for Royal Copenhagen with a rich, mottled glaze. Owner Kim Hostler explained that the piece was special in that it was an entirely unique form without precedents in Asian or other types of ceramics. Antik’s red floral Krysantemer wallpaper by Josef Frank for Svensk Tenn was one design element that no passerby could miss.