Antiques Extravaganza

What’s new in New York is plenty that’s old. We didn't make it to the Pier or the downtown Armory, but we did stop by major antiques shows all over town

 An Italian marble sarcophagus-form planter and a monumental carved marble urn were centerpieces at the Winter Antiques Show for Barbara Israel Garden Antiques

Once again this year the Winter Antiques Show launched with a season-starting reception at the Park Avenue Armory.  Early comers had to accommodate a police phalanx lining the streets on behalf of President Obama attending another event nearby.  But that didn’t deter the likes of Mayor Bloomberg and Diana Taylor, Martha Stewart and other notables who showed up to ogle the precious wares.

Seriously shopping were noted decorators Mario Buatta, who bought an octagonal mirror for a client he had in mind, and Robert Couturier who eyed a handsome wooden cabinet with unusual concave and convex drawers.

Lots of familiar faces were missing, but among those spotted booth-to-booth were Liz Peek,  Somers Farkas,  Richard Feigen associate Frances Beatty wearing a striking Zac Posen gold skirt with black cutouts at the hemline and on the matching jacket,  Pat Altschul in an intricate black felt and net cutaway ensemble by Ralph Rucci, and  Hilary Geary, who had stayed up north, opting out of the concurrent opening of ArtPalm Beach to attend this vernissage in New York.

Teasing that he had an “open tab,” cochairman Arie Kopelman invited me to spend at will—and if he’d been serious, there were lots of items I was tempted to ring up, including a set of charming buckets-of-daisies chairs at  Liz O’Brien and the striking Art Deco red with black blocks carpet draped across Keshishian’s booth that had been created in the ‘30s for the Maharajah of Indore.

A dramatic cross-hatch drawing of two women, “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep,” acquired from Harry Belafonte’s personal collection, tempted collectors of African-American Social Realist artist Charles White.  At Suzanne Courcier/Robert W. Wilkins, a four-foot span of late 19th-century spectacles that once advertised an optician’s shop should have attracted a Great Gatsby fan.  And wouldn’t it be fun to have a signed photo of Audrey Hepburn in a charming pose ($5750 at Kenneth Rendell).

Graduated bottles from an early-Connecticut glassworks on display at the Metro Show

There seemed to be more American folk art than usual at the Armory, but the big display of folk and primitive art was in evidence downtown at the convivial Metro Show at the Metropolitan Pavilion.  

Exhibitors didn’t disappoint with several pieces by primitive painters Henry Darger and Bill Traylor.  One Traylor picture of a male figure in a bright Yves Klein-like blue suit got a red dot from Ralph’s brother Jerry Lauren, who chose it over a twirling squirrel in a nearby booth which he might have added to his noted weathervane collection.

Doing Connecticut proud was a graduated lineup of glass Chestnut bottles assembled by Jeff and Holly Noordsby.  The distinctive olive-yellow beakers were hand-blown by four different glassworks, operating from 1790-1820 in Hartford County.   

Another eye-catching collection was Ricco Maresca's display of aluminum helmets, their elaborate tattoo-like embellishments hardly belying that they were fabricated in mid-century Indonesia for the mundane job of protecting workers in the Indonesian oil fields. www.

Katharine Houston crafts one of a kind porcelain flowers and articles from nature

Back uptown, we browsed with extreme care among the highly breakable treasures crowded on display at Bohemian National Hall for the New York Ceramics Fair.  Besides gorgeous predictable Delft, earthenware, Meissen, and Limoges, we admired Katherine Houston's recreations from nature—the set of cocky sunflowers and a literal "Big Apple" … an 18-inch high fruit with detachable stem.

Snakes wound around the rare set of 19th-century Venetian Salviati goblets in Martin Cohen's booth, and the one-of-a-kind figures of sultans in caftans at Iznik were charmingly reminiscent of whirling dervishes.

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