The New York antiques season gets off to a late start


The antiques season in New York is getting a late start this year, so late some wonder if the center of the art world will ever come back from its long summer slumber.

Show promoter Sandy Smith's Fall Show at the Passenger Pier, with its popular preview benefiting the Museum of American Folk Art, gets under way on Oct. 16 (through Oct. 20) and then the season is off and running.

Right on its heels, Oct. 18, London promoters Anna and Brian Haughton bring the elegant, expensive International Antiques Dealers Show to the 7th Regiment Armory, through Oct. 24, with its Friday evening preview benefiting Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. No sooner will the international dealers have packed up their goods than show promoter Jackie Sideli moves her Antiques Market called "Pilgrim to Pop at the Puck" into the Puck Building, 295 Lafayette St., Oct. 26 and 27.

Sandy Smith will introduce a New Print Fair at the 7th Regiment Armory in association with the International Fine Print Dealers Association Nov. 1-3. His popular Modernism Show will be later than usual this season, Nov. 21-24. Irene Stella has scheduled her legendary Triple Pier Expos for Passenger Piers 88, 90 and 92 on Nov. 23, 24, 30 and Dec. 1, before and after Thanksgiving, and again Feb. 29 to March 1.

The New York Winter Show that benefits East Side House Settlement in the Bronx will be a week earlier than usual, filling the Seventh Regiment Armory with antiques Jan. 17-26. All this compresses a lot of shows into a shorter time.

Looking optimistically at the season, Sanford Smith sees the antiques business perking up this fall and by spring beginning to move into high gear again. "We will not see anything like the last half of the '80s again, but we will see the growth of interest among serious collectors and among new people coming in to the market for the first time," he predicts.

Mr. Smith says dealers apparently need shows now more than ever before. "I have four different shows this fall and they are all sold out with dealer waiting lists."

Jackie Sideli sees the 1990s as a time when dealers and collectors want more options. "We see this as a time when we have to offer more reasonable, more affordable shows that are fun and design-oriented. We see Pilgrim to Pop at the Puck as a cross between a one-day market and more upscale event. We offer room settings but not as elegant as at the pier, the armory or a hotel."

At the Puck Building, Ms. Sideli can offer dealers booths for between $540 and $925, wallpaper and power included, as compared with $1,600 to $2,500 at her Pilgrim to Pop at the Sheraton Hotel last January. "In this economic climate dealers aren't anxious to spend $5,000 before they make a sale," she says.

There are, however, some European and American dealers who apparently don't mind spending a big price for the chance to sell at the top of the market. The fact that Americans did not go abroad in great numbers this year has encouraged dealers from Europe to bring their stock here. Even though 18 dealers who exhibited at the International Dealers Show last year are not returning, either because they were not invited, closed up shop or chose not to come, 13 others have signed up to take their places. Among the 77 exhibitors are some well-known and impressive London names, such as John Partidge, whose Bond Street gallery specializes in the finest English and Continental furniture and silver; Kenneth Snowman of Wartski, specialists in Faberge; Leger, one of the premier London art dealers; and O'Shea Gallery, leaders in decorative prints.

The number of dealers showing Americana at this International Show has been reduced to six. The show is strong in English furniture, silver, ceramics, jewelry, Oriental works of art and paintings. Only in its third year, it is billed as a world class event, on a par with the Paris Biennale and London's Grosvenor House, to be viewed as much as a museum exhibition as a place for connoisseurs to buy.

In the British tradition, it will be "vetted." For a day and a half before the show opens to the public, teams of specialists check every object for authenticity and repairs. And during the show, as items are sold, their replacements are also passed on by the vetting committee.

The show is not only expensive for the dealers, costing between $5,500 and $41,000 for a booth, depending on size, but it is expensive for show goers -- $15 a ticket this year, but the price of admission includes a lavishly illustrated catalog.

Other New York shows have stuck to their $10 general admission ticket, including the New York Winter Show which benefits the East Side House Settlement. This show will not be vetted this year. "The vetting process would add at least another day to set up and make the show more expensive," explained Edward Munves, president of James Robinson, the 57th Street jewelry and silver dealers. "Instead of vetting, we opted for a very strong invoice giving a guarantee of authenticity and one that would include a full condition report. Then the buyer has recourse if the piece turns out not to be as described. The matter can be taken to legal arbitration; the invoice is a document that is legally binding."

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