NEW YORK CITY — The City That Never Sleeps had a lot going on the weekend of March 16 and 17, including the annual St Patrick’s Day parade, the half marathon and the kickoff to the Asia Week series of auctions and exhibitions. The place to be, however, was on the Big Apple’s West Side at the spring edition of Stella Show Mgmt Co.’s Pier Antiques Show.
Billing itself as “the place where decorators, designers and collectors find the unique, the strange and the beautiful” — the show features more than 500 dealer booths at Pier 94 — the highly anticipated event lived up to its marketing with an impressive showcase of Americana, classical antiques, Modern designer furniture, Asian ceramics, Tiffany lamps, fine art, jewelry, vintage collectibles and more. There was an energetic crowd for the Saturday opening, and several dealers reported that buying enthusiasm was reemerging, much like the crocuses and daffodils beginning to push up from the frozen ground.
“The attendance was great! The enthusiasm to buy was quite evident,” said Bernice Conn, a Voorhees, N.J., general line antiques dealer. “There were many dealers and collectors from out of state who came to enhance their inventories and collections. My sales were an eclectic selection of merchandise, including paintings, furniture, silver, vanity jars and antique lighting.” Among Conn’s sales was a whimsical painting, “The Toy Maker,” by W. Cortland Butterfield (1904–1977), a Newark, N.J., artist who became a leading portrait artist of his time with a painting technique rooted in the tradition of the Spanish masters. “The general feeling of many dealers was ‘good show — the buyers are back,’” said Conn.
Time was when Americana was the backbone of the Pier Show, and it is still an important element, although with fewer such dealers there to offer the furniture, folk art, primitives and decorative arts that make up this category.
The building’s central aisle, however, featured such mainstays as Judith and James Milne, New York City dealers, known for an eclectic mix of American folk art and industrial antiques. “The show was energetic and upbeat,” said Judith Milne. “I sold lots of different categories from doorstops to industrial carts, weathervanes to wall objects.” Two pair of sculpted metal Picasso-esque stools — male and female countenances represented — were getting a lot of attention, and also displayed in the booth was an early 1900s Boston Terrier doorstop in original paint, a lunch sign and an industrial cart, 1965, that would make a great kitchen island.
Paul Thien and Douglas Warriner, proprietors of Firehouse Antiques, Galena, Md., assembled a pleasing booth offering a Fornasetti-style model of a building, circa 1960s, painted and with decoupage, a porcelain cigar sign that was early Twentieth Century, a pair of tole tea canister lamps, Twentieth Century, as well as interesting smalls, such as a display of small clay plant pots and duckpin bowling balls.
A large sculpture of a crouching polar bear titled “Ice Maiden” provided the frisson for Bruce Emond’s always-eclectic presentation at the Village Braider. The Plymouth, Mass., dealer pointed out an artist’s signature on the work — recently acquired and unresearched — but it was in a hard-to-read location and there was no loup available. Sold early in the show were a couple of graphic signs — “Wallpaper, Floor Covering, Fishing, Toys” and “Stop.” A pair of northern Italian scenes from the Nineteenth Century by Francis Pringle was notable, as was an old American hardware store apothecary, circa 1840s, with 52 drawers.
And, of course, York, Maine, dealer Bob Withington held down prime space at the entrance of the Americana aisle with an eye-catching vignette populated with wrought iron marble top French consoles, circa 1940s, Italian marble urns, circa 1900, in Campagna form and a pair of Nineteenth Century French Louis XVI-style armchairs. Pulling the booth together was a striking mounted zebra rug from the 1960s, which Bob said he had sold early on Saturday but planned to keep up for the run of the show.
Interesting decorative arts could be found in the booth of Karen & Albert Antiquinaires, Hempstead, N.Y. Reclaiming the fierce “bones” of a 1950s wing chair, Albert brought it back to life by reupholstering it with a bold period fabric. A Japanese Meiji period (1868–1920) settee was another find, and striking artwork by Nicholas Davis (b 1937) and by Alan Fliesler, a New York artist whose graphite works portray the human condition, enlivened the scene.
Modern design is an increasingly important category in this show, and showgoers could find about 100 or so booths devoted to midcentury furniture and decorative items. Ed and Betty Koren, Bridges Over Time, Newburgh, N.Y., filled an attractive space with Pop artwork by Jack Brusca (“Triangles,” 1969), buffalo hide and walnut armchairs and a pair of Mario Bellini chairs from the 1970s, among other things. “We had quite a few sales over the weekend,” said Ed Koren. “Most of the furniture went and we had very little to take home. Attendance was great, considering the difficulties people had getting around New York. We sold a set of six Dunbar chairs, a large painting in the middle of the booth, a large credenza at the back of the booth, a pair of chests, a great large scale model airplane, several more paintings, a few pairs of lamps and some smalls.”
A slice of Twentieth Century life was heralded by the iconic Life Savers candy signs — including the original Pep O Mint and once-popular Wint O Green flavor introduced in 1918 — in the booth of Cory Margolis’ Mantiques Modern, New York City. The signs, designed for indoor use, had come from the Life Savers factory, circa 1930s–40s, and featured lithography and hand painted decoration. Other items attracting interest here were Louis Vuitton and Goyard trunks and wardrobes, as well as — oddly — skull objects.
Stella Show Mgmt Co. is always tweaking the mix to make this a comprehensive art, style and antiques event. This time in addition to the main show sidebars of Fashion Alley and Book Alley, there was steampunk, industrial design, a photobooth, typewriters, celebrity appraisals and a special exhibition of storied American potteries, such as Rookwood, Weller, Grueby and Roseville on display by the America Art Pottery Association (AAPA).
Patty Bourgeois, a past president, enthusiastically pointed out some gems showcased in the display, such as a 1905 Van Briggle Iris vase, a Rookwood vase by Harriet Wilcox, circa 1906, a Grueby two-color example from 1905 and a Teco Pottery vase with ovoid handles, circa 1910. And that was just one shelf of the large display of wares loaned by individual dealers, such as JMW Gallery. Numerous AAPA members were also set up at the show to sell their collections, everything from vases, wall pockets, Arts and Crafts pottery and tiles.
Fashion, too, was on parade in advance of the Easter holiday. Joe Sundlie of Vintedge put together a special exhibit of floral ball gowns and beguiling mannequins, titling it “The Garden of Good & Evil.” Nearby, Katy Kane, New Hope, Penn., featured Halston from the late 1970s, with plenty of sparkle in the bugle beaded dress on offer, as well as an elegant and contemporary looking Chado Ralph Rucci dress, among her Twentieth Century vintage couture.
Back in Fashion Alley — the entire rear of the show dedicated to men’s and women's fashion, accessories and jewelry — Andrea Hall Levy of Lofty Vintage, Yonkers, N.Y., played to the springtime theme by featuring several raffia embroidered floral skirts, which sold almost immediately. “Also popular were several iconic spring coats from the 1960s,” she said.” Another one of my best selling items was an a suit dress from the 1920s,” said Levy. “A new customer came from California, who told me how refreshing my merchandise was as compared to what she is used to seeing on the West Coast.”
Copper gleamed in a display by Pat Frazer, Vintage Couture Jewelry. The Easton, Conn., dealer had among her treasures a copper cuff with applied glass, ear clips and necklaces, all in copper and many exemplifying African motifs.
Also in the rear of the show, a hardy band of antiquarian booksellers and ephemera specialists were set up in a special section called Book Alley. Rare books and documents from many areas of collecting were represented, including design and architecture, medical, Asian, biography and natural history. Topsfield, Mass., dealer John Kuenzig specializes in both books and artifacts of science, technology and engineering. A highlight in his stand were a couple of original cover artworks that had been created for science fiction novels. “We had a good show, writing 21 tickets, and sale prices between $20 and $2,000,” reported Kuenzig following the show. “Much of the interest was in smaller scientific instruments in the $50 to $200 range. We have had additional interest since returning home, particularly on larger ticket items. We plan to attend again. The show is well run and New York City is a fun venue.”
Long-time New York City dealers Arthur Cobin and Vivien Boniuk of Duchess Antiques kept busy signing copies of their book Faked Out, Tales for Lovers of Antiques and Art. “We had an excellent response to the book at the show — especially from the dealers,” said Cobin. “I guess they see something of themselves, their customers and other dealers in the stories. Hmmmm!”
Celebrity appraisers are part of the mix at the Pier show, as visitors are encouraged to bring their antiques, collectibles, fashion and Pop culture items to have them appraised by trade professionals. On tap for this show were Gordon Converse, who gave verbal appraisals on fine art and antiques, Gary Sohmers, who specializes in Pop culture items, and estate sale guru Cari Cucksey, host of HGTV’s Cash & Cari.
Next up for Stella Show Mgmt Co. is the Chicago Botanic Garden Antiques & Garden Fair, April 19–21. Recently announced is a new Country Living Fair; this one to be conducted in Rhinebeck, N.Y., June 7–9. The Pier Show returns for its fall edition November 23–24. For information, www.stellashows.com or 973-808-5015.