NEW YORK CITY — “The Treasure Houses of Britain: Five Hundred Years of Private Patronage and Art Collecting” took the country by storm when it opened at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 1986. Americans could not get enough of the English stately home or begin to know how to replicate one. As if to answer this need, the ever impeccable International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show (IFAADS) was born three years later, quickly setting a standard for excellence of content and presentation that other American fairs sought to emulate.
The genius of founders Anna and Brian Haughton, who engineered the magnificent debut with members of the National Antique and Art Dealers Association of America (NAADA), was to create a template that was rigid enough to maintain quality from year to year, but flexible enough to allow the show to evolve with taste and trends, thus remaining fresh. Put simply, the Haughtons promoted the idea that great art and design is timeless and universal. Hello vetting, goodbye datelines.
Those who recall IFAADS over the past quarter century will remember its distinct phases. It had a fine English furniture phase, when the powerhouses of London trade gathered in New York in improbable numbers; an Old Masters moment that ebbed with the rise of the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht; an Asian art moment and a time when Twentieth Century design suddenly seemed not only right but possible.
In its 25th year, IFAADS has achieved equilibrium, offering a little bit of all that is very good. It still favors the classics, a term, broadly applied, that includes everything from Greco-Roman antiquities to French Modernist design.
This year’s edition opened with a preview party for 1,000 guests on Thursday evening, October 24, benefiting the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, for which IFAADS has raised more than $20 million since 1989. Robert DeNiro, Mark Zuckerberg, Carolina Herrera, George Lucas, Oscar de la Renta and Valentino were spotted on the floor over the course of the seven-day event, organizers say.
Fitting the gilded-age mood was the spectacular life-size, full-length painting of the Princess Cecile Murat Ney, who novelist Marcel Proust called “the Queen of Naples.” By the society portraitist Giovanni Boldini, the 1910 picture, priced $1.8 million, sold for seven figures at Enrico Gallerie d’Arte of Milan.
“The one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is Roman. Ours is Hellenistic,” Hicham Aboutaam of Phoenix Ancient Art said of the timelessly beautiful marble sculpture of three graces, Second to First Century BC, that was a focal point of his display. The sculpture depicts the minor goddesses Splendor, Mirth and Good Cheer. In various guises, the composition is one of the most famous from antiquity. Phoenix’s figures lack their hands and feet but retain their heads; the Met’s version lacks their heads.
To an American collector, wallpaper specialist Carolle Thibaut-Pomerantz sold “Les Metamorphoses D’Ovide,” panels depicting Daphne pursued by Apollo. The set priced roughly $100,000 dates to circa 1785 and was made by Arthur & Grenard, Paris.
Martin Levy of H. Blairman & Sons, Ltd, parted with a glass and pearl-encrusted enamelled silver jewelery casket made by Frederick-Jules Rudolphi of Paris, circa 1851, and probably exhibited the same year at London’s Great Exhibition.
Classical American furniture specialist Carswell Rush Berlin returned to the show, selling an ebonized and carved parcel-gilt Boston pier mirror of circa 1830.
New York’s Hirschl & Adler Galleries paired a circa 1818–19 classical sofa by Isaac Vose and Son of Boston, made for Stephen and Elizabeth Salisbury of Worcester, Mass., with “Entrance to the Theatre” by Lawrence Alma Tadema and “The Party,” a 1971 conversation group by John Koch, the father of contemporary realism.
Guilford, Conn., fine arts specialist Thomas Colville boasted five original works on paper by James Abbott McNeil Whistler, including the watercolor “Green and Silver — The Three Clouds” of circa 1885.
Nautical arts expert Hyland Granby brought a half dozen oils on canvas by J.E. Buttersworth. Among them was “Cornelia and Magic Racing in a Squall,” circa 1873, depicting the two yachts engaged in what is probably a New York Yacht Club race in New York Harbor. Complementing the Buttersworth paintings were lustrous silver bromide prints by premier yachting photographer Morris Rosenfeld.
New York dealer Todd Merrill took orders for lighting installations by the contemporary Irish artist Niamh Barry, who makes limited-edition fine light sculptures and furniture, and sold an Enignum low table by the Irish artist Joseph Walsh.
In an homage to the stately house, several exhibitors showcased pieces with lustrous provenance. London dealer Frank Partridge offered a lacquered and gilt-brass-mounted George III coromandel commode, possibly made by Pierre Langlois, circa 1760, for Castle Howard. Apter-Fredericks retailed an exotic settee with an arabesque-shaped back, made for 1st Earl Spencer for Spencer House in London but more recently used at Althorp, the childhood home of Diana, Princess of Wales. Thomas Coulborn and Sons mingled a pair of circa 1750 Chinese Export torcheres made for Harewood House in Hanover Square, London, with the Earl of Craven’s Russian chinoiserie commode.
Nothing spoke more directly to the Anglo American exchange that is at IFAADS’ heart than the 8-foot-tall map of the British Empire in North America that covered Daniel Crouch’s back wall. The color engraving by Henry Popple dated to 1746. Among its sales, the London dealer counted an early Nineteenth Century set of four watercolor manuscript maps depicting Texas.
The Haughtons started in London as organizers of fairs for collectors, creating events designed to bring serious, knowledgeable buyers and sellers together. As such, promoting sales to institutions and attracting museum buyers from around the world remains part of its core mission.
Building on tradition, the Haughtons’ Art Antiques London show opens in Kensington Gardens for a week with a preview on June 11. The International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show returns to the Park Avenue Armory October 17–22, 2014. For information, 212-642-8572 or www.haughton.com.