Destination Antiques: Winter Antiques Show, New York
Every January, in New York’s tony Upper East Side neighborhood, a seasoned group of antiques enthusiasts buck the snowbird trend in favor of the most prestigious two weeks on the American collecting scene: The Winter Antiques Show. Held in the historic and stunning Park Avenue Armory, the Winter Antiques Show is the star and centerpiece of Americana Week - a convention (of sorts) of scholars, collectors, dealers and auctioneers who gather for a series of auctions, lectures and antique shows that tend to set the pace of the American antiques market - ofering the broader antiques community a fairly accurate forecast of how the market will progress in the coming year.
Built in 1861 by New York’s “silk stocking” Seventh Regiment of the National Guard in response to a call for troops by President Lincoln, the Armory on Park was as much a social club as a military facility. Members of the Regiment included some of the most prominent families of the Gilded Age: Vanderbilts, Van Rensselaers, and Roosevelts, among others. No expense was spared. A noteworthy architectural and engineering feat of the 19th century is the 55,000-square-foot Wade Tompson Drill Hall. One of the largest unobstructed spaces in New York today, the hall was designed by Regiment veteran and architect, Charles W. Clinton - whose frm went on to design the Apthorp Apartments and the Astor Hotel.
It is in this remarkable space that the Winter Antiques Show (WAS) dealers assemble. Given the collective buying power of the sophisticated collecting audience, an exhibitor spot in the WAS is an enviable, albeit daunting opportunity. Seventythree WAS dealers collectively spend several million dollars to participate in the 10-day show; the inventory they bring refects their phenomenal investment of time and money. WAS booths are breathtaking installations of not only premium inventory, but also the personalities and passions of each company and its respective industry leader. Twenty years ago, Patrick Bell and his business partner Edwin Hild (of renowned Olde Hope Antiques), were ofered the coveted booth vacated by great folk art dealer, Gerald Kornblau. “...The Winter Antiques Show represents the very finest dealers and objects available in the many disciplines represented. It is the standard by which all other shows are measured and only Masterpiece London and TEFAF compare in stature and quality, and of course they are European fairs,” Bell recently said.
As Bell’s comment hints, the WAS has expanded beyond the focus of the rest of Americana Week. Nearly two-thirds of the exhibitors specialize in other categories, including jewelry, midcentury modern, rugs and Asian artifacts. While it is now the minority by number of dealers, the heart of the show remains American furniture and decorative arts. Revered names in the business can be found on the WAS floor, one after another, displaying the best of their inventory. Stuart Feld of Hirschl & Adler represents a sophisticated blend of fne art and high-style 19th century furnishings. Working in an earlier period of very fine antiques, the shops of Nathan Liverant & Son and C.L. Prickett are each led by second-generation antiquarians continuing the proud tradition of sourcing exemplary and important examples of early American furniture established by their fathers.
An exuberant demand for folk art in previous years spawned a separate show during Americana week dedicated to the category, but the WAS continues to host incomparable folk art dealers like Barbara Pollack, David Schorsch and Eileen Smiles, Alan Katz and Grace & Elliott Snyder. The eclectic but distinguished Tillou Gallery displays everything from pre-Columbian art to coins to 18th century American art and furniture. From Arader Galleries and The Old Print Shop, buyers may browse selections of early prints and etchings; and the American aesthetic movement is beautifully represented by Associated Artists. Any attempt to list the bevy of signifcant professionals who comprise the show is daring at best, for fear of leaving out a respected frm or individual.
In addition to the impressive score of dealers, the WAS always includes a loan exhibition, lecture series and a number of social events kicked off by the glamorous opening night party. Celebrity watchers will not be disappointed as a veritable who’s who of the Upper East Side shells out $2,500 per person to have frst shot at the best inventory in the show. At $200 per ticket, the Young Collectors Night is a more approachable ticket for new collectors, emerging philanthropists, and art and design enthusiasts, and includes a private reception with a number of recognized interior design professionals ready to lend advice about decorating with antiques. Daily tickets to shop the show are available for a mere $25. Loan exhibitions are always featured at the entrance to the show; in 2016 items from the Wadswoth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut will be displayed. Lecture series span collecting interests, and are often accompanied by book-signings, giving visitors many reasons to return to the show across the ten-day run.
Proceeds from the Winter Antiques Show benefit the important educational and social services work of the East Side House Settlement. The Winter Antiques Show will be held January 22 - 31, 2016. More information about the show, the Armory on Park and the East Side House Settlement may be found at winterantiquesshow.com. To explore the variety of auctions and shows rounding out Americana Week, send us an email for details and suggestions for visiting - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Authors Amelia & Jeff Jeffers are co-owners of two fine art, antique and collectibles companies: Garth's of Delaware, Ohio and Selkirk of St. Louis, Missouri.
First appeared in the November - December issue
of Sophisticated Living