Collectors and enthusiasts will find a bevy of treasures at the Park Avenue Armory—from many eras
By Mitchell Owens
Cabriole legs, folk carvings, Audubon prints, and the like have been rock-ribbed mainstays of Manhattan’s Winter Antiques Show since it launched in 1955 to support (via a percentage of ticket sales and admission to related events) East Side House Settlement, a vibrant 127-year-old social-services organization located in the South Bronx. Ditto enticing special exhibitions: The first Winter Antiques Show, then as now staged at the Park Avenue Armory, tempted visitors with a display of art and objects loaned by first lady Mamie Eisenhower, former president Herbert Hoover, General Douglas MacArthur, and other international household names.
But more recent iterations of the show, which opens to the public on Friday, January 19, and closes on Sunday, January 28, have emphasized cross-collecting, going beyond tunnel-vision connoisseurship to encourage the big mix. “Cross-collecting means—dare I say the word—eclectic,” Michael Diaz-Griffith, the associate executive director of the Winter Antiques Show, recently told me.
“Cross-collecting means—dare I say the word—eclectic”
Did you notice how smartly those 19th-century panels of papier peint look when combined with iconic 20th-century furniture, as shown in the booth shared by Carolle Thibaut-Pomerantz and Julie Blum of Galerie Anne-Sophie Duval? Or how delectable that rare Carlo Bugatti cabinet appears set alongside one of fashion designer Rick Owens’s Prong chairs, minimalist seats that sprout a single antler?
This cultural breadth goes beyond a single booth’s mix-master span, though. The powers that be at the Winter Antiques Show have also expertly juxtaposed opposing specialists, so that it’s impossible to, say, fall for the circa-1895 Tiffany chain-mail-and-glass hangings at Lillian Nassau without also succumbing to the charms of a colorful 2009 Lo Ching work on paper at Michael Goedhuis’s booth right across the aisle.
“That’s the best-case scenario, that the mixing of cultures opens your eyes and your mind,” says Paul Donzella of Donzella, a participating dealer at this year’s show. Though the New York City fixture famously vends gutsy examples of postwar American and European modernism, he is thrilled to be positioned opposite Frank & Barbara Pollack, the folk-art antiques experts, where the centerpiece is a circa-1850 Michigan Amish secretary desk.
“Look how they’ve presented the folk art in a minimal, modern setting,” Donzella continues. “All those colorful pieces in that white, white space. They look amazing.” That sense of surprise and delight is what the Winter Antiques Show is banking on—if competing dealers can enthuse over each other’s offerings, no matter how different the styles or eras, then so will you.
As for this year’s special exhibition, think Bunny Mellon. Several bejeweled objets d’art—among them an outrageous potted sunflower whose blossom can be removed to wear as a brooch—that were designed for her by Jean Schlumberger are part of an epoch-spanning display of treasures loaned to the Winter Antiques Show by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Image: The Park Avenue Armory, home of the Winter Antiques Show. Photo by James Ewing Photography