By Abby Schultz
The Winter Show will host its 65th anniversary fair of arts, design, and antiques at the Park Avenue Armory later this month with a new name—it’s no longer the Winter Antiques Show— and a new executive director, who is working to make the fair more than a spectacular, annual event.
Yet the show itself, an annual benefit for the East Side House Settlement, a community organization serving the Bronx and northern Manhattan, will be recognizable to lovers of art and design who have been going to the fair for years.
Several of the 68 dealers exhibiting, such as The Old Print Shop, James Robinson, and Ralph M. Chait Galleries, have participated in the show for decades, says Helen Allen, who was named executive director of the fair in April.
“One of the things that’s truly unique about this show, and is palpable when people walk onto the floor, is they feel that sense of history, that sense of camaraderie, that sense of wonder, expertise,” Allen says.
The name change is one that has been considered for some time, in part because the fair was often informally called The Winter Show anyhow, and in part because dealers today bring works spanning some 5,000 years, from antiquities through to contemporary art.
“To say we’re an antiques fair when we’re representing antiquity through present day doesn’t give weight to all of our other exhibitors that are exhibiting in different eras,” Allen says.
Still, about 88% of the show’s dealers deal in antiques (decorative arts that are 100 or more years old), or in historic works of art. Most of the rest bring a mix of vintage and contemporary art and design, while one dealer, Hirschl + Adler Modern, brings only contemporary art, she says.
Dealers, in fact, can “bring up to five objects from outside of their traditional datelines in order to create a dynamic mix in their booths,” and about a dozen dealers of antiques and historic reapplied to the show to present both historic and contemporary material together, Allen says.
“The Winter Show’s focus is on quality, the exhibitors’ expertise, and their vision in mixing works that may be from different periods but relate to each other in style, technique, materials, and inspiration, drawing connections across art history from antiquity through the present day,” she says.
Allen, who today can picture a grandfather clock for sale at the show when she was a child visiting with her mother, has a masters in fine and decorative art history from Christie’s Education/Royal Society of Art, and came to the fair after years in the business of producing and managing art fairs.
She was drawn to the Winter Show because of its quality and history, but also because of its deep roots with the East Side House. “It gives you a chance to feel like you’re helping a bigger cause,” Allen says.
The community organization, which aims to boost economic opportunities for about 10,000 residents through education and technology, receives all net proceeds from the show’s general admission, opening night party, and other related events. As Allen puts it, “East Side House is The Winter Show.”
She hopes to continue to elevate and strengthen this relationship, perhaps by developing an internship program that could create opportunities for work in everything from the arts, to social media marketing, event planning, and administration, she says.
As the new executive director, Allen is also working toward bolstering the show’s year-round presence, beginning with an onsite visit, tour, and talk at a City Center Harkness Studio installation by the artist Jorge Otero-Pailos, who is also director of historic preservation at Columbia University’s graduate school of architecture, planning, and preservation.
“Because we’re a once a year show, our feeling is that it’s really important that our dealers are still at the forefront in people’s minds,” Allen says.
Still, the centerpiece is the show itself. For her part, Allen is excited to see a couple new-to-the-market antiques, that a couple dealers plan to bring, as well as the uniquely designed exhibit booths many create for the 10-day fair.
Last year, first instance, Elle Shushan, a Philadelphia exhibitor who deals in portrait miniatures, portrait waxes, and contemporary portrait photography, created a “little jewel-box of a booth with theatre scrims painted to resemble a historic library,” Allen recalled.
“We have wonderful dealers who pull out all the stops, to really present their best work and to create these beautiful vignettes, these other worlds, when you come into the Armory,” Allen says.
The Winter Show will be held from Jan. 18 to Jan. 27 at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan. A VIP Preview and opening night party will be held Thursday, Jan. 17.