By Lita Solis-Cohen
The Winter Show celebrated its 65th year, a sapphire jubilee, January 17-27, at the Park Avenue Armory. There were sapphire lights projected on the ceiling and on the front of the loan exhibition, Collecting Nantucket/Connecting the World. Many at the preview party wore sapphire blue, making it an even more festive occasion. As many do when they reach that magical year of 65, making them eligible for Medicare, the show made an effort to seem younger and be more streamlined and well disciplined in order to make sure the coming years will be a time of creative growth and longevity.
The show took a new and simpler name—The Winter Show—leaving the word antiques behind because the show includes 5000 years of art and artifacts from ancient times to modern design, and because painting and sculpture of high quality is a sizable presence.
Frank Levy of Bernard and S. Dean Levy, New York City, asked Ralph Harvard to design his stand. Because he had several pieces with carved shells, Harvard put wallpaper printed with shells on the walls and then added blue water up to the chair rail. The three-shell chest of drawers with a molded tray top, probably made in Rhode Island but possibly from eastern Connecticut, circa 1800, sold for a price in the mid-six figures. It was once in the Reginald Lewis collection in Easton, Maryland, and it had been owned by Joe Kindig. A nearly identical chest is in the collection of Bayou Bend. The Humphreys family looking glass above it, circa 1750, was possibly owned by James Humphreys in Philadelphia. “J. Humphreys” is written on the backboard. It was $65,000.
Child in a White Dress Holding a Basket of Berries, a portrait of Betsey Avery Brewster (1798-1838), painted by John Brewster Jr., Hampton, Connecticut, oil on canvas, 31″ x 22″, in a period carved and gilded frame, signed on the stretcher “J Brewster limner.” As did a portrait of her sister, Betsey’s portrait came down in the Brewster family until 1986 when dealer Bill Samaha bought them. Olde Hope asked $2.5 million for the portrait of Betsey. Olde Hope also offered Brewster’s portrait (not shown) of Sophia Brewster (1795-1800), holding a bird and wearing a blue dress. It is believed to have been painted after she died at the age of five. Olde Hope asked $1.4 million for the 30¼” x 18″ oil on canvas. The sisters are well known; they have been shown in every John Brewster exhibition since the 1960s, the last being in the 2005-07 traveling exhibition at the Fenimore Art Museum and the American Folk Art Museum.
Alexander Acevedo offered this life portrait of Alexander Hamilton, circa 1795, by Walter Robertson (1750-1801) watercolor in bistre, with a neck stock rendered in black, all on a thin card on heavy paper, 5¼” x 3⅛”. It descended through Hamilton’s family and was $650,000.
Triple portrait of Granville and Ella Jane Parks and friend, about 1850, by Samuel Miller (1807-1853), probably Boston, Massachusetts, oil on canvas in a mahogany veneer frame, 60″ x 45″, $165,000 from Stephen Score.
Stephen Score of Boston sold this Rufus Porter wall painting, painted in 1845 in Westwood, Massachusetts. Score said he bought it from a house in 1982, sold it to a family for their farmhouse, and bought it back a week before the show. He called it the Boyden house mural. It is 4′ x 10′. He asked $125,000 for it.
It also has a new executive director, Helen Allen, and a young associate executive director, Michael Diaz-Griffith, who had been with the show for five years and is a link to the past but full of ideas for the future. They are both committed to building on the foundation with longtime exhibitors and to attracting new faces for whom aesthetics are all important and authenticity is essential. The pair moved slowly this year; they want to make more significant changes in the future, reaching out to a younger audience with educational and social events and social media throughout the year, all the while giving the East Side House Settlement a platform to tell its story of a successful settlement house in the Bronx and to function as its major fund-raiser.
This year dealers were encouraged to be creative about their booth design. Three dealers employed the talents of interior designer Ralph Harvard, who has been designing Elle Shushan’s stand for over a decade. Harvard’s design for Bernard and S. Dean Levy’s space was the talk of the show. He used John Derian’s shell-strewn wallpaper and painted the lower portions of it with a watery blue. Harvard was inspired by Levy’s three-shell chest of drawers and his two shell-carved Rhode Island Queen Anne lowboys, one of them attributed to Newport’s Thomas Townsend. Levy also offered chairs with carved shells. It apparently worked. Levy sold his three-shell tray-top chest of drawers for a mid-six-figure sum, a Federal Boston sofa table attributed to John and Thomas Seymour, and a Massachusetts chair probably made by Nathaniel Gould. Gould’s shop ledgers were discovered and written about by Kemble Widmer and Joyce King in their 2014 book In Plain Sight: Discovering the Furniture of Nathaniel Gould. Levy sold more, including a pair of Federal octagonal worktables that he bought separately. They did not stay together long; he sold them to two different collectors.
Patrick Bell and Edwin Hild of Olde Hope covered their walls with large silhouettes taken from Jacob Maentel watercolors. Designed by David Guilmet but produced by Patrick Bell, partner in the Bell-Guilmet design firm, the walls lured people into Olde Hope’s space to see two full-length John Brewster portraits of the artist’s stepsisters. Brewster, who painted in Maine, Connecticut, and eastern New York, painted young Sophia in a dark sunset, suggesting it was a posthumous likeness. She died before she was five. Her sister Betsey in her white dress is painted outdoors carrying a basket of strawberries that match her red shoes. They were show-stoppers, but they have not sold yet at $1.4 million for Sophia and $2.5 million for Betsey. They were included in the traveling Brewster exhibition in 2005-07.
One of a pair of transitional Queen Anne/Chippendale chairs with trifid feet and three shells, circa 1750, that were sold by New York City dealer Hirschl & Adler Galleries at the show. Each has a metal tag under the rear seat rail reading “MPW” for Marguerite Pascall Wood. Each is 40½” high, 21¼” at the crest rail, and 20½” deep. Inscribed on the seat rail of one is “III” and on the slip seat is “VI”; on the inside of the seat rail of the second chair is the numeral “V” and on the slip seat, “I.”
Spencer Marks Ltd., Southampton, Massachusetts, offered this Tiffany & Company copper vase with drip silver and additional silver and gold inlay. It is an experimental vase based on a design of a Japanese vase that Edward C. Moore brought back from the 1878 Paris Exposition. Designed by Charles Grosjean, Tiffany’s lead silversmith at the time, it is under consideration by an institution. The asking price was $89,000.
Toots Zynsky (b. 1951), Cortina, 2013, $32,000 from Michele Beiny of New York City and London, a specialist is 18th- and early 19th-century English and Continental porcelain and faience.
Winslow Homer (1836-1910), Adirondacks, Man and Canoe, 1892, watercolor on paper, 15⅛” x 21½”, signed and dated lower right, $6.5 million from Menconi and Schoelkopf, New York City.
William Hunt Diederich (1884-1953), Aviary, an installation for a New York townhouse, circa 1927, cut metal, $475,000 from Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts, New York City.
Tiffany lampshade for a chandelier, $395,000 from Macklowe Gallery, New York City.
David Schorsch and Eileen Smiles did not need special wallpaper to do a land-office business. They sold to the American Folk Art Museum a large Martin Luther Bible with a double-page fraktur religious text drawn by Johannes Ernst Spangenberg for Jacob Schaefer. They also sold oil on canvas portraits by David Brokaw of Grimes McConahy, Adelia Elizabeth McConahy, and Elizabeth McConahy, painted in Oberlin, Ohio, in 1845. A watercolor on paper, A Girl in Blue Dress in Furnished Interior, 1830-40, a Nantucket Windsor chair like the one in the loan exhibition, a sack-back Connecticut Windsor, two Shaker boxes, one yellow, one red, and a weathervane in the form of a hunter with a wagon wheel sold as well.
Ralph Harvard provided high-gloss yellow-painted walls to show off Kelly Kinzle’s painted furniture and patinated copper weathervanes. Kinzle sold his historic powder horn to Historic Charleston Foundation. It was incised with a Carolina map and was owned by a captain during the French and Indian war. Kinzle also sold a griffin weathervane from the Cincinnati Zoo, a clock with wooden works in an inlaid case, and a blue-painted lift-top bench. A week after the show, he sold his Charles Hofmann painting of Benjamin Reber’s farm in Lower Heidelberg, Berks County, Pennsylvania. Dealers say sales continue for months after the show.
Stephen Score did not have to wait long to find a buyer for his large Rufus Porter watercolor on plaster, approximately 4′ x 10′. It was painted on the wall of the Boyden house in Westwood, Massachusetts, 1835-37.
Alexander Acevedo sold to Mount Vernon a mid-19th-century painting of Washington walking in the woods signed “C. Alexander.” He had not sold his newly discovered watercolor portrait from life of a very handsome Alexander Hamilton with a black neck stock by Walter Robertson (1750-1801) that came down in the Hamilton family. It was $650,000.
Kelly Kinzle of New Oxford, Pennsylvania, asked $148,000 for this 1761 Carolina map powder horn with a view of Charleston, South Carolina. This 12½” long cow horn is the best example of a small group of related powder horns produced for British soldiers stationed in Charleston, South Carolina, fighting in the Anglo-Cherokee War of 1758-61, part of the larger French and Indian War. It sold to the Historic Charleston Foundation. It records the places of British-Cherokee encounters, the floor plan of Fort Prince George, where the 95th Regiment was stationed, and a view of Charleston. The major rivers are at the bottom of the horn.
Chippendale figured maple tall chest with bold grained wood, graduated drawers, and bracket feet, 53″ x 36″ x 17½”, $15,000 from Nathan Liverant and Son, LLC, Colchester, Connecticut. The portrait of the Navy frigate U.S.S. President, one of the six original war ships designed by Joshua Humphreys in 1794 and built at Christian Bergh Shipyards on the East River in New York City in 1800, was $22,500. It is inscribed on the back “President” with a “Curteis & Son, 1804” watermark in the paper. It measures 22⅓” x 23¾” in the frame.
Steven and Leon Weiss of Gemini, Oldwick, New Jersey, asked $38,500 for this patriotic hoop toy, made by George Brown in 1876. This is the deluxe version with a doll. Only four are known. Steven Weiss said that they sold ten still banks, ten mechanical banks, 15 horse-drawn toys, and every German soldier they brought to the fair to 20 different people by midweek.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries had two stands—one for their furniture paintings and decorations and one for Hirschl & Adler Modern. The offerings ranged from mid-18th-century Philadelphia side chairs, each carved with three shells, to a selection of Aesthetic Movement chairs tables and lighting. In between were plenty of Neoclassical sofas, tables, and chairs. They even had a case full of Gaudy Dutch china. Paintings included a portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, a tiny Charles Sheeler, and Modernist works by William Hunt Diederich and George Ault. From their Hirschl & Adler Modern booth, they sold an abstract white marble sculpture by Elizabeth Turk and a painting of musicians by John Koch (1909-1978), an American realist. The range was enormous and worth an extra trip to the fair.
Hirschl & Adler sold to collectors and to institutions. The first piece sold on opening night was a newly discovered Neoclassical worktable with 18 ormolu mounts. It was attributed to Isaac Vose when Thomas Seymour was foreman of his shop (1819-25). The gallery brought it over from the exhibition Augmenting the Canon. It was the frontispiece of the Hirsch & Adler catalog for the exhibition.
The quality and profusion of American paintings at the show was memorable. Works by Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Marsden Hartley, Maurice Prendergast, and more were shown by well-known dealers such as Menconi and Schoelkopf, Michael Altman, Adelson Galleries, Jonathan Boos, Thomas Colville, and Gerald Peters. Sales were made. Gerald Peters sold multiple works by Karen LaMonte (b. 1967) in cast iron and cast glass; they were the talk of the show.
Two New York City galleries—Macklowe and Lillian Nassau—offered Tiffany lamps, glass, and ceramics, making it worthwhile for two major collectors to be second and third in line at the preview. Spencer Marks, Southampton, Massachusetts, showing for just the second year, sold Tiffany and Gorham silver to private clients and to institutions. They had a very good show.
Northwest Coast masks and a Woodlands ladle at the booth of Tambaran, Maureen Zarember’s gallery in New York City, were expressive rarities. The booth of toy dealers Gemini looked like FAO Schwarz before Christmas at the preview, and by the end of the evening Steven Weiss said they had sold 29 of the toys pictured in the catalog they had sent out days before the show so that clients could decide what they wanted and come to the show to inspect in person.
Iroquois quail ladle, Eastern Woodlands, $18,000 from New York City dealer Maureen Zarember of Tambaran, a specialist in African, Oceanic, and Native American art.
Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946), Dog Under Lilacs in a Downpour, 2018, acrylic and oil on clayboard panel, 36″ x 30″, $1 million from Adelson Galleries, New York City.
M.A.D. writes almost exclusively about American art and decorative arts at the show, so the illustrations show just a fraction of what was there. There was some jewelry made by American makers, such as Tiffany and Oscar Heyman, from James Robinson, New York City, and by Louise Nevelson from Didier, London, that fall into the American sphere. And now that museums call their American galleries “Arts of the Americas,” we can count Mexican ceramic vessels and Latin American paintings offered by Robert Simon, an old masters dealer, as Americana. And we can add London dealer Didier’s catalog of Latin American and South American jewelry.
Ancient works from Egypt and Greece were sold by Charles Ede of London. Contemporary Japanese ceramics that Joan Mirviss introduces every year are well received. London dealer Peter Finer’s arms and armor bring his clients to New York City every January, and London dealer Robert Young’s collection of English and sometimes Scandinavian folk art is always a sellout. Young made more than 30 sales. The booth design of London furniture dealer Apter-Fredericks with light boxes of familiar paintings by van Gogh and Hogarth with images of their chairs and tables added was a hoot. Hyde Park, a New York City dealer in English furniture, reported the sale of three pieces of furniture. Now that prices are realistic, high-quality English furniture seems like a bargain.
Erik Thomsen, a New York City dealer in Japanese paintings, ceramics, and lacquer boxes who has shown often at international shows at the Armory, showed at the Winter Show for the first time and said he was happy with the response. Les Enluminures, which has galleries in Chicago, New York, and Paris, was delighted to be back after a short sabbatical. The dealer sold a manuscript painting and a 15th-century sculpture.
Business was done. At every show, some dealers sell more than others, and dealers say follow-up sales continue for months.
The crowd seemed thinner at the preview, but it was huge on opening day and sparse on the Martin Luther King holiday weekend. It grew stronger during the week, especially on the last weekend. Long, slow auctions made it impossible for some collectors and dealers to find time to see the show during the first weekend, and some never got there. It is ironic that the show that spawned an antiques week in New York City, which morphed into Americana Week and eventually included big Americana auctions and other shows, now finds that these very shows and sales have become competition. The Outsider Art Fair opening on Thursday evening cut into the Winter Show preview party, and the long Outsider art auction at Christie’s on Friday morning, followed by a long various-owners Americana sale, kept some from the show until very late on opening day.
Elle Shushan of Philadelphia offered photographs of printed portraits of slave-owning presidents peeled back to show part of a portrait of a slave, each encased in a vintage daguerreotype case, with the larger one of George Washington hung above the others. The creation is by Maxine Helfman, who calls the series “Forefathers,” in an edition of seven. The installation was $30,000. One sold to an institution, and there was interest in two others.
Tiffany Trumpet Creeper lamp, 27″ tall x 18″ diameter, one of the few Tiffany lamps with the bronze base of the lamp and the shade representing a flowering tree. The same tree trunk base was used for the Wisteria lamp, but relatively few Trumpet Creeper lamps are known. It was $850,000 from Lillian Nassau, New York City.
Helen Allen, the enthusiastic new director of the show, was well received. She has plans for the future. She said she was thrilled with the response to educational programs held during the week that were advertised in the media and required reservations. She has planned more programs for the year ahead. Dealers said move-in and move-out “was never smoother.” They said Allen and Diaz-Griffith were available and responsive.
Allen has ideas for the future. She trod lightly this year. “I hope to update the floor plan and give the show a presence year-round,” she said. “We need to build a core of loyal supporters and collectors, and we need to promote our dealers throughout the year. I would like dealers to post highlights on our app, items that may or may not still be available at the next show.”
Diaz-Griffith masterminded the show’s digital presence and website, which posted news and video tours of the show along with discounts at some convenient hotels. He said, “We want to build a group of new collectors who will participate in the future of the field; we also want to make ourselves available to nurture young dealers to help them exhibit at future shows.”
Diaz-Griffith is focused on the juxtaposition of 21st century with traditional antiques. A good example of the direction of the show was Toots Zynsky’s vessels, made of colored threads of glass, shown by Michele Beiny along with 18th-century porcelain.
“We want a balance between art, antiques, and design,” said Allen. “American art is still the core and as strong as ever even with fewer Americana dealers. Our museum night for curators and trustees on Friday, January 18, was a big success; more than 900 came. Museum follow-ups take time. Our booth showcasing the success of students who have taken advantage of education at East Side House led to an invitation for some of them to visit Nantucket.”
This was a make-or-break year for the Winter Show, and it seems to have made it, although dealers were not universally happy with the number of sales and said high expenses made profits slim. The marketplace has changed, and it is a difficult time for all shows. The Winter Show with its long tradition seems to have as good a chance of any to survive in this difficult and uncertain time.
Originally published in the March 2019 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2019 Maine Antique Digest
Featured Image: The booth of Bernard and S. Dean Levy, Inc. at The Winter Show 2019