By Hadley Keller
In 1955, John Bihler and Henry Coger, two young, intrepid antiques dealers, had the idea for a special show to benefit New York’s East Side House Settlement. The event was a hit, and some of the world’s most preeminent dealers have been flocking to the Park Avenue Armory each January ever since to show the best of their wares—in support of the same cause. Now in its 65th edition, though, the onetime Winter Antiques show has a few updates: For one, it’s now The Winter Show, and, this year’s event—opening January 18—will be helmed for the first time by Helen Allen, who was named executive director of the show in April. When AD PRO interviewed Allen on the occasion of her appointment, she promised that one of her goals was to bring “both the revered and the younger crop” of designers “into the fold” of the show. Well, it’s clear Allen is delivering: This year’s edition features a Young Collector’s Night (January 24) helmed by several young design talents. As for the revered, the show has named three design co-chairs to serve as ambassadors: Victoria Hagan, Frank de Biasi, and John B. Murray. Ahead of the show opening this week, AD PRO asked each of the three to select their favorite items that will be on display. Here’s what you can’t miss.
Lest you think Victoria Hagan is all about muted tones, think again: “This Duncan Phyfe recamier is a classic American beauty,” says Hagan of the c. 1820 piece, whose crimson upholstery and gilded ash, mahogany, and poplar frame rests on casters inlaid with ebony. “It’s so graphic and sensuous at the same time.”
Emok, an evocative 2001 screen print by Jean-Michel Basquiat framed in Plexi, also caught Hagan’s eye. “So fun to find this lyrical Basquiat screen print among the many treasures at the show,” the designer says.
A La Vieille Russie’s booth is always a treasure trove of vintage jewels, and this year promises to be no different: This platinum-and-diamond heart pendant boasts a 2.5-carat pear-cut diamond and an original, c. 1900 Tiffany blue box. “It’s not always about decorating—diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” quips Hagan of the piece. “This Tiffany pendant from 1900 is just so romantic.”
“Anglo-Indian pieces have long been a favorite of mine,” says Hagan of the 19th-century Anglo-Indian carved-ebony tilt-top center table from Cove Landing. “This entry table would add an exciting dimension to a wide range of interiors.” Frank de Biasi agrees: “This table would make a drop-dead central piece in an entrance,” he gushes. “It says, ‘Look at me!’ in the best way possible.”
Next on de Biasi’s list? This trio of “Memory” table lamps by Ayala Serfaty. “I love Ayala Serfaty’s sculptural lighting and have placed her ceiling lights in a project before,” says the designer. “These tabletop lamps add the perfect glow when you want art without a lampshade!”
“This is small but quite beautifully sculpted,” de Biasi says of this 11-inch bust from London dealer Charles Ede. “It would make an exceptional tabletop sculpture on a very contemporary table!”
Hercules isn’t the only thing de Biasi is coveting from Charles Ede: These late-Dynastic-period bronze-and-calcite eyes caught his own. “How cool would these look on a table or mounted in some interesting way à la David Hicks—on Plexi sticks or stuck onto a contemporary head sculpture?” muses the designer. “I love displaying objets de curiosités in an unusual manner.”
“Both Ellie Cullman and my wife, Elizabeth, keep urging me to go to Japan,” John B. Murray tells AD PRO. A certain Winter Show treasure may prove the push he needs: “I love that this screen has a functionality, features nature, and is beautiful in its materials, composition, and attention to detail,” the architect says of Flowers of the Four Seasons, a Rinpa School screen from the Edo period.
It’s hard not to be struck by Forefathers,Maxine Helfman’s series depicting the 18 slave-owning presidents of the United States. “Such a thought-provoking piece,” says Murray. “Particularly in these highly charged times of national reckoning on what it is that makes an American an American. I believe our first president would be pleased by the inclusiveness of this work.”
“An enthralling ceiling design,” says Murray of Chéron’s c. 1720 ceiling design,A Feast of the Gods with Venus and Bacchus. “Ceilings and their potential as structural canvases for making artistic statements are key to our architectural plans. As a classicist I encourage ceilings be celebrated and not overlooked. This one is undoubtedly heavenly.”
Continuing his fascination with ceiling designs, Murray also points out Cupid and Psyche Before Jupiter, a Chéron from the same era. As to this one, in particular, the architect posits, “Aren’t we all curious about the heavens, the clouds, angels, and the gods and goddesses who lolled around on ethereal billowy clouds in grand states of undress?!”
Interestingly, there was one item that caught the attention of all three design chairs: This lithograph, titled Birds Eye View of the Town of Nantucket and published by J.J. Stoner of Madison, Wisconsin, in 1881. “Maps have long intrigued me,” Murray says. “Of course, as an architect, I am particularly lured into studying this map as it highlights buildings of the period, as well as sailboats and a steamboat—the 19th century’s answer to Google Maps.”
De Biasi is equally enchanted: “I’m obsessed with all things geography and especially port towns, as I now live in one in Tangier, Morocco,” he says. “There is always something to feast your eyes on in a skillfully drawn map such as this; it really tells a story. I would use this as the start of my Map Room, which is on my design bucket list.”
For Hagan, who has a family home on the island, the map has a personal appeal. “I’m always looking for antique charts of Nantucket. I just love the character and sense of history they convey.” Do we sense a bidding war coming on?
Featured Image: Récamier at Hirschl & Adler Galleries. Photo: Eric Baumgartner 2018