Wandering through the annual Winter Antiques Show at the Park Avenue Armory is about as close to time travel as one can get. The elaborate booths often resemble the rooms of a cross-sectioned dollhouse, complete with wallpaper and flooring to better complement the art, furniture and artifacts on view. The show, which will run through Feb. 3, features 73 dealers, including eight new ones that are participating in the fair for the first time this edition. Of the new additions, three are presenting pieces from the more recent past that enliven the exposition by broadening its range.
The Winter Antiques Show “approached us because they are trying, I think, to modernize things,” said Nathalie Dheedene of Magen H. Gallery, which specializes in French postwar design. She said that visitors have seemed excited to find unexpected objects amid the usual array of colonial silver, collectible carpets and Chinese porcelain. “It’s kind of refreshing for them to see something new,” she said.
Martine Newby Haspeslagh, who traveled from London with Didier Ltd., is also injecting the show with modern merchandise. She deals in jewelry designed by postwar painters and sculptors, but brought over other intriguing items too. Who knew cutlery could be surreal? One set of Salvador Dalí utensils has already sold, but plenty of his claw-like forks remain. Tonight at the Young Collectors event, where up-and-coming enthusiasts can pay $175 to hobnob and privately view the show, she will have a team of Sotheby’s assistants modeling the jewelry, noting that they “will have to fight” over who will get to wear one particularly eye-catching necklace. The enormous collar is composed of six undulating gold petals studded with gemstones and diamonds.
Playful, two-tone hourglasses and vessels that would not look out of place in MoMA’s “Inventing Abstraction” exhibition can be found at Glass Past, a new exhibitor that specializes in Venice’s best-known craft. Though the company works with glass from 1870 to 1970, it is presenting a selection of work from 1920 to 1960 at the show. These artists “were looking at glass in more sculptural terms rather than just vessels,” said dealer Sara Blumberg.
The influx of modern art and design began a while ago with dealers like Lost City Arts and Maison Gerard (both of which joined in 2010), but the backbone of the Winter Antiques Show is, of course, the more traditional vendors that have been returning for years and years.
Peter Finer brought not only medieval suits of armor, but heavy-looking swords, a German crossbow and serpentine Indian dagger, along with less martial items like a whalebone walking stick. A commanding mummy mask from ancient Egypt can be found at Rupert Wace, while handsome Roman statues are on view at Safani Gallery Inc. One can buy treasures like the lavish mother of pearl mirror at Georgian Manor Antiques or hide them in the many drawers of the tall red Amish desk at Frank & Barbara Pollack American Antiquities & Art.
Two booths are tied for the best fine art, though they will mercifully be spared too much direct comparison, as they specialize in different media. Adelson Galleries, Inc. is exhibiting a show-stopping collection of exuberant 19th- and 20th-century paintings including two John Singer Sargent portraits. The shiny baldpate of one subject, the eccentric-looking actor Joseph Jefferson, seems to be emerging from the canvas, and the smaller painting of Dorothy Viders, a young girl with lustrous chestnut hair and sparkling eyes, is about as perfect as portraiture can get. “She’s pretty attractive. People would like to take her home,” said director Elizabeth Oustenhoff of the buzz surrounding the piece. Warren Adelson also noted that the George Bellows landscape has been turning heads, aided no doubt by the artist’s current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Over at Hill-Stone Inc., a staggering array of prints by the likes of Rembrandt, Goltzius and more recent artists like Otto Dix and Graham Sutherland abound. For anyone who missed the Dürer sale at Christie’s on Tuesday, there is a particularly fine, crisp-looking woodcut of a knight and his servant fleeing from death. According to Alan Stone, he and his partner conducted extensive research on the print and found “nothing that compares in North America both in public and private collections.” A few striking naturalist prints are also available, though one must turn to Arader Galleries for all things animal.
A flock of ornithological illustrations is roosting on the walls of the booth, including especially rare Audubon prints of snowy owls and jer falcons set against night skies colored with octopus ink. Lori Cohen, the director of Arader Galleries, said her experience working with Audubon’s hyper-accurate illustrations has enabled her to identify wild specimens. “All my friends think I’m just a great ornithologist,” she said. Sounds like some more Audubon-taught birdwatchers are in store, as Ms. Cohen noted there has been a “tremendous amount of interest” in his prints.
It would be criminal not to mention the knockout Andrew Wyeth painting at Jonathan Boos, a portrait of the artist’s neighbor and longtime lover Helga Testorf (they were both married, but managed to maintain their affair for 15 years until the scandalous truth leaked, landing Ms. Testorf on the cover of Time Magazine and Newsweek in the mid-’80s). Over the course of Wyeth’s 40 paintings and 200 drawings of his mistress, we watch her age and his technique develop—The Prussian is executed in masterful drybrush, a combination of oil, tempera and watercolor that lends his subject’s face and hair stunning subtlety and detail. This is Mr. Boos’s second year in the show and one can only hope he keeps bringing more work like this in years to come.
Delaney Antique Clocks, a new dealer this year, has a handsome selection of timepieces, the most valuable of which is by master craftsman Sim Willard. As the minutes and hours tick by, so does the lunar calendar (a cutaway panel reveals a slowly rotating disk painted with two benign looking moons). Knowing the phase of the moon “was important for planting and traveling at night,” said John Delaney. According to him, a clock like that one would have cost about $60 in 1790 when the average yearly salary was $30. “They were a real prized possession,” he said.
It is surely just a matter of time until they become the treasures of someone new.