Shindigger: Antiques at the Armory

Men’s Fashion Week may have wrapped up in Paris on Wednesday, but a few New York gents invented an entirely new trend Thursday evening at the Park Avenue Armory: suits paired with duck boots. The Observer spotted several guys at the Winter Antiques Show’s Young Collectors Night sporting the fashionably questionable but seasonally necessary look-including one brave young man in full white-tie top hat and tails, with his trousers tucked carelessly into a large pair of the snow-defeating boots.

The ladies, of course, wouldn’t dream of pairing David Meister cocktail dresses with rubberized footwear; but even their Louboutins were shorter-heeled and rounder-toed than we’re used to seeing. Among the dozens and dozens of exhibitors’ booths fully stocked with furniture, art and curios, many of the women made a beeline straight for Macklowe Gallery and its sizable collection of Art Nouveau jewelry. “It’s like asking, ‘What’s your favorite child?'” Macklowe employee Bernard Cohen said when we asked him to show us his favorite piece. “I love this piece, I love this piece, this is sensational,” Mr. Cohen went on, gesturing to some particularly extravagant Van Cleef and Arpels jewels.

“Of course, I love looking at all the jewelry, because I’m such a girl,” socialite Whitney Douglass admitted. “Actually, I love looking at all the art. I’m sort of, right now, into contemporary Western art, myself. But I like reeducating myself, and this is the perfect place to keep yourself in the relevant scene of art.” As for her own collection, Ms. Douglass favors a 6-foot-wide David Bromley painting her husband purchased for her recently.



Those who stuck to jewelry and paintings missed some of the show’s more fantastical items for sale: a $75,000 signed letter by John Calvin or a sketch of the double-helix model of DNA made by James Watson himself, both at Kenneth W. Rendell Inc.; a first edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at Bauman Rare Books; and an incredible 10,000-year-old fossilized walrus skull at Peter Petrou‘s booth. “It was dug out of the Alaskan permafrost at some point,” Mr. Petrou said. “I just think it’s a fantastic piece of sculpture, and the colors-terrific!”

Between noshing on a few of the event’s plentiful hors d’oeuvres-notably, a slice of thick fresh turkey with cranberry chutney on a tiny, spongy pumpkin roll-The Observer happened upon Courtney Booth, one of the event’s co-chairs, who is the daughter of a pair of antiques collectors and has been coming to the show for years.

Ms. Booth, who wore a fetching black lace Elie Tahari dress, is an American folk art enthusiast, but she had her eye on a singular item of a slightly different nature at the show. “It’s a trade sign, which was the 19th-century version of advertising or billboards, that is actually giving you a glimpse of a house of ill repute. It says ‘Farmer’s Retreat,’ but it’s described by a four-line stanza, and the first letter of each line spells out ‘TART’ vertically,” she said.

The show’s Young Collectors Night, Ms. Booth explained, is designed to demystify antiques for New Yorkers who aren’t yet experts. “That’s what we’re trying to teach with this young collectors’ event,” she said. “It’s not about re-creating your grandmother’s living room; it’s about taking an amazing trade sign, or-“

A young man interrupted, presumably taking up some unfinished business from a previous conversation. “I remember now,” he said. “Greenwich, last June, the polo party!”

“Yes, there you go!” Ms. Booth responded cheerfully, and resumed telling us the purpose of her event without missing a beat. “It’s about taking these things and putting them in the contemporary context. I mean, I have country furniture that I hang with Josef Albers prints.

Wendy Goodman, design editor of New York magazine, was intrigued by the textiles, books and paintings on view at the show. But her mind was on loftier things-namely, the East Side Settlement House, the organization to which the night’s proceeds would go.

As Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” played in the background, Ms. Goodman told The Observer about a day she spent at the Settlement House, which aims to supplement the public-school system for South Bronx children. “I just was so moved by the people that are so committed to helping the students, and it was an extraordinary day, because I really thought, ‘There’s not enough that you can do,'” Ms. Goodman said. “All of the money that’s raised tonight-if only we could do more.” She, along with the rest of the young collectors in attendance, is off to a great start. -Alexandria Symonds

Edited by Daisy Prince

Click here for pictures from the rest of this week’s best parties.

Shindigger: Antiques at the Armory