NEW YORK CITY –As opening-night galas collide with triple-digit drops in the Dow, swings in the financial markets are wreaking havoc with art and antiques shows. New and revamped fairs will no doubt invigorate the market in the coming season but older events are declining under the weight of rising costs and disappointing sales.
There are exceptions, of course. Market consolidation is actually benefitting the 58-year-old Winter Antiques Show, which through good management has solidified its traditional standing. Late last week, executive director Catherine Sweeney Singer finalized the short – very short – list of additions to the fair that previews on Thursday, January 19, continuing at New York’s Park Avenue Armory through January 29.
“We have the lowest attrition rate in the world. It’s very unusual that we have more than a couple of replacements a year,” Sweeney-Singer said by phone late Friday.
The Winter Antiques Show is the flagship event for Americana Week in Manhattan even though only a third of its exhibitors specialize in American fare. Its bona fides in the Americana field have just been strengthened with the addition of Kindig Antiques of Lancaster, Pa., and Joan R. Brownstein and Peter H. Eaton of Newbury, Ma.
Jenifer Kindig and her father, Joe Kindig III, carry on the firm founded by Jenifer’s grandfather, Joe Kindig, Jr., a leading advisor to Henry Francis du Pont and other top collectors. The Pennsylvania dealers are equally well known for seventeenth through early nineteenth century American furniture as for early American rifles, art forms in themselves.
The felicitous partnership of Eaton and Brownstein combines Eaton’s long expertise in early, high-country New England furniture in original surfaces with Brownstein’s keen eye for American folk paintings. In recent years, Brownstein has made a minor specialty of Mary and Edwin Scheier’s Modernist pottery, examples of which Brownstein will bring to the fair.
From his Massachusetts showroom, Eaton said that he has half a dozen things under wraps, literally. “None of this furniture came through auction. I am keeping it under blankets until January. I don’t want to be tempted,” said the dealer.
The market for furniture and ceramics of the American craft movement has grown dramatically since Philadelphia dealer Robert Aibel handled his first piece by George Nakashima 27 years ago. Ahead of his time, the founder of Moderne Gallery also pioneered the work of Wharton Esherick, Wendell Castle, Sam Maloof and David Ebner, examples of which Moderne plans to exhibit in New York. Aibel briefly participated in the Philadelphia Antiques Show but resigned when he was not allowed to bring craft-movement furniture, a restriction that now seems quaintly short-sighted.
Peter Fetterman, a Santa Monica, Ca., dealer in vintage photography, is replacing his colleague Han Kraus, who is taking a leave of absence from the Winter Show. Initially a filmmaker and collector, Fetterman has amassed one of the largest inventories of classic twentieth century fine-art photography by Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Caponigro, Kertesz and others.
A conflict with the Brussels Non European Art Fair’s winter exhibition has caused London dealer Kevin Conru to withdraw from East Side. Pace Primitive of New York is taking Conru’s place. Director Carlo Bella said that his gallery will show eighth to nineteenth century sculpture from Africa to China, pairing it with works on paper by modern masters who were influenced by primitive art.
“We do four catalogued exhibitions a year at our gallery on 57th Street, so the Winter Antiques Show is a departure for us,” said Bella.
The Winter Antiques Show has thus far resisted the influence of Masterpiece, the two-year old London fair that broke the mold by adding new, branded luxury goods to the mix.
“We want people to have confidence that if they come to an antiques show they will see antiques,” says Sweeny-Singer. Three years ago, the Winter Show moved its dateline forward to 1969 for exhibitors dealing in twentieth century material. Dealers in pre-twentieth century works of art are allowed no more than a sprinkling of modern pieces.
Coinciding with “Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from December 20 to May 6, the 2012 Winter Antiques Show loan display honors the upstate New York institution Historic Hudson Valley. The presentation marking the 60th anniversary of John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s founding of Sleepy Hollow Restorations, now Historic Hudson Valley, showcases fine and decorative art from Phillipsburg Manor, Van Cortlandt Manor, Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, Montgomery Place, and the Union Church of Pocantico Hills.
Complete with Twitter feed and a Facebook link, the Winter Antiques Show’s upgraded website is set to be launched in the coming days.