New York's Winter Antiques Show offers insight into the collecting trends, prices and the general health of the art market

The show will exhibit colonial and European furniture, girlhood embroidery, Native American pieces, and folk art


Long considered the preeminent social event of New York’s winter season, the Winter Antiques Show is also a barometer of collecting trends, prices and the general health of the art market. This year’s event, 15 to 24 January, at the Park Avenue Seventh Regiment Armoury promises to be no different.

Seventy-three dealers will attend the forty-fifth annual show, the largest ever, among whom there will be sixty-one from the US; six from the UK; two each from France and the Netherlands; and one each from Japan and Germany. New to the show are Madison Avenue’s Florian Papp and Carswell Rush from Berlin, and London-based dealer Peter Tillou returns.

Americana dealer Leigh Keno, who sold a Philadelphia Chippendale tea table for more than $4 million last year, says he is bringing a Boston gaming table with carved knees, claw and ball feet and its original leather top. This is priced at $425,000. He will also show a pair of Philadelphia Queen Anne chairs with their original finish, for $250,000.

To complement such colonial wares, Stephen and Carol Huber, the nation’s top girlhood embroidery dealers, will feature eighteenth- and nineteenth-century pieces worked by young girls. For the show, they have silk embroidery pictures ranging in price from $5,000 to $75,000. Traditionally, the subjects are allegorical, historical and mythical and their lead piece is one showing Hector and Paris with twenty-one other figures in vibrant reds, yellows and blues. Of an unusually large size, this was originally intended to hang over a mantel or sideboard, according to Ms Huber. “Our sales have doubled due to the fact that more people are taking the time to learn about this speciality,” she says.

Folk art is still a major component in the show, although the fashion for this area is waning. One sign of decreasing enthusiasm for quilts is the closing this year of Kate and Joel Kopp’s American Hurrah, the city’s pioneering gallery. Instead this couple now deal privately and participate in shows such as the Winter Antiques Fair. Other folk art dealers here are Fred Giampetro, the Pollacks of Chicago and Olde New Hope.

New York’s Giampetro is taking a life-size carving of an Indian, priced just under $100,000, and a draped, female ship’s figurehead from 1850 at $75,000. The biggest change Mr Giampetro has witnessed in recent years has not so much to do with stock and prices, but with buyers and taste. Eight years ago, a collector might buy the entire booth, while interior decorators barely looked at his pieces. He now reports that 50% of his sales are to decorators.

Native American art is another pivotal player at the fair, with five Native American dealers showing clothing, baskets and other objects. Santa Fe dealer Joshua Baer, who trades in Navaho blankets commanding five figure prices, will be selling a group of fossilised walrus ivory figures for $180,000 and Navaho-carved healing dolls for $18,000. Mr Baer is promoting what could become the next fashionable table-top accessory: celts. Last year collectors snapped up the blade-edge, carved stones. His centrepiece is an English neolithic celt for $32,000.

But it is not only indigenous wares and colonial items that fill the booths. Rare, 1920s neo-Classical furniture by Swedish designer Carl Malpsten will be shown by Barry Friedman. “These furnishings feel like French 1940s,” says Mr Friedman, but they are considerably lower in price than their French counterparts—$30,000 each—and it is hoped that these prices will entice clients. Complementing Malpsten’s characteristic burled wood, bronze-footed furniture with its Greco-Roman inspired motifs, will be Swedish rugs, priced from $10,000-20,000, drawings by Bernard Boutet de Monvel and paintings by Tamara de Lempicka.

London dealers Richard Green and Peter Nahum will be showing nineteenth-century European paintings, a staple of many a Park Avenue apartment, while Peter Tillou will be bringing early Western paintings as well as Old Masters. The Duke Street dealer, who also shows in New York, will feature Sebastian Vrancx’s “View of a Flemish town with a market representing Earth from the four elements” for $950,000.

What makes dealers such as Florian Papp, with ninety-eight years of expertise and a secure position on Madison Avenue, suddenly decide to participate? “Advertising does not always pull people into our gallery,” explains Mindy Papp, who sees the show as a more effective way to reach a wider audience. Her booth will contain a Chippendale rococo gilt mirror from around 1760, a full rendition of S and C scrolls, for $125,000, as well as a massive Regency gilt armchair from 1810 with a heavy infusion of Empire details at $55,000.

Finally, this year’s show will mount a tribute to the late designer, Mark Hampton, in the form of an exhibition of his watercolours. Painted for friends and clients, who numbered Brooke Astor, Bill and Ann Basse, the watercolours depict interiors, architecture and gardens. This presentation is intended to secure the continued success of his firm which is now in the hands of his widow and daughter.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'A barometer of bon ton and measure of the market'