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Art fairs

New York's Winter Show gets a facelift at 65

Formerly The Winter Antiques Show, the grande dame of New York fairs has dropped the word "antiques" in the hopes of drawing a younger crowd

Elle Shushan gallery presents contemporary artist Maxine Helfman's Forefathers series at the 2019 Winter Show. Courtesy of Elle Shushan Fine Portrait Miniatures

Now in its 65th year, New York’s Winter Show—formerly The Winter Antiques Show—has been on a mission for the past couple of years to freshen up its identity. Hence the new name, dropping the word antiques, brought in under the leadership of Helen Allen, who joined the event in April 2018 from a contemporary art background—she was previously the executive director of Ramsay Fairs for nine years, working on fairs such as Pulse Contemporary Art Fair and Art HK, which later became Art Basel Hong Kong.

The Winter Show, held in the Park Avenue Armory on the Upper East Side, has been known for its pre-eminence in the field of folk art and Americana, alongside Chippendale furniture and needlepoint swatches. Often referred to as the grande dame of New York fairs, it is now trying to appeal to the collectors who are the children, if not grandchildren, of its traditional core clientele.

Enter Allen as the fair’s executive director, replacing Catherine Sweeney Singer, who managed the fair for 24 years. According to Allen: "The Americana marketplace is dwindling—it is not as strong as it was in, say, the 1990s. A lot of collectors and dealers are simply ageing out."

Removing "antiques" from the fair's name may have proved controversial, but it is only the first of many changes she has planned, which range from instituting year-round educational and networking events to partnering with the Cuseum virtual reality app to provide mobile tours of the show. “This isn’t about changing the nature of the show, but instead about reprising American history for a new generation and getting younger collectors interested in material culture at large,” she says. She recognises, however, that change may not happen in just one year: “There are some dealers we’re still trying to get on board with social media.”

• The Winter Show, 18-27 January, Park Avenue Armory, New York