Changing locations is usually difficult for well established antiques events and event organizers always prefer to remain in their established venue and hope, if they must move, that the cloud will have a silver lining. But for this year’s New York Ceramics Fair, loosing the lovely surroundings of the National Academy Museum on 5th Avenue after more than a decade didn’t just result in a silver lining – it led to a “bright sunshiny day.”
The 2011 New York Ceramics Fair, closed Sunday, January 23, with attendance on par with last’s years number of visitors despite the new location, which, while not on tony 5th Avenue is much closer to the Winter Antique Show at the Park Avenue Armory and to Sotheby’s.
Combined with what seems to be a strong year for the other New York Americana Week shows and it would seem that it’s possible we may look at the cold winter of 2011 as the time when the market began its comeback. No matter what the numbers we’ll only be able to see that a few years down the road, but for now at least there’s reason to be optimistic. The Ceramic Fair reported attendance above 2010 on four of the six days. Averaged out, attendance was on par with 2010 despite the venue change.
And sales reports suggested that not only were the stalwart fans of the Fair present but that they were actively shopping.
Despite snow, sleet and rain on Tuesday, January 18th, the Fair’s preview was a bustling event where stalwart ceramics collectors, decorators, journalists and curators were joined by members of the New York Diplomatic Corps in the stunning fourth floor Ballroom of the home of the 73rd St. the Czech Consulate, where, nearby, a reception for the Czech Ambassador to the UN was also taking place. Opening night visitors were uniform in their praise for the charm and style of the new venue, a two story hall lit with grand chandeliers bringing added flair to the already exceptional offerings of the 30 Galleries exhibiting. Added star power that evening was provided by the dean of Interior Designers, Mario Buatta, His Excellency Martin Palous, Czech Ambassador to the United Nations, and actor Jim Carrey.
Cara Antiques, Langhorne, PA, said that visitor response to the new venue was very positive and reported sales considerably better than last year, including a large decorative charger in Palissay (Majolica) sold to the Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, South Carolina.
Mark Murray, of Sylvia Powell Decorative Arts, London, said “I wish we had done this kind of business at Olympia in November,” continuing “we not only saw our regular clients but made some important new friends as well.” Sylvia herself reported major sales including their catalogue piece, a Martin Brothers stoneware jar and cover, modeled as a sloth-like creature in glazed ochre and brown, 1903; and the Fair’s catalogue cover, Les Trois Yeux, France, 1958, and edition plate by Jean Cocteau.
Another major English dealer, Santos, a specialist in Chinese Export reported his best overall Ceramics Fair sales in five years, with many sales to new clients, but he also said that his business was primarily in the lower price ranges. In the field of exceptional Export porcelain, the lower price ranges would from $5,000 to $20,000.
The Boston ceramic artist Katherine Houston, who creates “18th Century porcelain objects for the 21st Century” reported a show considerably better than in recent years, selling not only her catalogue piece, a pair of 16” Tall Iris figures, but a pair of large parrot tulips. As important as her sales were, the highlight of Katherine’s show was an invitation from the curator of the Fair’s loan exhibit to be a guest lecturer at the Czech Ceramic Design Institute in Dubi,. Work by artists studying at CDI comprised the Fair’s loan exhibit and Houston is eager for the opportunity to work with the gifted students tasked with the continuation of Bohemia’s long tradition of excellence in glass and pottery.
Marcia Moylan of Moylan-Smelkinson / The Spare room, of Baltimore said both they and their customers loved the new venue, and that among their sales was their catalogue piece, a very rare English Bristol Factory Soft Paste Biscuit Porecelain Birds Nest with Eggs, c 1770.
Lynda Willauer, of Lynda Willauer Antiques, Nantucket, MA, said the new venue was very popular with her clients and that while she sold mostly in the mid-range of her extensive Chinese Export inventory, the Fair generated a “fair profit.” This was a sentiment echoed by first time exhibitor Martyn Edgell from Cambridge, England, who also posted a comfortably profitable Fair.
Peter Rosenberg of Vallin Gallery, Wilton, CT, said the show was profitable and concurred that his clients enjoyed the new venue. Rosenberg reported that most of his businesses was in the lower end of his inventory, however, and that for him sales weren’t quite as strong as at the 2010 Fair.
On the other hand, Fair veteran John Suval of Philip Suval, Inc., Fredericksburg, VA posted stronger sales than last year, and was pleased with the commercial strength of the Fair. He said the venue worked very well for him, and that his customers thought it was excellent.
English dealer John Howard of Woodstock, Oxfordshire, was very pleased with the 2011 Fair, where he had strong sales, including an exceptional 43 piece table service in 18th Century Creamware. The service, typical of what is seen in the country houses of 18th Century English aristocrats was remarkable not only for its beauty but for its pristine condition.
First time vendor, Elise Abrams of Elise Abrams Antiques, Great Barrington, MA, who’s vast array of stunning 18th C. dinner ware dominated a corner of the ballroom, was pleased to report a small profit derived primarily from regular clients of hers who were also fair patrons.
New York dealer Jill Fenichell, returning to the fair for the first time in five years, said sales were not what she had hoped but that she was pleased overall and delighted to be “back in the fray.”
Alan Kaplan and Susan Kaplan Jacobson of Leo Kaplan Ltd. reported that despite a weaker show than last year, they did sell a very important “Littler Blue” salt glaze bowl with pierced boarder, c. 1750-55.
Iznik Classics, the Istanbul pottery based on rare 14th Century Turkish designs reported sales as strong as last year, as did Oriental Treasure Box from San Diego. First time Fair participant, Antiques Van Geenen, the prominent Delft gallery from The Netherlands, encountered shipping difficulties leaving them with no material until only two hours before the opening, but was able to post a sale to a major US museum sale and considerable interest in their impressive presentation.
The Fair’s eight lecture series was heavily subscribed and very well received in the recently completed Bohemian National Hall theatre
A solid representation of museum curators was again reported by dealers with including those from The Corning Glass Museum, Winterthur, The Metropolitan Museum; the St. Louis Art Museum; Colonial Williamsburg; Stratford Hall (the birthplace of Robert E. Lee); the Reeves Center at Washington & Lee University; Chicago Art Institute ; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; the Cleveland Museum of Art; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Gunston Hall Plantation (home of George Mason) and Oatlands Historic House and Gardens.
The New York Ceramics Fair is produced by Caskey Lees of Topanga, Canyan, whose next New York City event is Arts of Pacific Asia at 7 W, opening Wednesday evening, March 23 and running through March 27th. The New York Ceramics Fair will return to the Bavarian National Hall to again launch Winter Antiques Week on January 17th, 2012.