Last Thursday’s Winter Antiques Show – Young Collectors Night at the Armory charmed all who made their way to this Upper East Side establishment. In its 17th year, the Young Collectors event raised funds to support the Benefit for East Side House Settlement and brought together a group of fresh-faced arts patrons wishing to indulge in the luxury and opulence of bygone eras. The night’s focus was more social, since the seasoned collectors had already swept through in a flurry of red dots the previous week.
Upon arrival, ladies stopped short of the entranceway and precariously switched from Sorels to heels. Once inside, they were greeted by a festive atmosphere, champagne and the rare wares from 75 dealers represented at this year’s fair. The offering ranged from books, art, furniture and jewelry to authentic 15th century armor and rare illuminated manuscripts.
At Keshishian Rugs, based out of London with a New York outpost, I found myself greatly drawn to a Flemish Antwerp tapestry from the workshop of Jocob van der Gotten circa 1690, depicting the doomed romance of Orpheus and Eurydice. The piece was retailing for $95,000 and was part of a series of tapestries illustrating Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
The most buzzed about sale at the fair was that of the Canadian dealer Donald Ellis whose gallery specializes in Native American art. Ellis sold two ceremonial Eskimo masks on the opening night of the fair – fetching $2.2 and $2.5 million for each, both of them went to a private collector. The pair were known as the Donati Masks since they had been in the collection of the late Surrealist painter Enrico Donati, and were easily identifiable as the kind of object Avant Garde grew from – reminding me of Brian Jungen’s works which appropriate those motifs. Ellis said the overall show was a success and so far he had sold $8.4 million with another million plus more from the catalogue presales.
Predictably, the ladies congregated around the glass case displays of endless diamonds, emeralds and rubies. A centrally located La Vieille Russie attracted much attention with their magnificent collections of cufflinks and brooches transplanted from their 5th Avenue base. While the family owned Kentshire, with outposts both on Madison avenue and East Village, revealed not only late 19th century fine-filigree and enamel bracelets but also more modern classics like bulbous Swarovski earrings.
Another noteworthy booth was that of Les Enluminures of Paris who specialize in Renaissance Books of Hours. These incredibly ornate prayer books with brilliantly vivid illustrations, dating from the 1400’s looked stunning up close and are well worth the $125,000 price tag. I quickly fell in love with a manuscript by the Master of Ghent Privileges for the Court of the Burgundy, whose intricate ivyleaf and floral motifs are as vivid as they are mesmerizing. The gallery is a good place to start for anyone with an interest in the subject matter- the staff are scholars on medieval art and the owner lectures at Johns Hopkins.
At the end of the night as the guests filtered onto Park Avenue – a nighttime view of Will Ryman‘s Roses unfolded. Somehow beneath the downy flakes and streetlit glow, the installations came to life and enchanted the evening with the promise of spring.