With pomp and ceremony, the 25th International Fine Art & Antique Dealer’s Show opened last night in New York and it turned out to be quite a party. Indeed some of NY’s top antiques collectors and their decorators/advisors were milling around and will likely drop some serious coin during the 7-day Fair. But is this Fair for the modern collector? Aside from a handful of modern dealers like Maison Gerard with their delicious offerings, should anybody interested in modern life spend any time there?
People today are afraid of antiques. They’re no longer cool with a younger crowd. And I get the whole thing about boring brown furniture, 18th century pastel colors and curly-cue forms. I also get that there are a few of us who have no interest in living in granny’s antique filled parlor. But a thoughtfully placed antique in a contemporary room can make the difference between a stylish and sophisticated modern space and a boring, vanilla and cold minimalist modern room.
But it’s not just about any antique. Not all antiques work well in a modern space. It’s really about the size, shape, proportion, volume of the piece AND the room; about how it’s displayed/mounted; and how it shares its space with the rest of the modern furnishing.
So last night I hunted for antiques that I could truly fit into my modern spaces and this is what I found:
From Apter-Fredericks of London, is this divine pair of Scottish provincial chairs, c. 1760. Great clean lines that have been perfectly updated to fit a modern interior. Let me explain: originally, they would have been covered in needlepoint held in place by brass nails, but these have been upholstered in a fab textured black fabric and finished with tarnished silver nails that give them a sleek and modern look. These would fit beautifully into a modern home, and better yet, you can get some use out of them!
I am a great lover of sculpture. I often think of it as the “forgotten” art form. Because it can often be viewed 360 degrees, it is the perfect focal point for a room or hallway. This marble torso of Aphrodite is offered by Ariadne Galleries of New York. Dating to the 1st Century AD, she’s had a bit of a rough life, poor thing, but I think she’s all the better for it. Now stripped to just the torso, she becomes an object of desire for modern collectors keen on adding her abstract form to their collection.
Hyde Park Antiques in New York always pull out all the stops and bring stunning furniture to the show. And usually I can find a couple of pieces that I can place with clients who favor a more modern look. Take these pair of George III giltwood and harewood demilune consoles. Oh no, too fancy for you? Then picture them as THE ONLY antiques in a living room with concrete floors and blue cobalt walls. Originally these would have been paired with big gilt mirrors, but I say throw in some by Herve Van der Straeten, stand back and admire. AMAZING. Phenomenal quality always holds its own.
I am constantly on the lookout for fireplace surrounds that do not look like they warmed the tootsies of Napoleon and Josephine. But it’s hard to move away from the boring old marble standbys. And that’s why this glass mosaic surround by Tiffany Studios shown by Lillian Nassau of New York is so outstanding. Get rid of everything else in this photo EXCEPT for the patterned surround. Instantly you have the most gorgeous focal point in a room. Nothing could or should compete with this piece. The color is completely modern and your Warhol hanging above it will be the perfect complement. Who knew the Victorians rocked such wild color schemes? And you thought you knew antiques!
Brian Haughton Gallery of London is the type of place you have to tip toe around. Showcasing the very best in English and Continental porcelain, they have something for every taste. While I am certainly NOT one for dainty porcelain figurines strewn about a living room (you know who you are!!), I do appreciate the quality and often daring works of 19th century porcelain factories. This pair of Staffordshire pearlware lion vases and covers is an example of the chinoiserie craze popular in the early 19th century. They have almost a contemporary cartoon feel in their whimsical color scheme and decoration and would be a bold addition to a modern room.
Always one of my absolute favorites, Phoenix Ancient Art of Geneva has an incredibly modern looking Cycladic idol sculpture on display. Would you ever guess it was from the early Bronze Age II (circa 2500-2400 BC)? I swear I’ve seen her portrait by Picasso. Or was it was Modigliani? Brancusi maybe? And don’t you love the view from the side … every angle screams modern!!! Imagine this. There is 2000 years between this idol and the Roman Aphrodite above and another 2000 years between her and a Henry Moore – so it seems that we’re back where we started!!!
Daniel Crouch Rare Books in London brings this pair of 17th century terrestrial and celestial globes. So yes, the world looks pretty much like we know it today – except for the island of California of course! The globes today serve a more sculptural purpose than they did in the past when they were more educational. Today they would rock a large loft.
The International Fine Art & Antique Dealers Show is open 25-31 October 2013 at the Park Avenue Armory in NYC.
richard rabel: interiors + art
interior design and art advising
new york city
image credits: chairs/ Apter-Fredericks; Aphrodite/Ariadne Galleries; lion vases/Brian Haughton Gallery. All others Richard Rabel