This past week I had the great pleasure to have private interviews with three fabulous dealers that are going to be exhibiting at the Spring Show NYC 2013, which is about to open this Wednesday evening at the 67th Street Armory. This was a particularly exciting experience for me as it took me into the personal worlds and collections of three notable and highly respected dealers.
Every moment listening to them describe their collections was simply mesmerizing. I felt somewhat like Alice who had fallen down the hole chasing the white rabbit and as if I had ended up in some sort of Antique & Antiquities Wonderland and privy to some of the most outstanding pieces available to collectors today. The level at which all of these dealers apply their craft is top notch, and the thread that permeated all three interviews was how much they cared about maintaining their reputations and insisted on only items worthy of their level of expertise. To a tee they all expressed a sincere concern with wanting their clients to be totally satisfied with the process and the final purchase. So let’s begin….
CARLTON HOBBS 60 EAST 93 STREET NYC, NY 10128
Located in a magnificent Vanderbilt limestone mansion, walking into Carlton Hobbs is as if you entered some small museum in France. The classical architecture is superbly executed and the exclusive antiques from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries are particularly jaw dropping seen in this environment. The emphasis is on unique, rare and collectible. Every piece has a special story about it and comes with an impeccable provenance. Carlton Hobbs occupies a rarefied strata in the antiques business, and primarily seeks out furniture and art which belonged originally to royal families and aristocrats or famous architects of that period in history.
I had the privilege of being personally escorted around the numerous rooms by Stefanie Rinza, a partner in the business, who’s knowledge of each and every piece was beyond outstanding. According to Rinza, she and Mr. Hobbs are particularly interested in antiques that have some bit of an unusual significance behind them that makes them even more rare or valuable and, subsequently augments the beauty and the excellent skills of execution that we see on furnishings from those centuries.
In those days furniture makers were extremely talented and their skills valued by their patrons. At the request of some wealthy patron, an architect would design a piece solely for a particular room in their home. The gallery houses so many outstanding ones, all with wonderful stories behind them…everything is thoroughly researched here so as to verify the origins of the furniture or art…in order to cover the extent of this fabulous collection I would have to write a complete blog just on what I saw inside Carlton Hobbs today!
If you ever have a chance to visit the gallery you should definitely do so, as there is so much to see and appreciate from a historical point of view it will be mind boggling!
LILLIAN NASSAU 220 EAST 57TH STREET NYC, NY 10022
Arlie Sulka is the owner of prestigious Lillian Nassau , where you can discover the most beautiful Tiffany Studio pieces, everything from classic lamps to windows, pottery, glass and desk accessories. Seeing the real McCoys up front and personal I was simply wowed by the beauty of these objects.
To a certain extent the work of Louis Tiffany has been greatly plagiarized by inexpensive knock offs and as a result had lost some of it’s glitter and glow for me. However, after the tour by Ms. Sulka of this lovely gallery, listening to her stories and description of the pieces, I was once again a convert to the elegance and unique style Louis Comfort Tiffany brought to the pieces he created.
According to Sulka, the interest in real Tiffany pieces has continued to grow since she assumed the helm of the business several years ago. Now business comes from all over the world due to the Internet, whereas in the past it was primarily from the United States. The collection is outstanding and at close inspection the color of the glass and execution of the metal work is truly remarkable.
In recent years Sulka has branched out and diversified what she chooses to display in the gallery. Not only are there several Art Nouveau furnishings scattered about…which one might expect from a gallery selling original Tiffany pieces…but there are some wonderful mid century pieces and also some very sharp upholstery that looked divine with the Tiffany lighting and vases.
You can also find European ceramics…there was a fabulous collection of vases that caught my eye…and metal work by such luminaries as Albert Paley.The list goes on with several pieces of studio furniture from such notables as George Nakashima, Phil Powell, Wendell Castle and Paul Evans. I fell in love with an out of this world leather love seat by Fritz Henningsen that I wanted to scoop right off the floor and into my apartment. AND then there was a Viennese wood and glass vitrine of uncertain artistic origin that definitely needed a home with one of my clients.
AND I cannot complete this story without telling you about a marvelous metal sculpture by Tom Wesselman hanging on the wall. Totally contemporary, and totally Wesselman, and called “Monica Nude in Robe & Stockings” it will definitely catch your attention.
One must appreciate the beauty of the extensive Tiffany Studio antiques to be found at Lillian Nassau as well as the other unique pieces from the 20th Century available there. Do not miss stopping by at their exhibit at the show.
PHOENIX ANCIENT ART 47 EAST 66 STREET NYC, NY 10065
The last gallery on my preview tour of the Spring Show NYC 2013 was Phoenix Ancient Art. Here you will find the most precious of precious antiquities from 5000 BC until around 14 AD.
The gallery is a pristine environment of stunning dark bronze metal clad walls elegantly complimenting the stone floors, all very effective for displaying the select pieces on display and conjuring up the sense of ancient times long gone by. You immediately can ascertain that this is a no nonsense place and that we are going to be delving into a discussion about precious irreplaceable artifacts from ancient civilizations .
Hicham Aboutaam owns the business with his brother Ali Aboutaam, a business originally started by his father in Lebanon in the 1960’s. Hicham was gracious enough to spend time with me and discuss the business of antiquities and how he and his family has managed to become one of the preeminent dealers in the world. I was fascinated by his knowledge of this market place, one about which I must admit I have very limited knowledge. His passion about what he sells is quite evident when you listen to him describe the various pieces he has bought and sold over the course of his career.
Collecting and selling antiquities is not only a business but is a manner in which the world learns about past civilizations. The particular collection at Phoenix Ancient Art includes objects from civilizations that lived in Europe, the Near East, Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Balkans, Eurasia as well as from the Greek, Roman and Byzantine eras in history.
The pieces that are part of this marketplace are a finite group, and often are the result of collectors reselling a piece or a museum de-ascensioning something in their collection. The pieces are, of course, invaluable and irreplaceable and simply beautiful. AND the stories each one reveals about a society long lost, extremely fascinating.
Interesting enough, according to Aboutaam, there is not a limitless supply of new antiquities arriving periodically on the market and one should be wary of new antiquities that do appear, as they usually do not come from reputable sources and their provenance is suspect.
Aboutaam’s passion for what he collects is quite obvious. He feels he is preserving small pieces of the history of long lost societies that we can still appreciate and study and learn from today and in the future.
As you can imagine the price tags on most of the pieces in their collection is quite high. In order to create an interest in antiquities and to make smaller and less valuable pieces available to anyone, Aboutaam has set up a web site called e-tiquities.com where you can purchase less expensive pieces…up to $25,000…if you are desirous of collecting on a more conservative level. All of these are researched and carry the same guarantee of authenticity as the more expensive pieces sold through Phoenix Ancient Art. Owning a little piece of ancient history is really a great idea to me, and I have already started to search this site looking for something I might purchase.
Aboutaam described the exhibit that is going to be at the Spring Show this year, which sounded unbelievable, and I highly recommend that you stop by and see what he has in store for all patrons at the show.
I hope you enjoyed my post today. As for me, I feel like I just took a college course on three different aspects of the antiques market, with three great professors, which all adds up to simply great in my book!
Ciao, ciao ’til next time!