While all Trust programs are memorable, occasionally one stands out from the rest, usually for the most unexpected reasons. Our 2016 NY V.I.P. weekend serves as a case in point. Whether you want to call last weekend’s weather conditions Winter Storm Jonas, Snowmageddon, or something unprintable, Old Man Winter threw his weight around and created an eventful experience.
Thankfully, Americana Week kicked into high gear before the storm was little more than a blip on the weatherman’s radar. Alternately called Antiques Week, New York puts on its best face for the decorative arts crowd with a series of events, featuring the stunning Winter Antiques Show at the Park Avenue Armory, a series of major Americana sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the Ceramics Fair, and many additional smaller events and exhibitions. For museum and antiques professionals, this week represents a wonderful chance to reconnect with friends and colleagues from around the country. For collectors, the show and sales often prove irresistible. For the more casual enthusiast, the Trust’s annual NY V.I.P. Weekend offers a satisfying sampling of both the collecting world and the enormous variety of museums and sites in the Big Apple.
The Trust’s official program kicked off on Friday morning, with a tour of the Winter Antique Show. Guided by insightful dealers (including Kevin Tulimieri at Nathan Liverant and Son, Warren Adelson of Adelson Galleries, and Lori Cohen of Arader Galleries) members received a sneak peak of a selection of booths before the show opened for the general public. Tour leaders generously shared their perspectives on working in the field and pointed out their some favorite pieces. Trust members also went on the hunt for their favorite finds, which included a spectacular English green Japanned desk and bookcase at the booth of Ronald Phillips, a pair of urn-shaped tea caddies at Apter-Fredericks, and a tool chest from the Eleazer Daniels cabinet-maker’s shop at Nathan Liverant and Sons.
After a delicious lunch in the Herter Brothers-designed Board of Officer’s Room, the Winter Antiques Show’s longtime director Catherine Sweeney Singer shared some fascinating details about the show’s behind-the-scenes workings and rigorous vetting process. Ms. Singer’s efforts to make the show as popular and appealing as possible, aided this year by new assistant director Michael Diaz-Griffith, has led to some successful new additions to the show. An annual benefit for the East Side Settlement House, the Winter Antiques Show (now in its 62nd year), has been slowly expanding its scope and focus period and included for the first time this year offerings of museum-worthy contemporary art and objects.
The Friday afternoon program focused on the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Met staff members Nonnie Frelinghuysen, Nick Vincent, and Moira Gallagher treated members to a private, behind-the-scenes tour of the museum’s newest period room, the Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room, and its companion exhibition “Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age.” All three contributed to the research for and installation of the room, designed and executed by George Schastey. Nick and Moira are also members of the Trust. The attendant exhibit, “Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age”, explored both pieces by the little-known Schastey as well as examples by more recognizable names working in the late-19th-century furniture trade, including the Herter Brothers.
Saturday’s overly generous covering of snow put Matt and Christian into contingency planning mode. Although both Hamilton Grange and the Hispanic Society of America (the original and backup sites for Saturday afternoon’s events in Harlem) were closed due to the snow, the Trust was determined to offer as much of the original program as possible. A brave band of 16 intrepid members were determined to tour a private collection around the corner from Hamilton Grange. After racing the announced 2:30 road closure in a caravan of Uber SUVs (a first for the Trust’s logistical planning), the members were welcomed by the homeowners, and spent a pleasant hour basking in the presence of some of the best early-19th-century Grecian furniture and lighting fixtures to be found from Boston, New York and Philadelphia, while sipping coffee poured from a silver pot made by Wessell Ahlrichs, the earliest known Delaware silversmith from the 18th century.
The return journey was also a race against the clock, seeking to beat the announced 4PM closure of the subway. Harlem looked beautiful blanketed in snow, and the trudge through the drifts on our way to the nearest station provided some wonderful photo opportunities. Though quite different from the original plans, this expedition certainly proved to be a memorable bonding experience!
Matt and Christian want to thank all the participants in this’s year’s V.I.P. weekend for another wonderful (albeit surprise-filled) program, and we hope that next year’s jaunt up to New York will be much less eventful!