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America votes for giltwood at the International Art and Antiques Show

Decorative arts dealers reported good sales but paintings were harder to shift

New York

A varied crowd of buyers including Wall Street hedge fund managers, Britons residing in the Cayman islands and Milanese textile industrialists converged on the International Art and Antique Dealer Show, held at the Seventh Regiment Armory building from 22 to 28 October. According to the organisers, Brian and Anna Haughton, “more than $400 million-worth of art and antiques was featured at the fair and we think many dealers made their highest sales for over five years”.

“My sales were three times those of last year at this fair”, said Conor Mahoney of Manhattan’s Chinese Porcelain Company. He sold a five-piece, blue and white 18th-century Chinese garniture priced over $150,000 to an English collector, Ming terracotta figures to a new client and a 1780 French satinwood commode, which was shipped to Europe.

First-time exhibitor Ronald Phillips of London sold a number of pieces of English furniture, including a 1740 mahogany table by the cabinetmaker John Channon for in the region of $300,000, a pair of George II chairs, a pair of Regency carved giltwood eagles with garlands of lights tagged at $99,000 and a Chinese export carved ivory pagoda. Simon Phillips, who heads the firm, was also awaiting a decision from a collector for an enormous 18th-century chinoiserie giltwood mirror, fluttering with plumed birds, on sale for over $600,000.

However, “price is a secondary consideration”, said Mr Phillips. “Rarity, historical importance and quality of craftsmanship are significant for collectors here.” As an indication of the currently strong market for the elaborate, gilded look in the US, he sold 10 English mirrors dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries, some priced at $330,000, at a special show at the Ingrao gallery off Madison Avenue. “New York is where the market is”, he said.

At the fair, his London colleague Koopman swiftly sold a pair of Paul Storr silver sauceboats for $330,000. “Silver priced at well over $400,000 is selling well”, said Lewis Smith, Koopman’s managing director, 40% of whose clients are from the New York financial world.

Collectors were not only seeking the sophisticated English country house look. Arms and armour was also popular. “This has been my best selling fair since before 9/11”, said Peter Finer, who sold an 1802 British sabre in chased gold for over $350,000. A West coast entrepreneur flew in to snap up a full suit of 1562 North German armour complete with a pointed helmet for a hefty six-figure sum, and a 1485 Bohemian pavese (painted shield) for $65,000. In all, Mr Finer made more than 20 sales, ranging from pistols to cannons. “We’re well into a seven-figure total”, said Mr Finer.

While the decorative arts, the more elaborate and gilded the better, did well, things were not so easy for the picture dealers, and many reported a slow fair. However, Agnew’s sold a George Romney portrait, “Miss Drury Love” for about $150,000, as well as a pair of Edward Lear landscapes, a Gainsborough drawing and a Turner watercolour.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘America votes for giltwood'