The Winter Show, formerly the Winter Antiques Show, and Americana Week, when Sotheby’s and Christies sell brown furniture, silver, art, and the occasional rug, are part of a traditional market driven week. The Winter Show price points are the highest, but the quality of design is also the highest. Simply and crassly put, at the high end, the auction price points are higher than High Point, but at the bottom end, not much higher than High Point.
Talking to the exhibitors at The Winter Show is to engage with people of knowledge and passion. Although there is a vetting committee, the true vetting committee is every other dealer in the Armory, and the clients, many of whom have equal expertise to the dealers. To walk the aisles and talk to the exhibitors is an education in the decorative arts of the last several centuries.
Many categories at auction have dropped 60% to 70% since 2008. Late 19th century silver on starts at the melt value and works upwards from there. Good furniture is affordable compared to modern bench made furniture. The auction houses have discovered Outsider Art which had been a neglected category.
It is telling that the celebrity Mario Buatta auction at Sotheby’s brought more than 2.5 times its presale estimate, even though they had low balled somewhat. Lot number 1, a brass dolphin door knocker estimated at $500-800 sold for $3750.
In the press release about the sale: “I’m completely shattered,” said Dennis Harrington, the head of Sotheby’s English and European furniture department in New York. “I’m absolutely gobsmacked that people from all over the globe stayed up all day and all night to bid. And I’m amazed at how many buyers were private individuals. Clearly there’s a lot of people fed up with monochromatic interiors, with all this emphasis on hotel-like environments, and newly excited by Mario’s maximalist style.”
Keshishian from London was the only booth with rugs at the Winter Show, but I am always amazed at how they find and present absolutely amazing rugs and tapestries in excellent condition. Although they had a large tapestry made for the English Market on the back wall of the booth, and a wide eloquent Arts and Crafts rug on the floor; quietly in a corner they had a small tapestry in pristine color, not cut down, but with some re-piling which they pointed out, beautifully drawn.