Armory ‘Spring Masters’ Show – Treasures of Art and Furniture For The Knowledgeable 1%

New Layout Yields Open Access to Museum Quality Riches

Dealers as Polished and Interesting as Their Wares

But Are the New Rich Up to it?

Decorating your new sky high apartment or brownstone megamansion? However refined your taste in traditional or modern art and furniture, you can confidently send your valet or decorator or consultant over to the renamed Park Avenue Armory Spring Masters Show at Park and 65th Street this weekend (Thu May 1 to Sun May 4).

He or she won’t have any trouble picking out what you need from an exhibition that proves top dealers can still cream the past and present. So distinguished are some of the offerings, in fact, that one worries whether there are enough people among the new global rich who have the background and sensibilities to fully appreciate their worth.
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The new layout of the Spring Masters show at the Armory, an imaginative approach from architect Rafael Vinoly, has as few straight floor views as possible, instead leading attendees through the booths in an organic and serendipitous way

Richly rewarding to the eye even if your equity is not up to paying the five, six or seven figure prices, the leading booths of the newly titled Spring Masters offer what amounts to a museum collection with price tags – though they are sometimes shy about the more stratospheric numbers involved. (“We don’t want them burning across the Internet,” says one dealer who has a particularly repellent nude going for $1.85 million.)

The dealers themselves are highly knowledgeable and often as elegant as their items, too, a good looking breed, some very tall, all with the discreetly informative but sanguine self presentations that suit their role in selling to the top 1%. Often they seem more curators than dealers (“I don’t really like the word ‘dealer’, you know, I would rather be called a ‘retailer’,” offered one), though they say that any collecting instinct they have is strictly restrained in the cause of maintaining turnover.

Ronald Phillips sparkles at the front of the show with his immediately visible keynote of the event, the 7 ft 8 in tall, very elegantly brilliant George III chandelier (c.1785) for nearly $1 million over his $900,000 George II gilt mahogany and marble sidetable (c.1730).

Hospitable new layout

All of their treasures are accessible in an alluring way in the newly designed space in which the hangar sized Armory is filled with hexagonal booths with offset walls in which right angles are banished except for side booths, and even those have some diagonals.

Instead of long corridors of booths where the contents are mostly unseen by the wandering attendee, you have a giant honeycomb of interlocking spaces where one melds into the next and the contents of many welcome the eye, especially as you walk in the show entrance. There is something extraordinary comfortable and enticing about the imaginative design by architect Rafael Vinoly, and it seems likely that other shows and even museums may take it up.


Appropriately exquisite delicacies – tiny wraps, Lilliputian Japanese hamburgers, esp5resso cups of bouillon – were prepared to go with glasses of tasty bourbon punch (Angel’s Envy) by the caterer, Canard Inc (a name to remember, 212 947-2480)

Amid the well dressed crowd at the Wednesday night preview who were constantly served with appropriately exquisite canapes (tiny wraps, Lilliputian Japanese hamburgers) and tasty whisky punch (lime, lemon and orange juices, green tea, mint and prosecco mixed with Angels’ Envy Bourbon) by the caterer, Canard Inc (a name to remember, 212 947-2480), we picked the following prizes (for all 148 photos please go to Photocalendar: Spring Masters Art and Antique Show at ARMORY):

Picks of the show

Do you have $20 million and the sensibility to appreciate it? Then this Rothko is yours.

Bernard Goldberg‘s $14 million 1960 Rothko (81×69″)in its own little faux chapel can be seen and contemplated without distraction, along with his fine and unusual pair of light green Tiffany Studios lamps from 1910 for $75,000, bracketing an oil painting by Guy Pene Du Bois, ‘Teddy at the Typewriter’, from 1932, $650,000. (212 813 9797 bgfa.com)

A $75,000 pair of pale green Tiffany lamps are a real find amid Bernard Goldberg‘s sumotuous collection as they add dignity and grace to an inspiring oil by Guy Pene Du Bois, ‘Teddy at the Typewriter’, from 1932, at $650,000.

Peter Osborne shows one of the two vivid bronze men in crumpled clothes and hat from Sean Henry, ‘The Way It Will Be’ (2012)

At Osborne Samuel the very striking oil painted bronze models of pensive, rumpled, rough hewn men, one standing and one on bent knee, two feet high, by Sean Henry, are sensational; also dominant, the 1959 winged figure Stranger VII as well as other bronzes by Lynn Chadwick, and a glowing, bulging bronze, the 1968 “Spindle Piece” by Henry Moore (201-315 4379 cell, osbornesamuel.com)

The intriguing figures in oil painted bronze that Londoner Sean Henry has wrought over the past few years have drawn large crowds when exhibited, as they exert a deep and mysteriously gripping impact on the viewer which this one from 2012, The Way It Is, exemplifies at Osborne Samuel.

The intriguing figures in oil painted bronze that Londoner Sean Henry has wrought over the past few years have drawn large crowds when exhibited, as they exert a deep and mysteriously gripping impact on the viewer which this one from 2012, The Way It Is, exemplifies at Osborne Samuel.

Tania Sutton at Osborne Samuel with Lynn Chadwick‘s Stranger VII from 1959, one of an edition of six.

Can't ask for more than this superb Moore, a glowing, bulging bronze masterpiece, "Spindle Piece" at Osborne Samuel, one of ten from 1968

Can’t ask for more than this superb Moore, a glowing, bulging bronze masterpiece, “Spindle Piece” at Osborne Samuel for $1 million, one of ten from 1968

the 7 ft 8 in tall, very elegantly brilliant George II chandelier for nearly $1 million over his $900,000 George II gilt mahogany and marble table.

Close up of the 7 ft 8 in tall, very elegantly brilliant George III chandelier for $1 million over his $900,000 George II gilt mahogany and marble table.

Ronald Phillips at the front of the show dazzles with his immediately visible keynote of the event, the 7 ft 8 in tall, very elegantly brilliant George III chandelier for nearly $1 million over his $900,000 George II gilt mahogany and marble table. (917 355 8609 US cell ronaldphillipsantiques.com)

Six or maybe eight people can sit around this table and actually talk to each other instead of just those in the next seats, courtesy of fine English craftsmen of the George II era

Clinton Howell‘s beautiful George II mahogany oval drop leaf dining table, which matches the warm spirit of the Armory show’s welcoming design, in that it is the only truly friendly dining table shape that allows six or eight people to talk to everybody else with ease beyond either side of their own seat, is $75,000, with a rare quality matching George II set of eight chairs, all with ball and claw feet, interestingly carved: “to have a set with such assured and substantial carving is particularly uncommon”, as the label notes (212 517 5879 clintonhowell.com).

Classical nudes, classical theme: The Fall of Man, engraving c 1530, by Lucas Van Leyden in Leiden, a lovely work showing the influence of Durer, and of Italian art in the Netherlands. is one of his best late engravings, may be had for $45,000.

Allan Stone and Lesley Hill‘s lively 16C drawings eg Fall of Man by Lucas Van Leyden engraved 1530 in Leiden (nudes! our favorite subject) was $45,000, and a hilariously brilliant Game of Checkers in color from Paris 1792 by Nicolas-Toussaint Charlet outdid Rowlandson at $95,000. Lesley revealed the depth of their working research when she said they moved Hill-Stone from Manhattan to South Dartmouth, Mass. a while ago and were very happy at the change: their 5000 square foot house, 400 yards from the harbor, which replaced a 1500 sq foot apartment, had a little more room for their 357 feet of reference books. (212 249 1397 774 206 1024 hill-stone.com)

More humorous than a Rowlandson? A gem for sure. Game of Checkers from Paris 1832 by Nicolas-Toussaint Charlet, its colors and vigor unfaded, available from Hill-Stone for $48,000

Unique carpet art: Scott Newman, Susan Burks, Joseph Carini and Wickham Boyle at the Carini-Lang booth, with the carpet on the left already sold for $60,000 to be placed on a living room floor

A unique modern approach is on show at Carini Lang, just left of Ronald Phillips’ chandelier facing the entrance of the floor. Joseph Carini has translated prime examples of New York City graffiti into high art furnishings by weaving them into wool and silk carpets large and small, which can be either wall hangings or set down on the floor for sumptuously rewarding daily use.

Joe Carini, who had already sold the large face with eye circled in red by the artist Dain for $60,000, said the title of his current show, “Back Against the Wall” was suggested by one of his stable of street artists as the phrase most used by the cops when they pulled up and caught him at work.

Joe started by touring the city on his motorbike and discovered art he valued even inside large abandoned buildings, which were “like the Lascaux caves of New York”, he says, referring to the French site famous for its Paleolithic paintings. After all, “the earliest form of art was on walls.” (646 613 0497 carinilang.com)

Elegance all over: Literally a showpiece was the Chinese free speech artist Ai Weiwei‘s 2011 construction of a globe of tieli wood Forty Qing Dynasty stools, titled Grapes, calling attention to the Brooklyn Museum’s partnership in the Spring Masters, and to the April 18 to August 10 exhibition of his work, its first survey in North America, According to What?

Literally a showpiece was the Chinese free speech artist Ai Weiwei‘s 2011 construction of a globe of tieli wood Forty Qing Dynasty stools, titled Grapes, calling attention to the Brooklyn Museum‘s partnership in the Spring Masters, and to its April 18 to August 10 exhibition of his work, its first survey in North America, According to What?

The inner glow of Hans Hoffmann ‘s sunny Blue Arcata at Mark Borghi’s MBFA is untranslatable by our small camera to the Net, but its joyous mood is matched by a Frank Stella Il Dimmezzato #7 from 1987, and you can sit in classic art-craft style in a Nakashima chair cushioned with rope lattice to decide which will grace your interior life – the Hoffman at $550,000 or the Stella at $145,000. Or both. Could be worth it. Heck, why not? In these tricky times, we all need an infusion of joy from art.

Undoubtedly Mark Borghi at MBFA had the most upbeat, sunny and colorful works in the form of a glowing Hans Hofmann, Blue Arcata from 1955, for $550,000, and a ravishing Il Dimezzato #7 among a row of great Frank Stella‘s for $145,000 along the wall. Also, a de Kooning for $5 million. And to sit in, some beautifully simple and comfortable rope and mahogany Nakashima chairs, with a table by Anon he found to fit them at auction, which matches perfectly.(212 439 6425 borghi.org)

Mark Borghi was one of the many dealers who said they appreciated the new layout. “I didn’t like the look of it when I saw the blueprint”, he said, “But I love it. Much to my surprise. It’s very comfortable yet forces you to look”, he said. “The standard art fair with its straight alleys cuts off visibility. This is more human!”

Get down low with art and comfort with this Nakashima chair and a matching table by an unknown American craftsman and capture an intimate tea time on a level of true communication

Get down low with art and comfort with this Nakashima chair and a matching table by an unknown American craftsman and capture an intimate tea time on a level of true communication

Talking of exquisitely crafted furniture, this time olde English, Michael Pashby is showing a perfectly proportioned 1770 desk for $40,000 and a corner chair, a burgomaster ie the chair that most perfectly combines solidity and comfort for desk work, for $18,000, from 1725. Sitting in this particular seat, “one of the nicest designs of this style I have seen,” according to Michael, and at this human scale but generous desk, one might write a fine, personal book without the slightest tinge of Internet mania marring its soul. (917-414-1827 michaelpashbyantiques.com)

A very well proportioned 1770 desk with cupboards in the rear, $40,000 can be matched with a super-comfortable working chair, a corner or Burgomaster chair, from 1725, $18,000, by Michael Pashby (917 414 1827) if you plan to record your life in detail for publication next year

A very well proportioned 1770 desk with cupboards in the rear, $40,000 can be matched with a super-comfortable working chair, a corner or Burgomaster chair, from 1725, $18,000, by Michael Pashby (917 414 1827) if you plan to record your life in detail for publication next year

Is this the most solidly comfortable working chair?  At $18,000 perhaps it should be. It's a George I walnut corner or writing chair, after the Dutch East Indian Burgomasters, and this is a particularly handsome and balanced version.

Is this the most solidly comfortable working chair? At $18,000 perhaps it should be. It’s a George I walnut corner or writing chair, after the Dutch Burgomasters, and this is a particularly handsome and balanced version. Legs go either side, back is bolstered by gorgeously carved and rounded mahogany – your faithful servant is saying Please sit down!

Unable to contain our enthusiasm for these and other fine traditional English pieces that surrounded Pashby, we told him he seemed to us like a conductor of a very fine orchestra. “Oh I like that, I like that!” he said, beaming.

(Click all the photos for supersize expansion. Click this following link for 148 photos at Talk Photocalendar

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