An Antiquarian's Tale, Issue 62

Clinton Howell Antiques - Jan. 6, 2020 - Issue 62
An Appreciation of English Antique Furniture
A semi biographical journey of my life in the English Decorative Arts
I didn't warn anyone about my Christmas hiatus, but my assumption is that, for those of you who faithfully read my column, a little break is always a good thing. Periodically through the year, I like to let things be for a bit as, for example, when I go to Brussels at the end of January or when I do my travels in June, July and August. Secondly, I wish to alert you to "The Art, Design & Antiques Show" in Wallace Hall running from Jan. 24-26. As I mentioned in my last missive, Wallace Hall is located in the basement of St. Ignnatius Loyola Church on the west side of Park Avenue between 83rd and 84th Sts. It is a really fun show with a lot of dealers who really care about what they do and also want to have a good laugh. We are on during the Winter Show (formerly the Winter Antiques Show) and only 15 blocks north. The weather should be the same at both venues so you won't need your snowshoes at our venue unless you need them at the Armory. Mention my name and there will be no admittance fee. I might add that I was asked to talk about something related to English furniture, when is not clear to me at present though I would bet on Saturday, and I have decided to talk about rarity and English furniture.

I would like to talk about the Armory in this letter. The Armory has been slowly changing its course away from commercial shows to commercial art events. As much as I like art events, they can be quite narrow in focus. This is not a criticism  because, as anyone who loves art knows, you can find broader themes in the narrowest works of art. My criticism is about the size of the audience that visits the Armory. If you consider the value of the Armory as a venue, I would like to know how many people are actually drawn to an art event versus how many people are drawn by a commercial event (such as art and antique shows). What I am saying is that the metric that should be of interest to people who live in New York City is what the Armory is doing to attract people to the city. I could be wrong about this as I have no statistics, save for those that the Salon Art Fair sent out, which was that 17,000 visited the fair in the five days it was open. I would further add that most commercial events pay a steep rent for their occupancy whereas the art events are subsidized.

My position is clear. As someone who has run a fair in the Armory and who appreciates the Upper East Side venue for its convenience, I would like to see less commercial art events and more commercial fairs. It does not mean, however, that I want to shut down commercial art events. What I would like to see is a schedule that not only tells the dates of all coming events and furthermore, explanations of how events are chosen for the Armory. I don't know if, as a non-profit, the Armory has to show what they spend on commercial art events, but I would love to see that number as well. Last but not least, in case you think I have a grudge against the Armory Board, I don't, it's about how New York City is being served by its institutions. I have to say I attended the IFPDA Fair at the Jacob Javits Center and it was terrific. So, there certainly is more than one venue in the city. Accountability of the Board running the Armory is the issue, however, and how well they are serving the public.