Beautiful Things, Beautifully Displayed

Beautiful Things, Beautifully Displayed

The Winter Antiques Show, Jan. 25-Feb. 3, never ceases to amaze. But this year, its 59th consecutive year as the mainstay of New York's winter art and antiques calendar, it outdoes itself. Could it be that, like many a 59 year old, its thoughts turned to a face-lift? The look of the show, from the cream paneled architecture of the booths to the enhanced lighting to the bright buff carpet that replaces the  industrial gray of yore, has been freshened. The Park Avenue Armory has never looked homier, and that means collectors will be that much more easily seduced. I know I was. What did I covet? A pair of American rosewood armchairs from the 1880s, exquisitely carved and effortlessly comfortable, offered by Associated Artists (Booth 2); and a large-scale, carved and painted Noah's Ark with 135 animal figures, made in Germany for the American market circa 1880 and perfect for a nursery, at Hyland Granby Antiques (Booth 48). Eight exhibitors are new to the show this year, including Didier Ltd from London (Booth 12). Didier brings a new and exciting field to the show: 20th-century jewelry by major painters and sculptors, such as Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, Sonia Delaunay, Keith Haring, Pablo Picasso and others. Louise Bourgeois' 1948  "shackle" necklace is a knockout. So, too, Jessie M. King's ethereal Edwardian necklace, up for sale in its original Liberty & Co. box. As owner Didier Haspeslagh so convincingly explained, with paintings and sculptures by masters going for hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, collectors, especially young, fashion-savvy collectors, can purchase original jewelry by these same masters for considerably less. Or, as he put it, for the price of a minor Picasso, a collector could buy his entire booth at the Winter Antiques Show, totaling hundreds of pieces. This year's loan exhibition celebrates the Preservation Society of Newport County (Rhode Island), which has sent 50 treasures, from Giovanni Boldini's portrait of Elizabeth Drexel Lehr to a silver centerpiece by Paul Storr to a marble bust of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. If nothing else, the loan exhibit should encourage a stampede of tourists to Newport's storied mansions. All in all, a masterpiece of a show.