The 2019 Winter Show Sapphire Jubilee Opening Night Party

Last night, The Winter Show at the Park Avenue Armory (formerly The Winter Antique Show) held their Sapphire Jubilee Opening Night Party in celebration of 65 years of arts, design, and history. This always glamorous evening of cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and fascinating objects from around the world kicks off a 10 day event, and benefits the East Side House Settlement. The community-based organization in the South Bronx, which works to bring quality education and resources to residents of the Bronx and Northern Manhattan, established the Fair in 1954.

The eclectic mix at Olde Hope

It’s not only a New Year, but the previously known Winter Antique Show has a new name; and a new executive director. Upon her appointment last April, Helen Allen changed the name of New York’s longest-running art, antiques, and design fair by dropping the word ‘Antique’, to reflect the inclusive, eclectic mix of vintage and contemporary art spanning some 5000 years. Each object exhibited by the 70 exhibitors is vetted for authenticity, date, and condition by a committee of 150 experts from both the US and Europe. So you know you can shop with confidence from the vast selection of objects that range from the mundane to the marvelous.

Salvador Dali’s 1950’s diamond and ruby Honeycomb Heart pendant offered by Didier Ltd

I was instantly drawn to the booth of Didier Ltd. Based in the U.K., Didier and Martine Haspeslagh have amassed an enviably rare collection of jewelry by artists and designers including Salvador Dali, Alexander Calder, Andre Derain, Alberto Giacometti, Jacques Lipchitz, Gio Pomodoro, Louise Nevelson, Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso who first made unique jewels from objects troves that were further embellished for Dora Maar, Francois Gilot, and other girlfriends. In 2018 the duo was honored to lend over 20 jewels to the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris for an exhibition that ran from March through September. It was curated by Diane Venet and based on pieces from her own personal collection.

Lillian Bassman iconic photographs for Harper’s Bazaar presented by Peter Fetterman Gallery

I also gravitated to Lillian Bassman’s instantly recognizable and iconic black and white fashion photographs for Harper’s Bazaar dating back to the late 50’s and early 60, which were displayed on the wall at Peter Fetterman Gallery.

Mark Longo’s enormous charcoal Shark painting represented by Michael Altman Fine Art

Mark Longo’s enormous and foreboding charcoal drawing of a shark, presented by Michael Altman Fine Art, immediately called to mind Raf Simons and his final collection for Calvin Klein, which was inspired by “Jaws” down to the shark bite skirts. It was also a reminder of the way fashion can cruelly eat you up and spit you out.

Kentshire’s booth with its striking Scalamandre zebra printed wallpaper

New exhibitors this year, joining a distinguished roster of longstanding stalwarts such as James Robinson, Kentshire, Ralph M. Chait Galleries, and The Old Print Shop, include Charles Ede (London, UK), Erik Thomsen Gallery (New York, USA), Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd (London, UK), Red Fox Fine Art (Middleburg, VA) and returning exhibitors Les Enluminures (Chicago and New York USA; Paris, France) and Maison Gerard (New York, USA).

The 2019 loan exhibition “Collecting Nantucket, Connecting the World” will celebrate 125 years of collecting by the Nantucket Historical Association, presenting the best the Association has to offer in paintings, craft, and folk arts.

Emily Rafferty, Diana Taylor, Jamee Drake

Returning for a 23rd year, the Show’s Presenting Sponsor is Chubb, with Fran O’Brien, Division President, Chubb North America Personal Risk Services, as Chair of the Opening Night Party. The Show’s 2019 Design Chairs were Frank de Biasi, Victoria Hagen, and John B. Murray, eminent figures in the world of interior design and architecture. In attendance last night were approximately 2000 guests from the worlds of arts and antiques, design, business, and philanthropy. Among the notables who perused and purchased highly sought out museum quality objects prior to Friday’s opening day: Coco and Arie L. Kopelman, Maureen and Richard L. Chilton (all of whom were Sapphire Sponsors of the event), Martha Stewart, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Diana Taylor, Barbara and Donald Tober, Emily Rafferty, Jean Shafiroff, Jamee and Peter Gregory, Jamie Drake, Lee and Cece Black, Wendy Goodman, Amy Fine Collins.

Larry and Janet Larose

It was an eclectically dressed crowd, and while many were dressed in New York black, there was a smattering of blue. Well, this was a Sapphire Jubilee after all. The occasion also served as a perfect excuse for one woman, Janet Larose, to break out the diamond and sapphire necklace her husband Larry designed for her. When I asked if he was a jeweler, she immediately said, “No, he’s just a great guy!” The love fest continued and he chimed in saying, “And she is a one of a kind!” And it’s not even Valentine’s day yet lol.

Flora and Amy Fine Collins

And while it’s the dead of winter, there was also a welcome smattering of spring like florals, as exemplified by Amy Fine Collins and her daughter Flora (aptly named) both of whom carried the theme down to their shoes. Amy wore Thom Browne and Flora opted for Alice + Olivia.

The Prince of Chintz Mario Buatta

Speaking of flowers, one highly revered fixture who was noticeably absent was Mario Buatta, the famed interior decorator who passed away in October just shy of his 83rd birthday. Buatta was known as the “Prince of Chintz” owing to the cheerful flowered fabrics, cabbage-rose covered couches and canopy beds, paintings hung by sashes and bows, chinoisere, bibelots, etc.,  that were a signature element of his lush English country–style rooms. His aesthetic, a rejection of the ‘tasteful dreariness’ of beige, white and gray, was predicated on more is more not less is more. In truth, he was an avowed and proud hoarder; the self-proclaimed “King of Clutter”.

So it’s safe to say that Marie Kondo will not be one of those attending the memorial service to be held in celebration of his remarkable life and work on Monday at the Park Avenue Armory. Members of his family will be on hand for the tribute along with Kip Forbes, Carleton Varney (both of whom are scheduled to speak), Anne Eisenhower and Hilary Geary Ross. Also, Peggy Lee’s granddaughter Holly Hoster Wells will arrive with a group of pictures of Peggy and Mario together (apparently, Mario was a huge fan of the iconic chanteuse and never missed one of her concerts).

If anyone deserves a tribute at The Winter Show’s Park Avenue Armory, it is Buatta who was not only a longtime chairman of the iconic show; he was instrumental in transforming it from a “sleepy event into a high-society extravaganza akin to Paris’s Biennale des Antiquares” in the words of Architectural Digest’s Mitchell Owens. Georgia Dullea of the The New York Times once quipped that Buatta “did for the Winter Antiques Show what Diana Vreeland did for the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute. He took a staid and respectable exhibition and made it chic and exciting and the place to be

The show, first held in 1954, was envisioned by the executive director as an outlet for the trustees’ used furniture. According to one report from the time, “a few hundred people roamed the drafty Park Avenue Armory during the opening-night party”, and “a certain Lady Gosford, in white chinchilla, paid $1.50 for a cookie cutter”.

In 1971, when the show’s president, Louis W. Bowen, first contacted Mario Buatta, the show was on the ropes. “No one was there on opening night,” Buatta once recalled. “At 8 o’clock you could have shot a cannon down the center aisle and hit no one!” The total take was only $30,000. He urged the committee to make the show a more social event: “Invite the nouvelle social group; they’re the ones with the money and who buy things,” he told them. About the founding members, he stated, “all those Upper East Side society ladies already have generations worth of furniture.”

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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