The Park Avenue Armory is the perfect venue for the renowned International Fine Art and Antiques Dealer Show, going on now through Thursday, October 27, 2011. After walking down tony Park Avenue, a street that some of the city’s wealthiest residents call home, one wants to be surrounded by beautiful and expensive art and antiques, the type that are probably hanging in the apartments along the Avenue. Therefore it is a treat to spend a few hours roaming the Armory where the world’s best dealers have gathered to exhibit museum quality paintings, works on paper, jewelry, and decorative objects. Even if you are not in the market for anything new, it is fun to just pretend.
The first item that caught my attention was an Art Nouveau Rene Lalique pendant (1900) at Hancocks. The subject is a medieval-style female figure carved in high-relief out of ivory, peeking through a gold frame surrounded by glass grapes and enameled leaves and branches. The workmanship is so precise that it can have only been done by this French master glass artist and jeweler. Even the back of the pendant is a work of art: the gold is delicately engraved to resemble the backs of leaves. A nice touch is the dusty purple tones of the grapes- just the way you would find them on a vine.
Primavera Gallery, which specializes in 20thcentury decorative arts, outdid itself this year by bringing to the show not one, not two, but three fabulous works on paper by Jean Dupas. While all three are divine, my absolute favorite is the “Etude pour Les Pigeons Blanc” (Study for the White Pigeons), 1920. This study depicts the central subjects of the painting who have been clearly inspired by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s masterpiece “The Turkish Bath” (1862). According to Audrey Friedman, co-owner of Primavera Gallery, the octagonal shape of the study references the “tondo” of the Renaissance. Measuring 11.75” in height and 11.25” in width, this is a real gem. One may recall that to last year’s Armory show the gallery brought another study, “La Danse” (1920), for the same painting. These studies are vital because “Les Pigeons Blanc” has been lost and these studies are the only remnants of that seminal work which was awarded a gold medal at the Salon des Artistes Francais in 1922.
An exceptional cubist desk (1930) by French furniture designer Léon Jallot at Gallery Lefebvre is an example of a piece of furniture that was clearly inspired by Art Deco yet already beginning to embrace Modernism. The desk is Chinese lacquered solid oak with a shagreen mosaic desk top, which opens on either side for additional storage space, and ivory drawer pulls. The feet of the desk are clad in silver-toned bronze. This unique desk was exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Decorateur in 1930 and also appeared in Mobilier et Decoration in June of the same year.
The three sets of Accordion Doors at Bernd Goeckler Antiquesremind one of the works of the great Art Deco lacquer artist Jean Dunand. This is an astute observation as the doors were actually done by his son, Pierre. Commissioned in the 1950’s by Jules Leleu, the French furniture designer and decorator, for a project in Rio de Janeiro, these doors standing at 9’ tall are grand enough for any Park Avenue apartment. The young Dunand served as an apprentice in his father’s workshop and took over the family business when Dunand passed away in 1942. The exotic motifs on the front and the back of the doors were clearly inspired by Dunand Sr., especially the door titled “Seabed” with gold fish against a dark brown background.