Fall in New York heralds many things, among which is the much anticipated social season opener, The International Fine Art & Antique Dealers Show. As it is a mouthful, this year its name has been changed to reflect the more colloquial way by which visitors have come to refer to it, namely, The International Show.
Regardless of the change, it has been and remains the kind of event that attracts collectors of world renown, with 67 top dealers exhibiting a huge range of antiques and contemporary works.
Avid collectors converge in a maelstrom of excitement over rare and exquisite antiques, which will soon be shipped to new homes, there to be enjoyed by all, if only briefly, for the duration of a week.
Passions run high building up to Oct. 22. The date is reserved for the Opening Night exclusive party when guests get the first glimpse of the 2015 show with proceeds traditionally going to The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
In addition to the name, there are many other changes this year. And although the Park Avenue Armory itself cannot be touched, London-based art and antiques fair organizer Anna Haughton spoke with anticipation about the surprises that await next week, Oct. 22, when the show opens.
I caught up with Mrs. Haughton, who was still in London, on the telephone to coax her to reveal as much as possible about the fair without any spoilers.
“The challenge is to make the fair look different every year. You must walk in the door and say ‘It’s different’ but not know exactly what’s different,” she said.
“This year there are new colors, the entrance and the flowers will be changed, and various parts of the build will be changed,” she said, referring to the exhibition spaces that will be created within the Armory.
The show has been organized into art, antiques, and design to cover the three major categories represented at the fair with 20th Century, Contemporary Design, and Works of Art now a fully ensconced collecting area at the fair.
Within the show, there will be other mini events such as a Japanese tea ceremony performed by a tea master organized by an Australian dealer of contemporary Japanese works. The ceremony will be performed in an especially built Japanese pavilion.
Mrs. Haughton also spoke about her love of collecting, which started when she used to accompany a friend who sold jewelry at London’s markets on weekends.
“I was fascinated by people, how they react, what they collect, what they want, and what they look at,” said Mrs. Haughton. She explained that after that, “everything just took off” for herself and her husband, Brian Haughton, who is also the show organizer and an antique dealer.
A large part of the success of the event is owing to the enjoyment gained from the social interactions between dealers, collectors, as well as museum curators. For a little while, the Park Avenue Armory becomes a world of antiques, which is suddenly accessible to all who love art and design.
The way people collect has changed considerably over the decades in the United States. According to Anna Haughton, the current demand is for 20th century furniture, with 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s furniture being highly sought after. In the early days of the fair, French 18th century furniture was the most popular among collectors, who also adopted a specialized way of collecting pieces and did not stray from their area.
Nowadays, Mrs. Haughton explained that antique buyers have learned to favor a different aesthetic.
“Now people will buy a beautiful piece of furniture, maybe an old Chinese table, or a wonderful 18th century desk and then they’ll buy a modern picture and hang it above it; and they’re not afraid to mix and match any more,” she said.
She also had simple advice for young collectors, “You really must like it to collect it.”
The idea of collecting as a financial investment comes up often through Brian Haughton’s work as an antique dealer. She recounts that sometimes people come to him asking what they should collect and his answer is always, “Find out what you like.”
She cautions against dealers who tell new clients what they should collect because it often happens that when people buy with such a mindset, they will become unhappy because they realize, all too late, that they actually don’t like the piece.
“You can’t tell somebody what to collect. A passionate collector will think differently,” Anna Haughton said.
As for the price, the sky’s the limit. One can’t put a price on passion after all.
The International Show will be held at the Park Avenue Armory in New York on Oct. 23–29.