Americana Week 2021 Features Six New York City Virtual Tours
On January 19, 20, and 21, 2021, the Decorative Arts Trust shared a whirlwind of tours for our Virtual Americana Week. We not only learned about wonderful collections in New York City but also about the trials and tribulations of live-streaming! Our patient audience of over 100 participants was given exclusive access to tours of six different sites.
Our first stop was Christie’s, where John Hays, Deputy Chairman, and Sallie Glover, Junior Specialist, American Furniture and Folk Art, shared some of the highlights of their impressive Americana Week sales. Participants not only got a sneak peek at two rare Joshua Johnson portraits, they were also able to hear about the set of John L. Manning Rosewood Nesting Tables that our own executive director Matt Thurlow catalogued while he was working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in advance of the 2011-2012 Duncan Phyfe exhibition. Read more about these incredible nesting tables and the rest of the Christie’s 2020 Americana week sale in their digital catalogue.
The Trust then headed uptown to visit Sotheby’s in advance of their Americana sale. Erik Gronning, Senior Vice President, Head of the Americana Department, was joined by an impressive range of specialists, including Emily Shwajlyk, Associate Specialist, Americana; Justin Cheung, Associate Specialist, Project Manager, Chinese Works of Art; John Maher, Associate Specialist, Prints; and John D. Ward, Senior Vice President, Head of Department, Silver. Participants were treated to a range of objects from a tankard by New York silversmith Elias Pelletreau, to a side chair attributed to John Townsend, to a Chinese Export goose-form tureen and cover (Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period), and so much more. Programming Coordinator and tour videographer Carrie Greif’s personal favorite was the energizing John James Audubon Carolina Parrot (Plate 26) print. The print is renowned as one of the most important ornithological works of the 19th century and is particularly fascinating given that the Carolina Parrot is now extinct. This rare glimpse at the breed provides a unique perspective that is as captivating as it is scientific. Read more about all of the objects featured in this incredible tour and the rest of the Sotheby’s sale.
The following day, we shared a tour of the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, featuring Lindsy R. Parrott, Executive Director and Curator. The Neustadt Collection includes more than 250,000 pieces of Tiffany glass ranging from full uncut sheets to fragments the size of a fingernail, the raw materials used for Tiffany’s world renowned windows, lamp shades, and mosaics. The Neustadt Collection offers visitors and viewers a rare opportunity to see the glass marvels that were fundamental to Tiffany’s development as an icon of American art. Lindsy shared a fascinating history of the collection as well as insight into some of the amazing glass. Holding up a piece of seafoam “drapery” glass, Lindsy explained that it was special glass not only because the molten sheets of glass had been manipulated so they would crumple into folds taking on an expressive quality similar to fabric, but because the glass itself was dichroic glass. Dichroic glass is two colors, one color in reflected light and another in color in transmitted light. Lindsy moved the seafoam drapery glass in front of a stationary light, and it magically transformed into a fascinating amber color. Under Lindsy’s leadership the Neustadt continues to partner with institutions across the country to share the incredible Tiffany glass collection. Read more about all of their amazing work on the Neustadt Collection’s website.
At 7:00 pm on January 20, we shared a tour of the new Bernard & S. Dean Levy Galleries. The Levy family has been active in the field of Americana since 1901. The company moved to the heart of Chelsea this year, into a dazzling, sunlit loft space. Frank Levy, President, shared a personal tour that highlighted some amazing pieces of furniture. Beginning with an impressive desk and bookcase made in Warren, RI, around 1780-1790. Cabinetmaker Ichabod Cole signed the bottom of one of the drawers increasing the piece’s historic appeal. With the help of Pat Kane’s Rhode Island Furniture Archive at Yale, much is known about Cole’s biography and techniques. Their findings build upon the history of more prominent Newport cabinetmakers such as John Townsend and John Goddard by highlighting another craftsman who produced exceptional work. Cole’s desk also features unique foliage carving added to the central shell on the face of the central interior desk door. Find out more about the exceptional collection at Levy on their website and learn more about Ichabod Cole in this article.
The morning of January 21 we had the pleasure of sharing a tour of Hostler Burrows, a Greenwich Village gallery that specializes in 20th century Scandanivian furniture as well as contemporary ceramics and glass. This seemingly unusual blend of materials and styles has attracted a dedicated fan base of high-profile clients in New York and their satellite gallery in Los Angeles. The couple has been operating since 1995 and have seamlessly blended geographies, materials, and periods with their impeccable and seemingly effortless sense of aesthetics. A personal favorite from the tour was the Frida Fjellman light fixture that can be seen sparkling in the store window. Fjellman’s dogmatic rejection of decoration plays with iconic forms such as the crystals of a chandelier. In this light fixture, she enlarges the form of a chandelier crystal to create luminous oversized gems. Although this gallery does not specialize in Americana, we were thrilled to share such an inspiring breadth of handcrafted objects.
We finished out New York Americana Week programming with a tour at the Brooklyn Museum featuring their recent exhibition Design: 1800 to Now. Catherine Futter, Senior Curator of Decorative Arts, and Elizabeth St. George, Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts, shared a range of incredible objects that emphasize the evolution of design over time. The tour began with a case that holds both the Century Vase and the Brooklyn Century Vase. The Century Vase was created for the U.S. Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876. This monumental vase was designed by a German-born sculptor and made by Union Porcelain Works of Green Point, Brooklyn. The vase was intended to showcase Union Porcelain’s artistic and technical merit, but, as Catherine Futter said in her tour, “It also was celebrating what we now look at as white settlement progress.” Scenes on the vase depict and celebrate the telegraph, the Singer sewing machine as well as George Washington and William Penn making their land treaty with the Lenape. Standing next to that vase is modern interpretation made by Philadelphia-based ceramic artist, Roberto Lugo. Lugo’s modern interpretation depicts and celebrates icons of Brooklyn’s 19th and 20th-century history, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the Notorious B.I.G., and other iconic figures and moments. The case sets the tone of an exhibition that aims to be more inclusive and look at objects from Europe and America with a fresh perspective.
We were thrilled with the participation in this program and delighted to share these incredible scholars, sites, and objects. We thank all of our hosts for their time, graciousness, and expertise. Thank you to all who attended, and we look forward to next year when we can share sites together in person.
The Trust’s calendar of events shows upcoming virtual and in-person programs. For updates on registration openings, sign up for our e-newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. The Trust is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that appreciates the involvement of members and donors who make programming like this possible.