Monday, January 14, 2019

Americana Week in NYC

Sotheby's Jan 20, 2019
This week every year in New York City is a group of auctions and shows that bring everyone who loves early American decorative arts to the city.  And since there is so little of American embroidery of this period - 17th century British embroidery is the items of choice for those who collect in the early American period.

This week's auctions at Sotheby's are especially rich with items.  But for me, it is bittersweet as well. A few years ago I was invited by a collector friend to come on a tour sponsored by Deerfield Museum  he was organizing that went through Chicago and Milwaukee - a hotbed of collectors of this period of needlework. Actually, he contacted me and 'told me' I was coming - I am so glad I went as it was the last time someone could meet these passionate people in the field with legendary collections.  Two of the collections we saw are up for auction and I learned two months ago that another of the collectors had just passed away.  It was so special to meet these passionate people and understand their collections and see them in the way they had loved them - instead of on a
white background.

SOTHEBY'S JAN 20, 2019
Constance Godfrey was the grandmother we all would have loved to have had!  Her custom built reproduction home was amazing and showed the love of the decorative arts she and her husband had. Constance was so gracious and loving, telling us about her pieces among a spread of cookies we munched upon.  She was particularly attracted to 17th century beaded pictures, baskets and caskets because the color was still so vibrant on them.  Her baskets aren't pictured elsewhere that I have ever seen and so it was a thrill to see each one!  Four of them are up for auction and for those who are basket lovers - you must see them.  She also had four wonderful caskets, one of which was an unknown match to two others -
one of which is in the MET and shows clues to workshop manufacture.

The Vogels gave us a wonderful lecture about their home's collection, which is particularly rich in ceramics but also decorated all throughout with 17th century British and American needlework.  A casket, mirror frame, sweet bags, and pictures rounded out the stunning effect.  A portion of their collection is also up for auction.  I understand they are still in good health!

SOTHEBY'S JAN 20, 2019
Finally, while his collection was the most stunning and it is not up for auction, I must mention the passing of John Bryan as his life's work touches everyone of us through needlework and other areas.  John owned Crab Tree Farm, a gentleman's farm on the shores of Lake Michigan complete with a sprawling English manor inspired home with thematic follies dotting the landscape (the Tutor one was MAGIC!).  While John is well known for the houses on the site where he has preserved and restored the biggest collection of Gustov Stickley furniture and Arts and Crafts decorative arts, he is also known for his extensive collection of 17th century British embroidery.  John maintained a contemporary furniture workshop on site and was a patron of the arts in an extraordinary way.

John's business career was to build Sara Lee into the multinational conglomerate it is today.  In his
retirement, he turned his considerable business talents to other passions such as the building of Millennium Park in Chicago, raising almost half of the money to build it because of his core belief in public spaces.  In one of his gardens, he had the scaled down prototype of the 'silver bean' sculpture which was fun to walk around.  John was also instrumental in many civil rights movements in the Chicago area, joining with the black community to demand changes in access to many areas of white privilege.

Sotheby's Jan 19, 2019
In the needlework field, his influence will be felt for decades to come and you may not know of this man who begat things you will enjoy.  Not only sharing his pieces with me for research but commission of a book in process right now on 17th century needlework.  His love for the Art Institute of Chicago and board position had him recruit one of our favorite curators, Melinda Watt, from the MET to become an endowed textile curator at the Art Institute recently.   Melinda, recently ensconced was given the charge to reopen the textile department (very rich with 17th century textiles) to the public through exhibitions and access and over the next decade this will be a wonderful thing as part of John's legacy.

When we are in love with objects we need to also appreciate the people who become guardians of them as well as those who research and teach as they are all partners in keeping the historical legacies alive for the future.  I feel honored to have met so many of these guardians who shared with me their passions.

The Collection of Anne and Frederick Vogel III - Sotheby's Jan 19th, 2019
Lots:  802, 815, 831, 832, 833, 836, 858, 860, 885, 905, 923, 986, 994, 1055, 1056, 1058, 1065, 1066, 1069, 1091

Important Americana - Sotheby's Jan 20, 2019
Lots: 1401-1409