Friday, January 25, 2013

New York Winter Antiques Show Features Rare Garden Antiques from Barbara Israel Garden Ornament Collections

Tomorrow is the first day of the 59th New York Winter Antiques Show.
The annual show at the Park Avenue Amory in New York City is the
“Most prestigious antiques show, providing museums, collectors, dealers, design professionals, and first- time buyers with opportunities to see and purchase exceptional pieces showcased by 73 renowned experts in American, English, European, and Asian fine and decorative arts.
Every object exhibited at the Show is vetted for quality and authenticity. All net proceeds support East Side House Settlement a non-profit institution in the South Bronx that provides social services to community.
The Winter Antiques Show’s 2013 loan exhibition celebrates The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island. 
Newport: The Glamour of Ornament showcases fine and decorative art from eight of the historic Newport Mansions.
Newport and glamour works for this Garden Glamour blogger: my husband and I honeymooned in Newport and well; glamour is a fundamental design element... 
Garden Design
Garden Design Antiques are front and center and represented by a premiere garden historian, expert and author, Barbara Israel.
Today being a crazy, day-before the show schedule, Barbara was kind enough to provide an interview. 
I know Barbara from my career at The New York Botanical Garden.
And from the research I do for my garden design clients. 
Her contributions to the three area-antiques shows she showcases her art at are memorable. 
Her knowledge and her collections are extraordinary.
She is an acknowledged expert and has written two books on garden antiques.
Here is an excerpt from the Q&A in advance of the 2013 Winter Antiques Show:
Q.  How did you get started collecting garden antiques?  Being a Garden State Frelinghuysen, I assume you grew up surrounded by such art…
A.  I grew up going to both of my grandmother’s gardens— one in Far Hills, New Jersey (Mrs. Frelinghuysen).  The other in Islip, Long Island (Mrs. Lawrance).  My grandmother Frelinghuysen lived near the Louis XIII style mansion in Peapack, NJ called Blairsden. 

Garden Glamour knows this Garden State property well. 
An early-in-my-garden-design career, fellow enthusiast, Barry Thompson, would take the time to share his garden and estate home history knowledge and pre-internet network connections to other passionate garden enthusiasts for my burgeoning garden history curiosity and writing. I cherished his keen research and undying devotion to grand estates and historical landscape architecture.

Thompson wrote the acclaimed book on the stunning Blairsden estate that so beguiled and influenced Barbara: New Jersey Country Houses - The Somerset Hills   

Back to Barbara:
As a girl I would sneak onto this property with my siblings and was in awe of the ornament there— including 12 monumental busts of Roman emperors that lined the driveway.  These excursions peaked my interest early on.  
Also, my grandmother Lawrance took me to visit the Gould estate in Lakewood, NJ called Georgian Court (now a college campus).  There I saw opulent marble fountains and urns.

Q. Why exhibit at the Winter Antiques Show?

A.  The Winter Antiques Show is really the best showcase in the country for art and antiques of the finest quality— you’ll find the rarest, most coveted objects here.  
We are the only garden ornament dealer at the Winter Show.  
The Delaware Antiques Show in November, a benefit for Winterthur, ( is another great show on our schedule (though smaller, more regional), but the Winter Antiques Show is sort of the grand dame of antiques shows.  
And, one of our favorite events of the year is the art and antiques show at the New York Botanical Garden ( in April— where all the dealers are garden dealers.  That’s a gorgeous show, just in terms of aesthetics.   

Q.  How do you determine what you will show at the Winter Antiques Show – given the size of the garden art, how many pieces can you get to a show, plus the cost…?

A. We set aside objects all year for the Winter Antiques Show.  
This is the venue where we show our rarest acquisitions, our finest pieces.  Connoisseurs come from all over the country looking for the best, so we make sure to put together a really fine collection for this show.  

We like to have objects marked by rare makers, or statues of particularly fine quality, pieces with an unusual and desirable provenance, objects of grand proportions, for large estate gardens.  
We also try to have a range of pieces and a range of price points.  

We also like to bring pieces that make sense with each other— we sometimes have a theme, like a woodland, where we’d bring mostly animals, etc.

We generally bring anywhere from 20-36 pieces to a show.  
Some of these pieces will not be on view right away but instead in “vetted storage,” meaning they’ve been approved by the Vettors, or experts, but are being held back to be put in when something else sells.  
This year, we are bringing pieces of such monumental size that the number of objects was a bit lower than usual.
Yes, it is expensive to move these pieces, but luckily we have a very experienced and knowledgeable team.

Q.  Do you promote or advertise or alert the show attendees prior to the show so that the audience comes knowing what you will offer. Or do you unveil and surprise with your offerings?

A. We do a fair amount of advertising and promotion. Generally a couple of ads in antiques magazines and/or newspapers.  
We send out a postcard to people on our mailing list.  
We send out an e-blast to our email mailing list.  
We send a select number of photographs via email to particular clients who might collect this or that.  
We have clients who like to know in advance so that they can make plans to be there early on opening night.  That said, we don’t let everything out of the bag— there have to be surprises in the booth.

Q. Do the customers come pre-disposed to your collections or do you meet new fans all the time?

A. Many of our clients are long-term clients whose taste we know and understand and of course we have them in mind when we acquire pieces.  
But we also meet new people all the time— every year brings new clients and new enthusiasm for antique garden ornament.  
Working with clients to find the perfect piece for their garden is one of the best parts of the business.

Q. How have tastes changed over the last 10 years?

A.  Tastes have certainly changed a bit through the years.  
We are seeing more people responding to modern pieces now, or pieces that are rustic enough to be at home in a spare modern landscape.  
But there will always be clients for classical, traditional ornament.  

Q. What are trends? What’s “new” in garden antiques?

A.   Classical garden ornament mostly defies trends— the desire for exceptional examples of classical ornament remains steadfast. Sometimes we have a flurry of requests for armillary spheres, or a wave of interest in simple stone benches, but generally I wouldn’t even define these as trends.  
Fairly recently, many clients were interested in a more rustic look, but this is not across the board. 

Q.  Where do you source from and does that impact “style?”

A. We do most of our overseas buying in England— with occasional pieces coming from the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, or France.  
We have favorite sources that we are in contact with in those countries.  
We also do a lot of buying here in this country— we receive photos every week from people looking to sell beautiful things.  
It’s hard to say how it impacts styles.  So many of our pieces can fit well into a traditional English garden or an Italianate one.  
We usually advocate working with the architecture of the home— finding ornaments that work with the style of the client’s house.

Q. What’s the future of garden antiques – in pieces and interest?

A. We see interest growing in garden antiques.  
And just when we wonder whether we’ll be able to continue finding great pieces, something truly magnificent comes along.  
Also we’re just getting going on our research— even after writing the book and the guidebook, there are still so many new discoveries to be had.  
This makes it all a great deal of fun.

Q.  Who is your “typical” customer?  Young/older? Do people buy garden antiques as gifts?

A. Our typical client is probably 35-65, but really a vast range of people. Yes, people do buy garden ornaments as gifts!

What the recent buying interest, especially given the recent financial downturn that we now emerging from?

A. The last four years were certainly difficult for everyone and we definitely felt the downturn.  However we have started to see the market pick up tremendously.  
We were aware that garden ornaments were bound to be one of the last areas to recover— since people tend to focus more on the interior of their homes when times are uncertain.  But we have turned the corner.

Q.  Tell us about your books – are they still in print and continue to sell?

A. We are still selling the 1999 book.  It is out of print, but we buy them up where we can and you can find it on Amazon.  
And with a Forward by the legendary Mark Hampton makes this book a favorite in my Garden Glamour design library.  
Hampton’s daughter Alexa has picked up the family’s design magic wand to much success. 
Don’t miss out.

The guidebook, A Guide to Buying Antique Garden Ornament, is self-published (2012) and there has been a lot of interest.  I’d like to think it’s required reading— I hope designers would agree!

Q.  Where can the public see some of your garden antique art?

A. Clients who would like to visit our Katonah, NY location can make an appointment by calling 212.744.6281 or emailing Eva Schwartz at

Q. What category of garden antiques are your best sellers or most popular?

A. Probably the hardest to keep in stock, as good antique ones are so rare, are armillary spheres.  

Exemplary figural statues and benches are probably the things we are asked about the most.

Q. What is your favorite piece or category?

A. I would say that the pieces I get most excited about are the really good figural statues.  They are so easy to connect with, there is usually a fabulous story to tell, whether it’s a mythological figure or historical...the faces tell the best stories, too.  Over the years, I have owned some truly exceptional figures.  

Having a great Winter Antiques Show sets the tone for the whole year.  We look forward to this year’s show being truly stellar!

Thank you, Barbara.  

What better way to spend a cold, cold winter weekend in New York? 
Inside, at the Amory, with antiques that are sure to warm your heart…

Barbara Israel Garden Antiques:

The Winter Antiques Show:

 Do you have a garden antique or vintage story to share?  


  1. Great post, It is very helpful to buy the right garden ornaments.

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